Russian Grand Prix – Mercedes have locked out the front row at the Sochi Autodrom, with Valtteri Bottas seizing pole position ahead of Lewis Hamilton.
Valtteri Bottas has claimed pole position in Russia, after seeing off a challenge from his teammate Lewis Hamilton. Bottas was peerless in the final Q3 session, initially clocking a 1:31.528 to go 0.004 seconds clear of Hamilton on the first runs. Bottas then went back out and put in a 1:31.387 and went 0.145 ahead of Hamilton. On his final flying lap, Hamilton made an error at Turn 7 and ran wide, ending his pole position attempt. He was forced to settle for P2 as Mercedes locked out the front row.
Hamilton won’t be too despondent, however. HIs ongoing championship fight with Sebastian Vettel seems to be going more and more in his favour, as Ferrari seemed unable to provide any answer to the pace of the Mercedes cars. Vettel finished in P3, over half a second down on Bottas’ pole time, with Raikkonen settling into P4 and a further 0.3 seconds down. At no point during the qualifying hour did Ferrari look capable of challenging for fastest times. However, Merc & Ferrari were the only teams to get through Q2 on the UltraSoft tyre, meaning they are now able to start the race on those tyres. Comically, both teams went out on the HyperSoft tyre towards the end of Q2 and proceeded to smash their qualifying times, only to completely back off and crawl across the finishing line to ensure they didn’t beat their own times.
Kevin Magnussen was best of the rest. The newly re-signed Haas driver placed his car in P5, although faced less of a challenge due to several of his immediate rivals electing not to participate properly in the session due to grid penalties. Nevertheless, the Danish driver went quicker than Force India’s Esteban Ocon by almost 0.3 seconds as the French driver slots into P6. Charles Leclerc was one of the stars of qualifying, and he starts from P7 for Sauber, having been just 0.006 seconds off Ocon’s time. Romain Grosjean was P9 in the second Haas, with Marcus Ericsson rounding out the top ten as both Saubers got into Q3 for the first time since the 2015 Chinese Grand Prix.
Outside the top ten, and the deciding Q2 session for the P11-P15 positions was somewhat farcical. With five drivers going into qualifying with grid penalties, neither Red Bull Racing or Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly elected to put in a time. This meant that Renault, seemingly knowing they didn’t have the pace to get through to Q3, also opted not to put in any laps. They don’t have any grid penalties, meaning that they will start from P11 & P12 with Carlos Sainz & Nico Hulkenberg respectively, ahead of the penalised Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo & Pierre Gasly.
Q1 was a largely straightforward affair, with the usual suspects being eliminated early on. Brendon Hartley finished P16 in his Toro Rosso, ahead of the McLaren of Fernando Alonso. Sergey Sirotkin, who spun his Williams harmlessly at the end of Q1, finished his home qualifying session in P18, Stoffel Vandoorne P19 in the second McLaren and Lance Stroll slowest of all in his Williams.