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Hamilton favourite ahead of Russian GP, but Ricciardo to improve

Thu, Apr 27, 4:14pm by Staff Writer

Daniel Ricciardo says his Red Bull Racing will be more competitive with championship leaders Mercedes and Ferrari when Formula One heads to the Russian Grand Prix this weekend.

Despite some disappointing results to start the season, Red Bull gained almost a second per lap from the season opening Melbourne race and its previous outing in Bahrain.

Ricciardo said the team had updated several parts on its RB13 car and was he was optimistic of making the most of his outing to the Sochi Autodrom track.

But while Red Bull may be improving, there is no doubt Mercedes and Ferrari hold every advantage ahead of the weekend’s racing.

Despite Mercedes taking pole position for every race this year, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel has taken a 68-to 61-point lead in the drivers’ standings after winning two of the three races, including Bahrain this month.

Regardless, William Hill has Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton as its favourite to take the chequered flag at $1.90 ahead of Vettel on $2.75. Lewis’ Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas is on $8, with Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari at $13.

Ricciardo and teammate Max Verstappen are paying $34 each.

Mercedes have won every race held in Sochi so far, with Hamilton claiming the 2014 and 2015 races before Nico Rosberg’s win last year in his march toward the title.

Vettel crashed out last year after finishing eighth in 2014 and second in 2015, while Ricciardo’s best finish was seventh in 2015.

An interesting sidebar to the fight for top spot will be the fortunes of Toro Rosso’s Russian driver Daniil Kvyat.

After finishing fifth place at Sochi in 2015, Kvyat found himself the centre of attention for all the wrong reasons last year when he hit Vettel twice on the opening lap.

He is paying $501 for a home win Sunday.

Ricciardo has so far failed to reach the podium this season. The Aussie’s engine failed in Melbourne and he came fourth in Shanghai before a fifth-placed finish in Bahrain.

He is hoping that Sochi’s maturing track surface will enable wider race strategy options, and the potential for Red Bull manoeuvre into a result.

“Now that we’ve been to the track a few times I think the tarmac will be better,” Ricciardo told reporters.

Ricciardo is on $4.50 claim his first podium of the year, paying the same as Verstappen. Hamilton is on just $1.14 with Vettel at $1.28, Bottas on $1.40 and Raikkonen at $2.50.

Sochi hosting its fourth race weekend after joining the F1 calendar in 2014.

The circuit itself weaves in and around the site of the Olympic Park for the 2014 Winter Olympics and the city will also be a host city for next year’s football World Cup.

“It’s a bit like Austin in the first few years, when it took a while to bed in. But I expect this year for the track to be grippy and with these cars it should be quite fast. I would say it’s going to be more enjoyable than it has been so I’m looking forward to that,” Ricciardo said.

The Russian GP gets underway 10pm Sunday AEST.

Suggested Bet: As boring as it seems, Hamilton to win at $1.90.

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