Russian GP - Saturday - Qualifying Session Report

Ending the streak

 

By Dan Knutson

Mercedes has started from the pole in the previous three editions of the Russian Grand Prix. But Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel ended that streak in qualifying for this year's race. The lap times had been coming down all weekend, with Vettel doing the fastest ever at the track in FP3 with a 1:34.001 on the Pirelli ultra soft tires. He then set a new qualifying lap record to win the pole with a 1:33.194.

The ambient temperature at the start of qualifying was 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Centigrade) and the track temperature was 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Centigrade).

The lineup for the weekend was: Mercedes - Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas; Red Bull TAG Heuer - Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen; Ferrari - Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen; Force India Mercedes - Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon; Williams Mercedes - Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll; McLaren Honda - Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne; Renault - Nico Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer; Toro Rosso Renault - Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz; Haas Ferrari - Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen; Sauber Ferrari - Marcus Ericsson and Antonio Giovinazzi.

QUALIFYING 1

Q1 lasted 18 minutes. On the first runs, Bottas, on the ultra soft tires, turned a 1:34.177 and then a 1:34.041. Vettel used the super softs for a 1:35.102, and Raikkonen on the same rubber did a 1:35. 338.

Only the Ferrari drivers went with the super soft Pirellis. Everyone else used the ultras including Hamilton who slotted into second, pushing Vettel to third and Raikkonen to fourth.

At the cutoff, Alonso was 16th, Wehrlein 17th and Stroll 15th. But with all the drivers on track except the top five, things were going to change. And indeed they did.

Palmer spun into the wall, and Wehrlein spun as well in a separate incident.

The five drivers who were eliminated at the end of Q1 were: Palmer, Vandoorne, Wehrlein, Ericsson and Grosjean.

The fastest 15 drivers who moved on to Q2 were: Bottas, Hamilton, Vettel, Raikkonen, Verstappen, Ocon, Hulkenberg, Ricciardo, Sainz, Massa, Kvyat, Perez, Stroll, Alonso and Magnussen.

QUALIFYING 2

Ferrari did not gamble with the super softs in Q2, so everyone was on the ultras. Bottas went to the top with a 1:33.264 and Hamilton second with a 1:33.760. Vettel and Raikkonen, in the 1:34s, were third and fourth after the first runs.

At the bubble, Stroll was tenth, Ocon ninth and Kvyat 11th.

The Mercedes drivers stayed in the pits as the session wound down, but many others were out including the Ferrari guys.

Perez jumped into the top 10. Raikkonen moved into second with a 1:33.663. Stroll dropped to 11th.

The five drivers who were eliminated at the end of Q2 were: Stroll, Kvyat, Sainz, Magnussen and Alonso.

The fastest 10 drivers who moved on to Q3 were: Bottas, Raikkonen, Hamilton, Vettel, Massa, Verstappen, Hulkenberg, Ricciardo, Perez and, for the first time in his career, Ocon.

QUALIFYING 3

Raikkonen did a 1:33.253. Vettel was 0.173 of a second slower.

Bottas then clocked a 1:33.289, second, and Hamilton a 1:34.464, fourth. The bosses in the Mercedes pits grimaced.

The rest of the top 10 were Ricciardo, Verstappen, Massa, Perez, Hulkenberg and Ocon.

Four minutes remained as the drivers headed out for their final attempts.

Raikkonen did a lap in 1:33.713, Vettel a 1:33.194, Bottas a 1:33.371 and Hamilton a 1:33.767.

So Ferrari locked out the front row with Vettel and Raikkonen. Bottas qualified third and Hamilton fourth. Ricciardo, Massa, Verstappen, Hulkenberg, Perez and Ocon rounded out the top 10.


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