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What to Watch: Russia

Bottas drives round Sochi
By Tony Dodgins,
C4F1 commentary box analyst

The man behind Ben and DC in the commentary box, Tony Dodgins, has been traipsing up and down the Sochi paddock to get the news headlines ahead of the fourth race of 2017 in Russia. 

Can Ferrari take the fight to Mercedes at Sochi, where the Silver Arrow with the three-pointed star has led every lap since the first Russian GP in 2014? 

Sochi is relatively unabrasive and tyre degradation is low, meaning that drivers have to do relatively little tyre management in what is likely to be a one-stop race once again. 

The race pace is likely to be flat-out from start to finish, which will pose interesting questions of Valtteri Bottas. Bottas has gone very well at Sochi in past races but has his race-speed deficit to teammate Lewis Hamilton so far genuinely been down to problems on the ultrasoft and supersoft tyres, or, has he simply lacked that extra something relative to the Brit? Sochi is likely to answer that.

A combination of the track surface allied to lower temperatures is likely to suit Mercedes, as will the track's long straights and power dependency. Expect Mercedes to lock out the front row again, which could give Sebastian Vettel a tough task on Sunday unless he jumps at least one of them off the grid, as in China.

If the Mercedes pair does lead into Turn 1, will the team adopt team orders to counter the Ferrari / Vettel threat? Toto Wolff has admitted it's not a decision he likes to take, but also that it's a situation needing to be considered.

So far, Nico Hulkenberg's qualifying pace has been impressive for Renault but race pace more of a struggle. Logically you'd think that was down to the car switching the tyres on really quickly over a lap but overusing them during longer race stints. 'The Hulk' reckons it's more complex than that though, and was encouraged by progress at the post-Bahrain test with some updates that are on the car in Russia. Look to see if that translates into better race pace for Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer.

Haas uses Carbon Industrie brakes for the first time in 2017 in a bid for better braking consistency after testing them in Bahrain. So listen out for any angsty radio from Romain Grosjean if they don't deliver! (In fact we’ve already heard some in Friday practice…)

And finally home hero Daniil Kvyat, having been labelled a 'torpedo' by an angry Vettel after double first lap contact in 2016, has had a torpedo added to the back of his crash helmet.

The C4F1 team bring you qualifying from 11:55 on Saturday before the Russian Grand Prix LIVE on Channel 4, Sunday from 12 noon.