With Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Fernando Alonso’s McLaren changing engines, they were going to be firmly placed at the back of the grid. This was a bit of a damp squib because the Red Bulls looked feisty during Friday Practice. This left Mercedes and Ferrari to squabble for pole position for the Russian Grand Prix.
The Local hero, Sergey Sirotkin, had a lot of screen time as you would expect early on but Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari set and initial lap time at the top of the time sheet with 12/38s left in the session. That was eclipsed by Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari by 0.266s.
Both Mercedes drivers started their initial laps with Valtteri Bottas leading Lewis Hamilton. Lewis starting setting purple sectors but in the last sector he lost time and only slotted in to 10th as he backed off the power. Bottas managed to leap the Ferrari’s but Lewis had aborted the lap.
For the best of the rest, their initial laps found Kevin Magnussen’s Haas and Esteban Ocon’s Force India fighting of r4th and 5th due to Red Bull’s having set no times yet. With 6:48s left, the Red Bulls finally came out for a quick lap as Lewis Hamilton took top spot on the time sheet.
Max Verstappen set the fastest sector time in S3 and leapt to 4th just behind his teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, in 3rd. All the teams were running the HyperSoft tires. In the waning moments, Lewis Hamilton set a 1:32.410s for top time and nearly 1s faster than his championship rival, Sebastian Vettel.
Both Renault’s struggling mightily with cars that were not interested in producing grip or balance. They narrowly advanced through to Q2. It was the ninth time in 2018 that both Williams have had both cars knocked out in Q1.
Out in Q1- Stroll, Vandoorne, Alonso, Sirtokin, Hartley
The message sent in Q1 was that Mercedes were nearly a full second quicker than Ferrari and this left the Italians a lot of work to do if they wanted to go for pole position. Their new front wing for Ferrari didn’t seem to deliver what they needed. Were Ferrari holding something back or are they seriously a full second off the Mercedes pace?
Mercedes started their initial runs on the UltraSoft Purple tires with Bottas leading Hamilton. Lewis jumped Bottas for top time with Raikkonen in 4th and Vettel in 3rd as both Ferrari’s were now .450s behind Mercedes. Ferrari were also on the UltraSoft tires.
Charles Leclerc put his Sauber up to 5th and was making serious charge for best of the rest on HyperSoft tires. The Red Bulls and Renaults had not set a hot lap yet. With 3:11s left, both Renault drivers got out of their cars and set no time. Verstappen and Ricciardo had set no time with 2 minutes to go and with engine penalties, it may have made little difference. The Ferrari’s and Mercedes cars went out on Hypers to get set for Q3 while Renault, Red Bull and Pierre Gasly all sat in the garage. Both Sauber’s made it to Q3 and the teams all engaged in not running and strategy based around HD tires leaving the entire session a bit of a letdown.
Out in Q2- Hulkenberg, Sinz, Gasly, Ricciardo, Verstappen
Mercedes led the way out in Q3 on Hypersoft tires with Bottas leading Hamilton. Bottas set provisional pole with Hamilton behind him and Vettel trailing Hamilton by .639s. Esteban Ocon and Charles Leclerc set 5th and 6th separated by just six thousandths of a second.
With 3:30s left, Mercedes and Ferrari came out for their final runs. Bottas leading Hamilton leading Raikkonen leading Vettel. All four cars on Hypersoft tires.
Bottas crossed the line and extended his time while Hamilton aborted his lap. Hamilton’s first lap was enough for second with Vettel and Raikkonen in third and fourth.
Kevin Magnussen launched his Haas into 5th eclipsing Ocon and Leclerc in 6th and 7th. In the end, Bottas secured pole at the site of his maiden F1 victory and on a track he likes.
|6||Esteban Ocon||Force India/Mercedes||1m33.413s||2.026s|
|8||Sergio Perez||Force India/Mercedes||1m33.563s||2.176s|
|17||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull/Renault||–||–|
|18||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso/Honda||–||–|
|19||Brendon Hartley||Toro Rosso/Honda||1m35.037s||3.650s|
|20||Max Verstappen||Red Bull/Renault||–||–|