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2015 Russian Grand Prix

Carlos Sainz Jr is hopeful of being cleared to race on Sunday despite his terrifying crash in the third practice on Saturday morning. It was a huge, high speed accident that left his Toro Rosso wedged under the barrier at the Sochi circuit, and it took longer than it should have done for the marshall team to come to his aid. Coming only just over a year after the awful accident that, ultimately, took the life of Jules Bianchi, the whole paddock had their hearts in their mouths waiting to see what had happened.

Very fortunately, Sainz emerged conscious and unscathed from the high speed smash. He is close to being medically cleared to race despite such a violent impact, and we're enormously grateful that he was so lucky. Any injury or death in Formula One is a tragedy, and to have two in two seasons after such a long time without any would lead us to wonder what was going on with the safety standards of the sport.

Nonetheless, the second Russian Grand Prix will go ahead with Sainz or without him, and for the second race in a row it is Nico Rosberg who will start from pole. A series of interruptions to the free practice sessions meant no driver had much chance to set up their car - oddly enough it was Sainz who got in the most laps in total - and Lewis Hamilton did not look to quite have the pace of his teammate in qualifying.

This sets up an interesting race ahead. The Sochi track is not particularly thrilling, but if Hamilton is fighting his car a little then we could be in for an entertaining race. Last year the race began with Rosberg attempting to defend his pole position at turn two right after the start, which failed dramatically when he braked far too late and absolutely wrecked his tyres. This time round it is once again Lewis Hamilton who finds himself in the position of needing to overtake his teammate on a track that doesn't especially lend itself to overtaking.

He's no slouch at racing with Rosberg though, and we can't think of a single wheel to wheel moment that he hasn't come out on top of. The best place to back Hamilton for the race win is at BoyleSports, who are offering a decent 10/11.

That said, Rosberg definitely seems to have got more out of his car in the limited running they have had available. It's been a while since he took a race win, and we think this technical circuit might be his chance to get back to the top of the podium. The best place to back him is PaddyPower, at a very reasonable 11/8.

Finally, Felipe Massa had a dire time of it in qualifying, but he's a feisty overtaker and his Mercedes powered car should show well in the race. Despite his lowly starting place of fourteenth we think it's worth a punt on him to finish in the top six. The best place to back that is over at Coral, who have priced it at a tempting 3/1.

2015 Japanese Grand Prix

After the surprise results for Mercedes in last weekend's Singapore Grand Prix, a number of questions have been asked. Unfortuantely for the team, they are not entirely sure they have the answers.

Mercedes lack of pace around the streets of Singapore was a big surprise to everybody, not just the team themselves, but Ferrari and Red Bull were quick to capitalise. Sebastian Vettel took a dominant pole position, half a second ahead of Daniel Ricciardo's Red Bull. The Austrian team were left despondent in their belief that the Renault power unit in their car is probably what cost them that half a second. They are already in negotiations with Ferrari to use their power unit next season.

Mercedes woes continued in the race - they were never really on the pace, with Vettel disappearing into the distance while the silver arrows struggled to work their way up higher than fifth and sixth. When Lewis Hamilton's KERS energy system stopped working it was only a matter of time before he had to retire the car. He was lucky that his teammate Rosberg was unable to make any more progress than he had, meaning he goes into the Japanese Grand Prix still holding a solid forty point lead in the championship.

The big question is whether Mercedes' problems were track related, or development related. They made some big changes to their engine the race before, but it didn't seem to hold them back there. The signs point to Mercedes being competitive once again when they reach Suzuka.
Our hunch is that Ferrari will be right on their tails this time round as well, though. The recent improvements to the Ferrari package have put them back in close contention with the Mercedes cars, and with the Suzuka track being a thorough all-round test of both car and driver the race for pole position might be closer than we've seen in recent races.

Although the likelihood is that Lewis Hamilton will grab another pole position in qualifying, we're not very tempted by the odds. Instead, we're looking at Sebastian Vettel, possibly now turning out to be his closest challenger in the championship. He's known for finding an extra few tenths in qualifying, and at PaddyPower you can back him to be Overall Qualification Winner at a tempting 8/1.

That said, though, Lewis Hamilton will be looking to come back strong and reassert his dominance over this season. He may well be worth backing to take the pole position, fastest lap, and race victory, and the best place to pick that up is at Ladbrokes. They've got the Hat Trick for Hamilton priced up at 5/2.

Finally, McLaren had an awful race last time out on a track where they though they might steal some points.

The Suzuka circuit doesn't suit a car that's down on power, but McLaren claim that their car is aerodynamically well designed which will play into their hands on the long, sweeping corners. Jenson Button loves this track, and usually goes well here. It's an outside bet, but we think he might be worth picking up for a points finish. You can find that priced at a very decent 7/2 over at Coral.

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