In the buildup to the Russian Grand Prix, the only thing on everyone’s mind is Lewis Hamilton equaling the once formidable record set by Michael Schumacher. Nobody could’ve predicted another team or driver replicating the same ruthless drive to win.
Yet, Hamilton stands on the cusp of greatness, an arm’s distance away from the incredible feat.
There’s a good chance- and historically speaking, almost a guarantee- of Lewis Hamilton clinching his 91st victory tomorrow. Moreover, there’s an air of reverence, coupled with acceptance in the paddock.
Lewis Hamilton: 91 in his sights
But what if the unthinkable were to happen and Hamilton were to be denied a win on Sunday? A comical thought, but one that fans need to seriously consider.
Amidst all the chaos that transpired during Q2, Max Verstappen managed to qualify and get through to Q3 on the medium compound tires. As a result, the Dutchman starts the Sochi race with better tires, albeit without the same level of grip as Hamilton at the start.
Can Bottas or Verstappen deny him?
Nevertheless, Verstappen has a great chance of forcing Mercedes into alternate strategies and possibly passing him on track by virtue of better rubber. The Sochi street circuit is unforgiving when it comes to Pirelli rubber, making for an exciting race tomorrow.
Assuming Verstappen fails to capitalize with his tire advantage or Red Bull struggle to keep up with the Silver Arrows, there’s a fast-starting Finn comfortably poised to take full advantage at the start.
With a massive run down to the first big breaking zone, Hamilton effectively punches a nice hole in the air for rivals behind. Starting in third, Bottas has an excellent opportunity to slingshot past his teammate and lead the Grand Prix after Turn 2. More importantly, Bottas also starts the race on the better tire compound.
Last year’s Russian Grand Prix saw a fast-starting Vettel steaming past his teammate, thanks to a healthy tow. What ensued was team orders drama, something Mercedes is all too familiar with in Sochi.
But Bottas has a lot to prove and will be itching to steal his teammate’s thunder at a track that’s given him bitter-sweet memories. Hopefully, Mercedes lets its drivers fight as Championship rivals tomorrow.
Hypotheses seldom materialize to reality in the unpredictable world of F1. When the lights go out, it’s anybody’s race to win. That being said, Hamilton surpassing Schumacher is inevitable.