Sochi may not be the most riveting circuit on the F1 calendar but it is the third longest track for 2020 and it could be the scene of Lewis Hamilton’s record-equaling 91st win. Could Mercedes and Lewis make history on the shores of the Black Sea?
Practice sessions were held in the sunlight but as qualifying got started, the dark clouds came in and the track cooled. Would that give the teams a strategy element and more grip or less?
George Russell was the first driver out on track in his Williams. George hasn’t been out-qualified by a teammate but could Nicholas Latifi give him a run for his money? George aborted his initial lap saying the track had really changed as he cooked the first turn.
Both Mercedes were next out on Soft compounds but with Pirelli bringing their softest compounds to the weekend, would that force a 2-stopper or will Merc managed to qualify on Mediums and make it a 1-stopper?
Lewis Hamilton’s initial lap was deleted due to running over track limits. This left Valtteri Bottas on top with Sergio Perez’s Racing Point in second on first runs. Lewis’s second run took him to second but Max Verstappen as struggling down in 11th for his initial run. His second run moved him up to 5th behind Perez and Carlos Sainz.
With three minutes left, the teams came out for their final runs. Esteban Ocon was down ins 16th while Daniel Ricciardo, his teammate, was up in 7th in their Renaults. Practice sessions suggested that the Renault could be very handy around the Sochi circuit.
Ocon jumped up to 3rd with Ricciardo in 4th. Verstappen jumped to 5th and Geroge Russell took his Williams into Q2.
Out in Q1- Grosjean, Giovinazzi, Magnussen, Latifi, Raikkonen
The key to Q2 was the tire compound choice and Mercedes came out on Medium compounds as did Red Bull. Ferrari were both on Soft compounds but the six Ferrari-powered cars were in the bottom seven positions in Q1 so Ferrari needed the grip.
Bottas jumped to the top but Lewis Hamilton had his lap time deleted. Ricciardo and Sainz jumped ahead of Bottas taking 1st and 2nd respectively. Alex Albon was struggling and going slowly on track with 8 minutes left.
With 4 minutes left, Mercedes were back out on fresh Medium compound tires. On Lewis’s final run, a red flag stopped the session due to a crash by Sebastian Vettel. This spoiled Lewis’s attempt and left him in the elimination zone with just 2 minutes left. This meant that Lewis would have to hustle back for his final run when the track went green again. HE wasn’t alone, Albon and Stroll were also on the outside looking in.
Despite no official announcement of when the session would resume, the cars lined up at pit exit but Mercedes were still in the garage. This meant Lewis had at least 8 cars ahead of him with just 2 minutes left in the session.
Mercedes sent Lewis out on Soft compound tires instead of the preferred original strategy using Medium compounds. Things got more complicated as the team moved Lance Stroll off the lineup and back in the garage. Stroll would be out in Q2.
Lewis made it over the start line with a second left. Albon jumped to 7th and Hamilton jumped up to 4th and into Q3.
Out in Q2- Leclerc, Kvyat, Stroll, Russell, Vettel
The session started and Max Verstappen’s warning about the Renault’s being tough to beat at Sochi was a story worth watching as Daniel started his first attempt. Dan was setting good sector times and jumped to the top with a 1:32.364s.
Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton jumped to the top with Lewis leading Valtteri by eight tenths. Max Verstappen jumped to third leaving Ricciardo in 4th. Albon struggled down in 8th.
The teams sent their cars out with just 4 minutes left but that wasn’t typical and the teams normally leave it later than that. Perhaps fear over getting hung out to dry as Q2 proved. Verstappen came out with just 2:40s left in the session.
Bottas couldn’t improve his time but Hamilton did and claimed pole position. Ricciardo couldn’t improve his time and was in 4th. Perez improved his time and jumped to 4th with Verstappen in second just ahead of Bottas. Albon languishing down in 10th.
|2||Max Verstappen||Red Bull/Honda||0.563s|
|4||Sergio Perez||Racing Point/Mercedes||1.013s|
|6||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren/Renault||1.246s|
|10||Alexander Albon||Red Bull/Honda||1.704s|
|13||Lance Stroll||Racing Point/Mercedes||2.060s|
|17||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo/Ferrari||3.290s|
|20||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo/Ferrari||3.963s|