All-Mercedes Front Row in Russia
Defending Russian GP winner Valtteri Bottas turned a new track record to win pole for the first time in 2018. Bottas' lap of 1m31.387s was too much for teammate Lewis Hamilton who made a mistake in turn 7 on his final lap and came up 0.145s short, but still it was an easy all-Mercedes front row.
The Ferrari row was led by Sebastien Vettel 0.556s behind while him teammate Kimi Raikkonen was 0.850s back.
Fifth on the grid will be Kevin Magnussen a massive 1.794s behind Bottas.
Bottas scored his maiden victory here last year so the track clearly suits him. But that long run down to Turn 1 means that the slipstream is an ever present threat and the second row is quite a good place to start from.
Which means that Ferrari can't be discounted... and with a mixed up midfield behind, the race has the potential to be less of a parade as usual.
However, the result is the latest blow to Vettel’s title hopes, with the German entering the race already 40 points down on Hamilton in the drivers’ standings.
All four of the leading drivers will start the race on the Ultrasoft tire in Sochi, having made it through Q2 without using the quicker and less durable Hypersofts.
The two Red Bulls have to start at the back of the grid due to an engine change, so they did not even try to turn a lap in Q2, saving the car and tires for the race.
Due to the penalties in play, the slowest cars in Q2 were guaranteed 11th and 12th on the grid as well as a free tire choice. Preferring the tire advantage over a better starting position, Renault decided not to send out either Carlos Sainz Jr. or Nico Hulkenberg in Q2, resulting in a strange situation where any driver who did post a lap time was guaranteed a place in the top 10.
Fernando Alonso qualified 17th and maintained his 100 percent record of outqualifying teammate Stoffel Vandoorne this season, who finished down in 19th. Alonso, even at his age, is clearly better than the younger Vandoorne.
Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport
Valtteri Bottas (1st, 1:31.387): "It's been a long time since I last took pole in Austria this year, so this feels very good! We made some changes after FP3 and the car felt even better in Qualifying. I managed to find time in almost every run in Qualifying; I just had to put everything together in Q3. I was able to get a really good lap in on the second run and it was enough for pole, so I'm happy. Our pace looked good so far; on Friday, we were very close to Ferrari and Red Bull, but today we looked strong, so we should hopefully have a competitive car tomorrow. The Ferraris will be strong as well, but we should have a car that gives us the chance to fight them for win. The start will be decisive; we need to aim for a very good initial get-away. The straight into Turn 2 is so long that it's easy to overtake if the guys behind you get a better start. Today was a good start into the weekend and puts us in a good position for tomorrow, but the main day is still ahead of us and I'll give it everything to maintain the lead."
Lewis Hamilton (2nd, 1:31.532): "This has never been the strongest circuit for me, but Q1 was really good. My run on the HyperSoft at the end of Q2 was a great lap, but then I couldn't repeat it in Q3. I was two tenths up on my final lap but I made a mistake - I went quite wide and then the back stepped out at the next corner. I think I had the pace for pole, but Valtteri did the better job this time. It's great for the team to have a 1-2 here, we'll try and convert that tomorrow. We've made some big improvements to how we use the tires and how we set the car up and it's showing. It's tough to overtake here, so the race will be about tire management and who gets the best start. I'll be pushing hard; you saw Valtteri's great start last year, and I think that'll be my best shot to win."
James Allison, Technical Director: "We thought yesterday went well, but you never really know for sure until Qualifying comes around. It was lovely to see that the gaps of yesterday and this morning translated through into the afternoon. We are really delighted with a strong Qualifying session from both drivers and particularly pleased for Valtteri who showed once again that he's something of a magician on this track. It's going to be difficult tomorrow with the long run down from the start into Turn 2 and we know from last year that P3 on the grid allowed us to catapult into the lead. So hopefully we'll get some very strong starts tomorrow and then with luck the long-run pace that we saw on Friday will also translate into the race."
Toto Wolff: "We can be happy and proud with the pace today, it's the achievement of a lot of hard work over the past weeks. We have a car that looks really competitive around Sochi, which is especially good after the struggles we had last year. But today is only Saturday, so while being on pole and locking out the front row is a massive satisfaction for us, we know that the slip stream around this track will play a big role tomorrow and could be decisive for the race. So we will try to have a good start to stay in front and then control the race from there. We should have the pace in the car, it's all about getting off the line well and keeping the position."
