Vettel leads all-Ferrari front row in Russia
Until this year Mercedes has owned the Sochi circuit in Russia, but this year Ferrari appears to have their number.
Sebastian Vettel turned a lap of 1m33.194s to just beat his Ferrari teammate for pole for Sunday's Russian GP by 0.059s.
"I think it's just great", said Sebastian. "We had had a very good run also yesterday and this morning, and the car was phenomenal. So there's no real secret to today's result, it's just the fact that if you get along with the car you find the rhythm and know what to expect. We knew it would be very tight against the Mercedes, it could have gone the other way, but I am very happy that we locked out the front row for the team.
"I had a good start to Qualifying , then in Q2 I lost a bit the rhythm. My first run in Q3 was not very tidy, so I left it to the last run. For us it's so important as Mercedes had done an impeccable job in the last few years, so it's great for the team and for me that we managed to break that. But now we'll see what tomorrow brings. It's a long race and we'll try to confirm this result".
Kimi came in second in a very close fight, scoring his best qualifying result this year. He commented: "Generally, it has been a very straightforward weekend: we have been happier with the car, set-up wise, since the beginning and when you start well it's easier to work and improve here and there.
"This first row is great for the team, obviously I would rather be in front, but this is not an easy track to get a good lap. I'm happy to take second place , it's a lot better that it has been so far this year. It's good but it's only qualifying, tomorrow is the day where we get points, and we have to do a good job out of it. I expect us to be ok, for sure it's going to be a close fight. Hopefully we can make a good start and see what happens."
Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas continued his dominance over Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to qualify third at 1m33.289s while Hamilton could not get within a 1/2-sec. of Vettel
Hamilton's struggles were all in the final sector - he lost half a second to his teammate there, and seven tenths to Vettel.
"Definitely not, it takes a lot more than that to affect me," he explained. "I got my gap, and it didn’t matter as I didn’t do [a flying lap on] my first lap, whereas he was obviously doing a first lap.
“I just wasn’t quick enough today, so I have to go back to the drawing board and try to figure out why.
“It was all the last sector - I’d lose half a second just in the last sector. So there’s some work to do.
“But tomorrow is still all to play for and at least I’m still up there in the mix.”
It was the first Ferrari front-row lockout since 2008 resulting in very sad faces on Mercedes' bosses Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda.
Daniel Ricciardo rounded out the top-5 for Red Bull.
Felipe Massa split the Red Bulls - he was sixth, ahead of Max Verstappen but behind Ricciardo. Nico Hulkenberg grabbed row four, with Force India duo Perez and Ocon sharing the fifth row.
That's only Vettel's second pole since he joined Ferrari - and the 47th of his F1 career.
The ambient temperature at the start of qualifying was a perfect 70 degrees Fahrenheit and the track temperature was 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
Round 1 belonged to Mercedes, with Bottas turning a 1m 34.041s and Hamilton, after a false start due to a twitch in Turns 8 and 9 on his first go eventually improving to 1m 34.409s. The Ferraris were close behind with 1m 34.493s for Vettel and 1m 34.953s for Raikkonen. Impressively, Ocon was sixth behind Verstappen and ahead of late improvers Hulkenberg and Ricciardo.
Jolyon Palmer’s chances of getting through were ruined when he got over the curb in Turn 4, and then found his Renault spat into the outside wall. He was thus stranded in 16th on 1m 36.462s, ahead of Stoffel Vandoorne on 1m 37.070s in the second McLaren, the two Saubers of Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson on 1m 37.332s and 1m 37.597s, and a very unhappy Romain Grosjean at the back on 1m 37.620s for Haas. Wehrlein also went off right at the end, trying to go quicker.
Mercedes came out fighting again in Q2, with Bottas flying on 1m 33.264s, the fastest time of the weekend thus far, and Hamilton, still struggling, 0.496s adrift, on 1m 33.760s. Vettel slotted into third on ultrasofts on 1m 34.038s, with Raikkonen fourth on 1m 34.053s on similar rubber.
Behind them, it was Verstappen and Hulkenberg again, from Massa and a brake troubled Ricciardo.
