F1 – Russian GP – Qualifying
The Sochi Autodrom hosts round 16 of the 2018 FIA F1 World Championship, and the fifth ever Russian GP during the modern era. Will Lewis Hamilton be able to extend his championship gap over Sebastian Vettel, or will the German close the distance between them?
Qualifying session one was largely uneventful until the very end of the time limit where local boy Sergey Sirotkin spun his car, causing a brief yellow flag. It’s worth noting that Sergey is local in as much he’s Russian, but, his birthplace of Moscow is a good 20 hour drive away from Sochi.
Eliminated from the session were Brendon Hartley (16th), Fernando Alonso (17th), Sergey Sirotkin (18th), Stoffel Vandoorne (19th) and Lance Stroll (20th). The session was very clear cut as the gap between Hartley and Nico Hulkenberg (15th) was a huge 0.382 seconds.
Qualifying two was extremely bizarre with five drivers not setting a lap, effectively making the session completely redundant. The two Red Bull drivers, and Pierre Gasly all have grid penalties tomorrow and know they’ll start at the back – for that reason they didn’t want to reach Q3 and be restricted on tyre choice for the race. So, no lap set. Meanwhile, in what could potentially be a stroke of genius, Renault decided to also not set a lap in the session. They clearly believe that starting 11th & 12th with a free tyre choice, rather than starting inside the top ten whilst restricted on tyre selection is more beneficial. That was certainly the case at the last event in Singapore. A footnote for Sauber too who have gotten both cars into the final part of qualifying for the first time in a long while!
During the first runs of qualifying session three, it was Valtteri Bottas who led the way, just 0.004 seconds ahead of his team mate. Meanwhile Vettel lead Kimi Raikkonen with Esteban Ocon provisionally taking the “best of the rest” title from Charles Leclerc by just 0.006 seconds.
Valtteri was able to extend his advantage over Lewis Hamilton during his final run, and the Finnish driver took his second pole position of the season. Lewis does line up second ahead of Vettel and Raikkonen. Kevin Magnussen pulled an impressive lap out of the bag to qualify 5th ahead of Esteban Ocon. Charles Leclerc will start 7th with Sergio Perez 8th. The fifth row of the grid will be occupied by Romain Grosjean (9th) and Marcus Ericsson (10th).
Who’s going to win the battle between Lewis and Sebastian tomorrow? It certainly seems like the Mercedes has the better set-up around this circuit. Meanwhile, will Valtteri make it two wins from two races in Russia? Will Mercedes even allow him to finish ahead of his team mate? I would love to know your thoughts in the comments below.