Heading into the final FIA World Touring Car Cup races of the year, Yann Ehrlacher’s 37-point series lead ensures that it is his title to lose.
Given the size of his advantage, it would take a mammoth performance by either Frederic Vervisch or Esteban Guerrieri, and an unfortunate dose of bad luck, to prevent Ehrlacher from successfully defending his WTCR crown.
Of course, despite the odds it’s not mathematically wrapped-up just yet, so the Swedish team will undoubtedly aim to deploy his nearest team-mates as support against the drivers around him. The objective at Cyan Racing is abundantly clear: protect Yann Ehrlacher’s car at all costs.
That may be easier said than done though. Thed Bjork will struggle to be of any use from eighteenth on the grid in both races, while Santiago Urrutia is also relatively distant in eleventh.
The best-placed driver to aid the 25 year old in his bid for victory is Yvan Muller, who will be starting the main race from pole position – four grid slots ahead of Ehrlacher.
In many ways though, it would be a shame if Muller was to be instructed to give up a potential victory at Sochi Autodrom, to help maximise Ehrlacher’s points tally. The veteran pulled off a remarkable display in qualifying in order to achieve that pole position, as the only driver to break the 2 minutes 30 seconds barrier in the tricky wet conditions.
Muller is understandably rather pleased about how he drove today:
“That was a good lap,” he said. “But when I started my lap I had a doubt because in Q2 I struggled. I was quick in Q1. Q2, I had to stop to change tyres and go again, and I just came in the top five at the last second. I drove as best I could.
“I did a small set of changes before the Q3 which helped me a lot and then I drove without mistakes and that made a good lap.”
Fans hoping that Muller will be allowed to drive his own race and challenge for race victory may be buoyed by the insight that he provided regarding Cyan Racing’s true list of priorities.
Of course, the squad will be doing all that they can to help Ehrlacher secure his second WTCR title, but it appears as though they wouldn’t be too keen on letting a potential race victory – and the teams’ championship points that come with it – slip away.
“The main goal is to win the teams’ championship first before anything else,” Muller revealed. “But we took a lot of points already today to go towards that.
“I also hope we can confirm the drivers’ title for Yann. And if there is something else, if I can finish in the top three of the drivers it would be nice.”
As for Ehrlacher himself, Saturday was always going to be the most daunting of the two days this weekend. Having now secured a good grid slot in qualifying though, a significant amount of weight has been lifted off of the reigning champion’s shoulders.
“My main worry coming into this race was that we wouldn’t be in a good place after qualifying,” he said. “But in quali we went P5.”
“That gave us an extra point in Q3 and we are in a good place for the races tomorrow.”