As the Mercedes stayed in their garage, Raikkonen improved to second with 1m 33.663s, but Vettel lost a promising lap by spoiling his final sector and failed to go quicker. Massa, however, moved ahead of Verstappen as Perez finally got going to join team mate Ocon in the top 10.
That left the Toro Rossos out in the cold as neither Carlos Sainz nor local hero Daniil Kvyat improved on their earlier 1m 35.948s and 1m 35.968s bests, and they were split eventually by Lance Stroll’s Williams on 1m 35.964s. Sainz will, of course, drop three grid places as penalty for his collision with Stroll in Bahrain. Kevin Magnussen was 14th on 1m 36.017s for Haas, as Fernando Alonso brought up the rear on 1m 36.660s for McLaren.
Thus it came down, as ever, to Q3. Could Mercedes turn up the wick to stay ahead? Or could Ferrari push them off the front row?
Things began to go wrong for Hamilton straight away. He led Hulkenberg out of the pits, then had his warm-up lap process compromised when the German batted him before overtaking the Mercedes.
As Raikkonen went fastest with 1m 33.253s, the fastest lap thus far of the weekend, Bottas went second on 1m 33.289s with Vettel third on 1m 33.426s. Hamilton was a very disgruntled fourth on 1m 34.464s.
Round 1 to Ferrari.
Round 2 went their way, too. Though Raikkonen did not improve, thus losing his chance of a first pole since France 2008, Vettel did, banging in 1m 33.194s to settle the issue.
Behind them, Bottas looked good but did not improve, while a fastest first sector time for Hamilton translated in an improvement to 1m 33.767s, but no upward movement from fourth on the grid.
Ricciardo held on to fifth despite not improving on 1m 34. 985s, and as Verstappen likewise did not go faster than his earlier 1m 35.1611s, Massa snuck his Williams ahead with 1m 34.110s.
Hulkenberg improved to 1m 35.285s for eighth, as Perez and Ocon kept Force India on target for a 14th consecutive points finish with ninth and 10th in 1m 35.337s and 1m 35.430s respectively.
So, with penalties applied (in addition to Sainz, Vandoorne is set to lose 15 places for engine component changes), the provisional grid will line up: Vettel, Raikkonen; Bottas, Hamilton; Ricciardo, Massa; Verstappen, Hulkenberg; Perez, Ocon; Stroll, Kvyat; Magnussen, Sainz; Alonso, Palmer; Wehrlein, Ericsson; Grosjean, Vandoorne.
Valtteri Bottas (3rd, 1:33.289): "I think we can see Ferrari were quicker today. We were close in the end, but not close enough. All weekend they've had the upper hand and they've managed to extract more out of the tires. They are looking very strong here and, as we've seen so far this year, Ferrari have a good race pace and we expect it to be the same tomorrow. We made an improvement from yesterday: it wasn't quite enough but I think the changes we made overnight should help us in the race. Tomorrow is where it counts and starting on the second row is still not a bad place to begin the race. There's a very long run down into Turn 2 and a lot of slipstreaming. Ferrari is ahead today, but hopefully not tomorrow."
Lewis Hamilton (4th, 1:33.767): "I just wasn't quick enough today. It was all in the last sector, I was losing half a second there. I've been struggling there all weekend with the balance and it's been tough to utilize the tires. We'll go back to the drawing board tonight and try and improve. Ferrari did a great job. They look quick on race pace and my race runs weren't great yesterday, so it's going to be tough. But we'll give everything we've got. Sochi isn't the easiest track to follow on, but there are long straights which should offer the opportunity to move forward. That's our goal. I'm on the dirty side of the grid so I haven't done myself any favors off the start. But that was the best job I could do today. We've got a real race to look forward to. There's no point being upset; we'll channel our positive energy and hopefully Sunday will be better."
Toto Wolff: "Today's result showed that, while Ferrari and ourselves are a long way ahead of the other teams, it's still a work in progress for us to get the car into the right window and performing consistently. We made a good step compared to yesterday but this afternoon, the top three were covered by less than a tenth of a second and Valtteri could even have been on pole with his final lap until a small mistake in the last sector. As for Lewis, he hasn't been happy with the car, finding it tricky to drive, and this is a place where you need to feel good with the car to hook it all up. So we start from the second row tomorrow and now it's our job to look forward and see what the race can bring. As the hunters and not the hunted, maybe we have some different cards we can play to chase the race victory."
