Qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix at the Sochi Autodrom wasn’t exactly the most exciting affair we’ve seen this year, but it still produced a few standout performances – and a couple of duds…
Who were the winners and losers on Saturday at Sochi?
The biggest winner in qualifying was Nico Rosberg, who took the ultimate prize of pole position in Sochi ahead of Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix race after going fastest across all three sessions. The result marked back-to-back poles for the German, who will share the front row of the grid with his teammate Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton made a small error on his final flying lap and aborted the lap, leaving no opportunity to challenge for pole.
Williams was optimistic of being able to challenge the Ferraris on Saturday and demonstrated this with Valtteri Bottas achieving the ‘best of the rest’ honours by outqualifying Sebastian Vettel to claim third place on the grid.
The two Force India cars once again showed well in qualifying, with Nico Hülkenberg and Sergio Pérez qualifying sixth- and seventh-fastest respectively behind the two Ferraris. The Silverstone team will be hoping for another healthy dose of points to consolidate its fifth place in the Constructors’ Championship standings ahead of Lotus, which it leads by 17 points.
Max Verstappen put the concerns surrounding teammate Carlos Sainz’s accident behind him with another standout qualifying performance. The 18-year-old finished as the fastest Renault-powered runner in ninth-fastest.
McLaren’s Jenson Button enjoyed one of his better qualifying performances, putting his Honda-powered car – minus the engine upgrades being run by teammate Fernando Alonso – thirteenth-fastest. It was the Briton’s best showing in qualifying since the Monaco Grand Prix.
Ahead of the qualifying session, Carlos Sainz was unable to take part in the session following his huge crash that he had in FP3. The Spaniard was lucky not to suffer any injuries despite the extensive damage to his car. The team is working in repairing his STR10 in the hope that he’ll be given clearance to race on Sunday.
The senior Red Bull Racing team had a poor session by its standards. Sochi is the home race for Daniil Kvyat (pictured above), however he just missed out being in the top 10. Last year, he was able to qualify P5 for Toro Rosso, but couldn’t repeat the dose this time around. He will start in eleventh place, one spot behind teammate Daniel Ricciardo who was the slowest runner in Q3.
While Williams was left celebrating P3 for Bottas, the same could not be said on the opposite side of the garage after a disastrous session for Felipe Massa. The Brazilian blamed traffic on his final flying laps and managed just fifteenth.
It was a similar situation at McLaren, where Fernando Alonso found himself unable to make it out of Q1 – in contrast to teammate Jenson Button – and will start from the back row of the grid after his engine change grid penalty is applied.
Images via Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team and Red Bull Racing