Sebastian Vettel (3rd, 1:31.943):
Kimi Raikkonen (4th, 1:32.237):
Maurizio Arrivabene, Team Principal:
Aston Martin Red Bull Racing
Max Verstappen (11th, No Time): "We knew before qualifying that we would have to start from the back tomorrow, but I think it has all gone better than expected so far. We did a good job in Q1 which I'm happy about. The car has felt good all weekend, except for this morning, when I had some troubles, but we managed to turn it around and we are competitive again. We are closer than expected, what we lose on the straights, we can definitely make up in the corners. Even though we had good pace today, I don't think it's too painful for us to take the penalty here. We needed a new engine anyway, so it's good for upcoming races to take it now. The performance we had today shows again that we've worked very well on the set-up. From FP3 to qualifying we made some good steps forward so I'm confident about tomorrow. We just have to make sure that we have good exits out of the last few corners and keep our tires alive, because the overtaking will not be easy on the tires. If you follow other cars closely, it's hard on the front tires, so we have to consider the best approach. You never know what can happen and we won't stop fighting, but from where I'm starting, I think the most realistic birthday present will be fifth."
Daniel Ricciardo (12th, No Time): "Knowing you're taking planned penalties before the weekend makes it easier to accept that you won't complete qualifying and then you can just focus on the race. Obviously, we are never going to know where we would have been in Q3 but we're pretty happy with the car this weekend and we've performed well on a circuit that we aren't normally that strong on. There is a lot to do tomorrow and that's when the fun really begins for us. There are a few of us out of position at the back of the grid, so let's see who can fight to the front quickest and have some fun doing it. I actually hope the tire degradation is high, like we have seen so far this weekend, that way nobody will be cruising on an easy one-stop strategy and hopefully we can provide some real entertainment. The main thing for now is to decide which tire to start the race on. I think the temperatures are going to be higher tomorrow as well and the long run down to Turn 2 will be interesting. If I'm honest, the main excitement today was my AFL team winning. I got up early to watch the game and it was well worth it, my voice is definitely suffering after all the shouting though. I will put it all on the line tomorrow and try to return the favor."
Christian Horner, Sporting Director: "Having chosen to take strategic power unit penalties this weekend at a circuit that hasn't yielded positive results for us in the past, we made the decision not to run past Q1 today. It was pleasing to see that we had more pace than expected in qualifying and looking at the times, had we chosen to run to the end of the session, we were on track to challenge Ferrari. With the cars set-up solely for the race and an open choice of tire strategy, I know both Daniel and Max will fight hard to gain maximum points for the Team tomorrow."
Sahara Force India F1 Team
Esteban Ocon (6th, 1:33.413): "The car performed really well today and it's clear we've taken a good step forward during the last couple of races. I'm happy with the result – P6 – but I made a mistake on my final lap in Q3, which meant I wasn't able to really fight against Kevin [Magnussen] for P5. That's a shame, but starting from sixth gives us a good chance tomorrow. It will be really interesting to see how the hypersofts perform in the race and we know there will be a lot of cars further back on the ultrasofts. Let's see how the strategies unfold, but I believe we can convert our strong performance today into a good race result tomorrow."
Sergio Perez (8th, 1:33.563): "I am happy with how the car felt, but I think we could have been higher up the grid. My aim was to be in P5, but my Q3 laps were not the best and I lost a little time. Hopefully tomorrow we will be able to pick up some positions at the start. I'm optimistic for tomorrow, but it's going to be a long race. Strategy will be crucial because we are not starting on the best tire compound and those just outside the top ten, on a harder compound, will be our main threat. Maybe we could have tried to go through Q2 on the ultrasofts, but in the end it will be the same for everyone around us. We need to make our hypersofts last and make the most of the first stint. I am sure there will be opportunities and we'll need to be there to take them."
Otmar Szafnauer, Chief Operating Officer: "In the lead up to qualifying we felt we had the fourth fastest car, but we didn't quite maximize our performance when it mattered during qualifying. Fifth and sixth places were there for the taking, but we've had to settle for sixth and eighth, which is still a good effort. The challenge now is bringing home the result and making the hypersoft work during the opening part of the race. The priority tomorrow is to have a clean race, bring both cars home and collect some important points."
Williams Martini Racing
Sergey Sirotkin (18th, 1:35.612): "It was a tricky session and I'm quite disappointed with my mistake at the end. I think we've been struggling quite a bit. I don't think we really had that impressive performance today and I just tried to do more than was physically possible. I just didn't want to do another steady lap, I tried to do something special and I didn't get away with it. Unfortunately, I made a mistake which I'm very sorry and disappointed about. I wanted to do something more than just a good lap."