Red Bull-Tag Heuer
Daniel Ricciardo (5th, 1:34.905): "I don't think the practice session timings were completely representative of our pace and I felt like we were always a bit better than the timing screen showed but we hadn't quite put it all together. In Q1 and Q2 we were trying to circulate and build temperature in the tires but in Q3 we went for it and decided just to do one push lap which seemed to work so I'm glad we chose to do that. I'm pretty happy, I think fifth was all we could ask for today and that's obvious looking at the gap to the front. Fifth is our best qualifying result here in Russia and we have to take the positives for now so I'm pleased to have achieved that for the team. I think Ferrari and Mercedes will be battling for the win tomorrow but we will definitely have a good fight for the top five. Compared to the Williams I think we have more rear downforce and could be better on the tires but they have the straight-line speed and if you compare us to Ferrari and Mercedes they still have a bit of everything on us. For everyone watching at home I hope we can all have a good race and it's definitely good for the sport now that Mercedes is being challenged."
Max Verstappen (7th, 1:35.161): "A frustrating day all things considered, we knew this would be one of our toughest tracks of the season but I had hoped qualifying would go better than that. Q1 was not too bad for us but in Q2 I had a really bad feeling with the rear tires and I suddenly lost grip, especially going into the last sector. Sector 1 and 2 went well on most of my laps but the time just fell away in sector 3 as I just didn't have the heat in the tires. P5 was our target and that looked possible based on my first sector splits but the time I lost in the final sector cost me that goal. In Bahrain our car had a good setup and worked with the tires but here the long straights make it very hard to go quick and compete at the front. Tomorrow should be a one stop race and we will of course try to push and go forward but I just think the top four are too quick here. The target will remain P5 in the race tomorrow which would be a good result for us here."
Christian Horner, Sporting Director: "Ultimately Daniel got everything possible out of the car today. P5 was the maximum achievable and a clean controlled lap in Q3 delivered that. Max had looked the quicker of the two in the previous sessions of qualifying but unfortunately he got out of shape on his last run and dropped a place to Massa, so we line up in fifth and seventh for tomorrow's grand prix. Fifth happens to be our best ever qualifying at this track but obviously it leaves us with a lot to do tomorrow."
Kimi Raikkonen (2nd, 1:33.253):
Maurizio Arrivabene, Team Principal:
Sergio Perez (9th, 1:35.337): "It was not an ideal qualifying session for me, but in the end we got a good result and we can be pleased to be in Q3. I didn't get the perfect lap; I feel I have left something on the table and when the margins are so close a tenth of a second would have put us a couple of places further ahead. It was not easy to get the tires in the right operating window and to keep them working for the whole lap. Also, the track conditions changed a lot from yesterday and I think this affected everyone. The key for tomorrow's race will be having a good start and a clean run into turn two: it's a tricky one and in the past there has been plenty of action there at the start. I am optimistic for the race and I think we can aim to make up some positions from where we start."
Esteban Ocon (10th, 1:35.430): "It's the first Q3 appearance of my career and I'm pretty happy with our performance today. The team has done an awesome job to improve the car during each session and I felt very comfortable by the time we started qualifying. I made a few small mistakes on my Q3 lap so I'm a little bit frustrated because there was the opportunity to be even higher up the grid. If I can make a clean start in the race, there is all to play for tomorrow. It's important that I make the most of my best qualifying position in Formula One to score some more points."
Robert Fernley, Deputy Team Principal: "The top ten was our target today and it's encouraging to see both Force Indias make Q3 for the first time this year. The team has done an excellent job over the last few days to extract more and more performance from the car and today's results show the progress we have made. The Q3 laps of both drivers were clean and tidy, but they both felt there was a bit more speed in the car and that they had the potential to be even higher up the grid. Even so, locking out the fifth row of the grid represents our best qualifying performance of the year and gives us every chance to score solid points tomorrow."
