Formula 1 returns to Sochi for the Russian GP following the usual two-week hiatus since Japan. Lewis Hamilton retains the lead of the Championship by 48 points over Rosberg, and Vettel still, almost unbelievably hovering behind in 3rd and within touching-distance of Rosberg after a return to normality in Japan for the Mercedes outfit. Life in the Fantasy GP game is never as straightforward and therefore, with five races left on the calendar, it is time to put the spotlight on your potential choices ahead of another race weekend.

*GRO_8_01Romain Grosjean (£9m) – It has been an up-and-down year for Lotus generally and it is ironic that their recent upturn in form on the track has coincided with their most challenging time off-track. Bailiffs in the garage or not, solid recent finishes for their leading French driver cannot have failed to make an impression amongst F1 fans and fantasy players alike. In fact, his recently announced switch to Haas for the 2016 season is testament to that fact. Statistics-wise, Grosjean has scored 164 points this campaign at 18.22 points per million spent which compares favourably to his immediate competition, being the likes of Hulkenberg, Perez and Kvyat. Also, Romain’s points total is 99 points higher than poor old Pastors but then you probably guessed that…

*VER_33_01Max Verstappen (£4m) – I know he gets a mention every five seconds, everywhere, and he was actually featured only a few PrixViews ago but his rising star shows little sign of diminishing as he enjoyed celebrating his 18th birthday (18!). Let’s concentrate on the Fantasy results today though – Verstappen has now accrued 48 more points than his Spanish team-mate with a return per million spent of 41.75 compared to 27.8 for Sainz. Interestingly, the Belgian-Dutch racer is only a few points off over-hauling Nasr as the best value racer in this year’s competition. You’d be a brave man to bet against him achieving just that.

Manor GP (£2m) – In Fantasy terms, Manor appear an irrelevance for this campaign after failing to score any points in the Constructors’ Championship so far this campaign. Frankly, this is unlikely to change but I thought they are worth a mention for two main reasons. Firstly, I imagine a good many players will have tactically included the small outfit in their team selections for the entire campaign, simply because they free up a minimum of £2m to spend elsewhere. Secondly, and whilst I’m not looking to do a PrixView for 2016 just yet, it might be worth remembering that Manor have signed a deal to use Mercedes engines next year and therefore it might not take them another 12 months before they are featured here again.

*BUT_22_01Other Tips – Hamilton dominated a season ago to take a comfortable win as his German team-mate fought back from a first-lap error to take second place. It’ll be difficult to see too much change at the very front of the grid this time around although, further back, the likes of Vettel and Raikkonen will be striving to improve on last year’s results whilst Button can only dream of repeating his fourth place in his first race out after re-signing for the struggling McLaren team for next season.

Weather is currently predicted to be dry, partly cloudy and not overly hot in Sochi this weekend which may impact of the tyre wear and pit stop strategy but it would take a dramatic change in conditions to throw the race into chaos on the climate only. There was no safety car in 2014 but, given there was unlikely to be similar safety systems in the prior race (1914), statistics are not your friend and gut instinct might come into play here!

As a complete aside, don’t forget that Mercedes can clinch the Constructors’ Championship on Russian tarmac this weekend which has been estimated to be worth a paltry £2bn to the worldwide brand. I’m not sure the Badger title is financially comparable but don’t give up the fight regardless.