Lance Stroll (20th, 1:36.437): "I did my first run but locked up so had to abort that. Then I was on a pretty good lap, but I didn't get a final run because there were yellow flags due to Sergey spinning. We are off the pace, like we have always been, so nothing has really changed. It is frustrating, but we weren't very quick. We will see what we can do tomorrow."
Paddy Lowe, Chief Technical Officer: "It's a very challenging circuit particularly with the hypersoft, trying to get a lap and the best out of the tire around all sectors. There's a bit of a game here in that you have to leave a bit on the table in sector one to get the best time through sector three. Sergey set a reasonably good time on his first run. Unfortunately, Lance made a mistake; he improved on his second lap with the same tire set, but this still wasn't a representative laptime. Both drivers went out for their second run and were on much improved laptimes but unfortunately Sergey spun at turn eight and this caused a yellow, disrupting Lance's lap so neither driver improved. We will benefit from a range of penalties around us and get some better grid positions than where we qualified today. Our race pace has been a bit stronger relatively than our qualifying pace so we still see some opportunity for a better outcome tomorrow."
Renault Sport Formula One Team
Carlos Sainz (14th, No Time): "Unfortunately we saw that our pace was not strong enough to fight for P5 or P6 so opting for the free tire choice was too appealing to ignore with the tire allocation here. We saw the potential benefits of this strategy in Singapore and it could make for an interesting Grand Prix tomorrow. In the end, our pace will dictate our ultimate position but we've given ourselves the best chance for the race."
Nico Hulkenberg (15th, No Time): "Today we ran a wise strategy. A decent qualifying position was out of reach on pure pace so we opted for the approach which means we don't have to start the race on the Hypersoft tire. Everything we did today should help us in our battle on track tomorrow."
Alan Permane, Sporting Director: "We made a strategic call for qualifying today... We've seen an exceptionally close midfield here and we weren't able to be at the front of this battle on qualifying pace. This meant we looked ahead to the race and the tire strategy options available. By not running in Q2 we will end up on the grid as the first cars with an open starting tire choice and we're expecting this will translate to a stronger race performance. Our approach will be to gain places when those ahead of us have to pit early because of the short performance life of the Hypersoft tires. This will benefit us early in the race however we still expect a very tight battle. We'll be looking to maximize every opportunity with points the target."
Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda
Pierre Gasly (13th, No Time): "I think it's been really positive since we introduced the new engine yesterday, there was some noticeable improvements and we decided to switch the engine back for the rest of the weekend to save some mileage for the end of the season. I'm really happy with the car, this weekend in Sochi I have a great feeling but it's a shame we need to start at the back of the grid tomorrow after the engine penalty. Looking at last year's race it seems it might be difficult to overtake here but, with the chassis the way it is, I'm still feeling confident. Tire degradation will be key tomorrow, so hopefully we can make something with the strategy, I'll give a big push and you never know, maybe we can fight our way through for a good result!"
Brendon Hartley (16th, 1:35.037): "We didn't put a lot of emphasis on Qualifying today because of the penalties we will incur tomorrow. Yesterday was a big exercise for Honda introducing a new power unit, but the decision was made not to use it for the rest of the weekend. It is definitely quicker, there's no question marks there, but we want it to be perfect for Japan and make sure everything works as it should. What also makes it a tough race for us is starting from the back. Our long run pace yesterday looked promising on the Soft tire, so I think there could still be a bit to play for tomorrow. We've seen a few incidents here in the past, it's a tricky first corner because it tightens up after the long straight off the start line, so we'll see what happens tomorrow – we will still aim to do our best."
Guillaume Dezoteux, Head of Vehicle Performance: "We had a clean final practice session with both cars which allowed us to complete our programs. Given our situation, we decided to dedicate some more time to long runs which is something we usually don't do in the Saturday practice session. This allowed both drivers to get a better understanding of their fuel and tire management in race trim which is our main focus this weekend. Our competitiveness down the straights made a bit of a step back compared to yesterday as we reverted back on the PU specification. This is because there is still work to do in some areas of the new specification, such as calibration and matching the PU to the chassis. We fully support this decision as we will anyway start from the back of the grid here. Our Qualifying session went to plan, and it was good to see Pierre going through with his first attempt. He had a tow from the car in front which helped a bit, but generally we showed we had the pace to easily progress to Q2. We decided not to take part in Q2 as our positions on the grid are defined by the penalties anyway. Brendon's Qualifying session was a bit more complicated and unfortunately his first lap was not quick enough to pass through to Q2. In his second attempt, he got a yellow flag from Sirotkin that compromised his lap. Now we will evaluate different options for the race and we are looking forward to fight in the midfield, especially against the cars that will have to start on the softest tire."
Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director: "We started the day reverting our newest specification Power Unit back to the older spec that's been used in previous races - meaning it's become a busy weekend so far for the Toro Rosso Honda crew. Compared to a normal Saturday, todays program was more focused on long run set-up. However, our performance today was respectable, so we are still optimistic that we can have a good race tomorrow."
Haas F1 Team
Kevin Magnussen (5th, 1:33.181): "I'm happy. It's best of the rest, again – pole position for us. It's a good feeling. It was a good lap. It could've been better. The only place I messed up was in turn two. I hit the curb and definitely when you do that, you lose time with wheelspin. I thought from there it would probably be difficult, but I kept it together and did a good rest of the lap. Luckily, it's not like the Red Bulls qualified into Q3 and then just didn't run. We have more people running the hypersoft tire – that's a bit better for us. It would've been worse if the Force Indias or both Saubers had started just outside the top-10 with fresh tires. That would've been tricky. I'm sure the Red Bulls will come back strong. It'll be interesting to see how far they get. There's a good chance they'll get back up, but the best of the rest is our target."
Romain Grosjean (9th, 1:33.704): "Unfortunately, we had too much traffic on the out lap of my last run in Q3. The tires were really cold to start the lap and I just didn't get the grip. I couldn't repeat my lap time from Q2, which is a bit of a shame, but it happens. Some cars were really slowing down a lot in the last two corners and that created a bit of a queue. For the race, well, we're starting on hypersofts with Renault behind starting on ultrasofts. They didn't run in Q2, but with the other penalties, they're going to start 11th and 12th. I don't know what it's going to be like. We'll do our best, but P9 is definitely not where I wanted to be."
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal: "It was a good result today. Starting fifth with Kevin, it's very nice. Romain just had a little issue with the temperature of his tires as he started his last lap, so he'll start ninth. Again, that's not perfect, but it's still not a bad position to start in. Let's see if we can get some points tomorrow."
McLaren F1 Team
Fernando Alonso (17th, 1:35.504): "In qualifying today we didn't use our full potential because our starting position is already fixed due to the grid penalties we'll receive. That meant I had two objectives this afternoon: setting a lap within the 107 per cent limit, and helping Stoffel with a tow along the straight. I didn't go for a performance run: I used the engine in safe mode. Much of our focus has been on our race pace: hopefully we can execute a good strategy, look after our tires, and look to be close to the points tomorrow. The tires are looking a little tricky around here as it seems to be hotter than usual. We believe the softest tire will suffer a little bit, so hopefully we'll be in a position to benefit from that in the race."
Stoffel Vandoorne (19th, 1:35.977): "It was always going to be difficult for us around here this weekend. In FP3 this morning, I think we saw that the pace of the car wasn't looking very strong. Going in to qualifying, our target was to try and get ahead of the Williamses: we managed to beat one of them today. I don't yet know where that puts us once all the penalties are applied. Our car is lacking performance in a number of areas. The balance isn't always perfect but it feels reasonable; we just lack general performance."
Gil de Ferran, Sporting Director: "We knew this was going to be a difficult weekend for us, but we're not hiding the fact that qualifying was a disappointing result for our team. Fernando was facing an engine penalty going into the weekend, so we chose to focus on race preparation rather than qualifying throughout all the practice sessions. Given our overall pace, unfortunately Stoffel was unable to make it out of Q1. On a positive note, our race pace has typically been stronger than qualifying, as our car seems to be fairly kind on the tires, which will likely be a particularly important factor tomorrow. We will fight hard and do our best to try and bring some points home."
Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team
Charles Leclerc (7th, 1:33.419): "I am very happy with today. We have made a good step forward since yesterday, and I improved my driving quite a bit. It is great to see the hard work that we have put in this weekend pay off on track. P7 is my best starting position so far this season, so I look forward to the race tomorrow."
Marcus Ericsson (10th, 1:35.196): "It is an excellent achievement for the team to have both cars finish qualifying in Q3. We have been strong all weekend, and should have a good chance to score some points tomorrow, which is great. I am confident for the race, and look forward to fighting for a good result."
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