Felipe Massa (6th, 1:35.110): "It was a great qualifying for us. It's so nice to see that we are in the middle of the two Red Bulls. They were better than us in the first three races, on qualifying and race pace, but this is a good track for us and we are fighting with them. I'm happy with the position we're starting, but I'm also happy that maybe tomorrow we can fight with them again. I will try everything I can, I'm very motivated and I hope everything will be right for us to have a good race tomorrow."
Lance Stroll (12th, 1:35.964): "It was a bit unfortunate at the end as I think Q3 was possible, but I just missed out at the end of my lap in Q2. I didn't get to do the warm up lap I wanted, and around here it is quite important to get the tire working properly. I had a good start to the lap and then I lost a lot of grip in the last sector, made a couple of mistakes and just lost the rear, which wasn't great. I was a couple of tenths up but didn't manage to hold it. There is more in it. I think this weekend is quite tricky with tires and getting them to work properly, but we can race from P12 (P11). It is a long race tomorrow, we will see what happens and hopefully luck is going to be a bit more on our side."
Paddy Lowe, Chief Technical Officer: "It is absolutely fantastic to get sixth place on the grid with Felipe. We have split the Red Bulls which should make things interesting tomorrow, especially since we think our race pace looks competitive. On Lance's side, given that this is a new circuit and there was a lot of learning to do this weekend, he has done a very respectable job to get the car to 12th. The tires have been very tricky for everybody, as they have been every year here because of this smooth surface, so there has been a lot of learning along the way to get that final lap in qualifying. We look forward to an exciting race tomorrow. Well done to the team for what has been a trouble free weekend so far. Finally, congratulations to Ferrari for their first front row lockout since the 2008 French GP, back when Felipe and Rob Smedley were still part of their team!"
Stoffel Vandoorne (17th, 1:37.070): "After receiving the grid penalty yesterday for changing power unit components, we chose to direct our focus more towards tomorrow's race. We knew we'd more or less be starting from the back, so our main aim will be to try and get the most out of tomorrow's race. Although we know it's going to be difficult for us to overtake around here, I still think that a lot of things can happen over a race distance. Even if it turns out to be a one-stop race, it'll be a long afternoon - and, hopefully, there'll be some incidents or a Safety Car, which could create some scenarios that might play into our hands. We expected to have another difficult weekend, but I'm hoping for a better day and the opportunity to make something happen in the race."
Eric Boullier, Racing Director: "We knew even before the start of qualifying that this would be a tricky session for us. Stoffel's 15-place grid penalty, which was received yesterday for fitting the fifth MGU-K and turbo of the season, meant he was always likely to be starting from the back, and that's unfortunately the case for tomorrow. It'll be a tough afternoon for him, but he's resolved to fight hard - it's good to see such fighting spirit given the somewhat trying circumstances. Fernando drove with all his typical vigor this afternoon, leaving absolutely nothing on the track when he set his fastest time of the day, in Q1. He looked utterly magnificent out on-track, and we can only hope that we're able to provide him with a package better suited to his mighty talents sooner rather than later. We approach tomorrow's race looking to make the most of each and every opportunity that may come our way. Rest assured, we've lost none of our fight."
Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda: "We expected this circuit to be challenging for our package, and, unfortunately, today's result reflects this. During FP3 this morning we were concentrating most of our time on finding the best balance for the car. Both drivers tried various ride-heights and mechanical balances in order to find the best setting for qualifying at this circuit. As this circuit is quite tricky for tire management, we also focused on the usage of each type of tire in order to warm them up efficiently. During qualifying today, Fernando showed his excellent performance once again by reaching Q2 in tough circumstances. Stoffel also showed a brilliant performance keeping his motivation high despite having a 15-place penalty for the race. Tomorrow's race will be hard, but everyone in the team will fight hard to get the best we can out of our package and push for points."
Scuderia Toro Rosso-Renault
Daniil Kvyat (13th, 1:35.968): "After this morning's FP3, I'm happy with my result in today's qualifying session. The car has been difficult to drive all weekend and we also had a few issues this morning which we couldn't completely solve for qualifying. But I drove well and I'm happy with my lap. Tomorrow we will try our best to fight for points!"
