Top betting tips for Russian GP: Don’t count out Sochi specialist Valtteri Bottas in qualifying

Put simply, the Sochi Autodrom has been an extremely happy hunting ground for Mercedes, and they will need that dominance again to re-assert themselves in the title race.

The team have won every single race around Russia's Olympic Park since its introduction to the calendar in 2014, and conversely, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner hinted that his team may be in damage limitation mode this weekend.

A win for Lewis Hamilton would guarantee him a return to the top of the World Championship standings, but it remains to be seen how much his crash with title rival Max Verstappen last time out will have affected his mindset.

Spare a thought for Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, too. He had a near-perfect weekend at Monza, qualifying fastest and winning the sprint qualifying session, before taking a penalty which dropped him all the way back the grid.

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Even with the adversity that came with it, the Finn was able to climb his way back up onto the podium, and he has previous form in Russia, too.

Bottas has had perhaps more success at Sochi than at any other circuit in Formula 1, having finished outside the top four only once in seven races.

He's also taken two race victories (which would have been three, if he had not been forced to move aside for Hamilton in 2018), a pole position and three fastest laps in race conditions.

With Red Bull less than optimistic about their chances, Mercedes, Hamilton and Bottas could consider themselves as being in a prime position to pounce this weekend.

(All text odds are correct at the time of writing, but the odds in those pretty blue boxes are bang up-to-date)

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Considering Bottas' previous record in Russia and his pace at the last race, he cannot be ruled out of contention, especially in qualifying. He appears to have a more-than-reasonable chance of securing his 18th Formula 1 pole position, and at 7/2 to be the fastest qualifier, that looks like a value bet.

In the race, however, that may change. Qualifying fastest is not always a route to success in Sochi, with a long drag down to the first chicane allowing the drivers behind a massive slipstream, which has led to several changes of lead on the first lap in the past.

Likewise, Bottas being told to allow Hamilton through would be extremely likely to happen again if the Finn is leading his team-mate, given the situation in the World Championship. It's no surprise, then, that Hamilton is odds-on at 8/13 to win the race on Sunday.

If Red Bull are playing down how fast they will be in Russia, though, Verstappen being out at 9/2 to win is likely to be as high a value on him as you'll see all season - but the Dutchman will take a three-place grid penalty for his part in his crash with Hamilton, which will prove to be a slight obstacle for him.

Other value bets

We cannot ignore the sterling work of McLaren in Italy, having taken their first race victory for almost nine years through Daniel Ricciardo, and team-mate Lando Norris in just behind.

Whether or not that speed is a one-off remains to be seen, but the team appeared to be up with Mercedes and Red Bull on pace throughout the weekend at Monza - leading to some intrigue around how they will perform this weekend.

Having Norris and Ricciardo at 5/2 and 7/2 respectively to finish on the podium is a sign of how much they have improved, and any issues for Mercedes could see McLaren happily take advantage.

Elsewhere, AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda has had a tough time of things in his rookie season, but he has fared well on tracks on which he has raced before.

He took a second and sixth place finish in his two Formula 2 outings last season, and he looks good value at 2/1 to earn a points finish on Sunday.

When will the action take place? (All times BST)

First practice: Friday 24th September, 9.30am

Second practice: Friday 24th September, 1.00pm

Third practice: Saturday 25th September, 10.00am

Qualifying: Saturday 25th September, 1.00pm

Race: Sunday 26th September, 1.00pm

How do I watch?

The race is broadcast live on Sky Sports F1 in the UK, and the build-up begins at 11.30am on Sunday.

Extended highlights are shown later in the day on Channel 4 at 5.30pm.

Or follow it live and get all the latest reaction and news on Planet F1.