James Key, Technical Director: "So far it hasn't been the easiest of weekends for us. We've had similar problems to most of the other teams, trying to find the right grip level for shorter runs. Unfortunately, we fell victim to a little bit of that this afternoon. We ran quite conservatively on Friday, so we knew that there were certain things that could be addressed immediately for FP3; but we also made quite a lot of changes to our set-up today and this began to give us a more reasonable balance and a slightly better approach to try and optimize the tires a bit, this seemed to work this morning and we made some reasonable steps for FP3. In qualifying we ran into trouble during Q2 with our final tire sets and neither driver felt they had the grip they should have had - and perhaps they had in earlier runs -, and this left us in a bit of a compromised situation without either car in Q3. Ultimately, I think it's very tight but we've also lost a bit of ground in the last few races and we need to make that up in the next events. Sadly, Carlos has got his grid penalty to take from Bahrain, so he won't be starting from P11. We have a few challenges for tomorrow, but of course you have to approach it with a good plan and we'll do everything we can to try and squeeze the cars into the top ten."
Kevin Magnussen (14th, 1:36.017): "As a team we're struggling a bit more this weekend than in the first races. It's not perfect, but I think P14 for me today was the best I could do. I think with a perfect lap P11 could've been possible, but it's very close from 11th to where I am, very close. I don't think any of these guys probably had a perfect lap. It is what it is. To be in that group is a good effort from our side. We've been a bit unlucky this weekend having to go back on the brakes in the middle of the weekend, but I think we'll still have a good car for the race. Hopefully, we can get through the first corner well and have a good race."
Romain Grosjean (20th, 1:37.620): "I've been very unhappy with the car since yesterday morning. Something is just not working, and then today we had the yellow flags on my last lap while I was trying to improve. We need a solution for those yellow flags. Three races now we've had at least one Haas (car) out because we get a yellow flag on our last attempt, so that's a bit too much. Kevin has been pretty happy with his car and I haven't. It was nothing in the brakes, it was just the car wasn't doing anything I wanted. I think tomorrow will be very hard."
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal: "A difficult day. Ups come with downs. Today we didn't really deliver what we could've done. Romain qualifying last, though he'll start second to last with Vandoorne's penalty, doesn't justify the speed. Again, we ran into a yellow, number three now (China, Bahrain and Russia). Kevin was very close to at least 11th position, if not 10th, in Q2. It didn't work out, so he'll start 13th. We'll try to do our best for tomorrow."
Nico Hulkenberg (8th, 1:35.285): "I think that was the best we could do with the package we have currently, so it's been a satisfying afternoon from that point of view. The challenge will be in the race; our pace then has been trickier so far this season so tomorrow will be the true teller of where we are in the car with our recent upgrade. We'll push, as always, and hopefully come away with some nice points."
Jolyon Palmer (16th, 1:36.462): "I have to say a big thank you to all my crew and everyone in the garage who has worked so hard over this weekend, they really have been amazing and now they have a bit more work to do. I was pushing hard and took too much curb which pitched me into the barriers. I was on the back foot slightly with missing FP3, but anything can happen in the race, so I hope for a better day."
Alan Permane, Sporting Director: "There's more to come... It's good to have a car in the top ten once again; Nico has established himself as a regular Q3 runner which is excellent, and we're confident that there is more to come from the car as we upgrade it in the future. Unfortunately for Jo, he easily had the pace to charge for Q3 but it was not to be today. Nico's race looks a straightforward one given his qualifying position. For Jolyon, he is out of position so we will be looking for every strategic opportunity to make the most of the pace of the car."
Pascal Wehrlein (18th, 1:37.332): "I cannot be satisfied with this result. I made a mistake on my last lap in qualifying, which definitely cost time. Overall I am having difficulties with the balance of the car. Also, our top speed on the straights is not good enough. The tires behave differently compared to Bahrain, but this is the same for everyone else. Nevertheless, we will do our best for tomorrow's race."
Marcus Ericsson (19th, 1:37.507): "A disappointing result. I think we have made some progress today in FP3 and then in qualifying. Unfortunately we identified a power unit issue in FP3, and we were not able to fully fix it for qualifying. I am sure we will sort this out for tomorrow. On top of that I got yellow flags on my last lap in Q1. We could have been close to Q2 today without having these issues but that's how racing goes sometimes. However, I am still positive, as we are moving in the right direction."
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