Nico Rosberg has beaten Mercedes teammate and championship leader Lewis Hamilton to pole position for the second time in a row after dominating qualifying for Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix at the Sochi Autodrom.
The German – who lies 48 points adrift of Hamilton in their battle for the 2015 Drivers’ Championship title – was quickest in final practice and then carried that momentum into qualifying by being fastest across all three sessions. He pumped out a 1:37.113 time in the final session to shatter the qualifying lap record, finishing three-tenths of a second quicker than Hamilton.
Hamilton had no answers on this occasion, and abandoned his final flying lap in Q3 after locking up and running wide. Nonetheless, he was not too downbeat at qualifying on the front row of the grid, no doubt recalling the fact that he was able to claim victory here from a similar situation last year.
Williams driver Valtteri Bottas and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel locked out the second row of the grid, with the pair finishing up some eight-tenths off Rosberg’s ultimate pace.
Vettel’s teammate Kimi Räikkönen looked on course to make it an all-Ferrari second row of the grid until he also locked up and ran wide on the rather gripless track surface. The Finn had to settle for fifth place on the grid ahead of the two Force Indias of Nico Hülkenberg and Sergio Pérez, who both showed an excellent turn of speed in their Mercedes-powered VJM08 racers.
Haas-bound Lotus driver Romain Grosjean continued his solid qualifying form with another top-ten effort, qualifying his E23 Hybrid eighth-fastest and further extending his qualifying dominance of teammate Pastor Maldonado – who qualified a lowly fourteenth – to a 13-1 scoresheet.
Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo rounded out the top-ten and were the only Renault-powered runners to make the Q3 cut.
Ricciardo’s teammate Daniil Kvyat will feel disappointed not to have been able to match his widely-lauded fifth-fastest qualifying result here for Toro Rosso last year. The Russian narrowly failed to make the Q3 cut, complaining that he couldn’t get his Pirelli tyres up to temperature in the relatively cool conditions.
Also falling at the second qualifying hurdle were Sauber’s Felipe Nasr (12th), Jenson Button (13th) and Felipe Massa (15th). While few would have expected Nasr or Button to qualify as well as they did, the reverse was true of Massa, who blamed traffic and a mistake on his final flying lap for his poor showing.
Fernando Alonso couldn’t match McLaren teammate Button’s Q1 pace – despite running an upgraded power unit compared to the Englishman – and fell short of escaping Q1, as did the second Sauber of Marcus Ericsson.
As usual, the two Manor-Marussias were slowest of all, with Will Stevens managing to pip teammate Roberto Merhi in the final reckoning.
Carlos Sainz Jr. did not take part in the session after his heavy crash in FP3. The Toro Rosso team confirmed that the Spaniard was sent to hospital after the accident where scans confirmed he was uninjured. He will be kept overnight for observation and then discharged, although whether he (and his battered car) will be in any condition to race on Sunday remains to be seen.
Sunday’s 53-lap Russian Grand Prix gets underway at 14:00 local time. (GMT +3).
|2015 Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix – Qualifying Results|
|Pos||Q3 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap||Laps|
|1.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W06 Hybrid||1:37.113||20|
|2.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W06 Hybrid||1:37.433||+ 0.320||18|
|3.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW37||1:37.912||+ 0.799||26|
|4.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T||1:37.965||+ 0.852||15|
|5.||Kimi Räikkönen||Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T||1:38.348||+ 1.235||18|
|6.||Nico Hülkenberg||Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM08B||1:38.659||+ 1.546||21|
|7.||Sergio Pérez||Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM08B||1:38.691||+ 1.578||19|
|8.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Team Mercedes E23 Hybrid||1:38.787||+ 1.674||19|
|9.||Max Verstappen||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR10||1:38.924||+ 1.811||23|
|10.||Daniel Ricciardo||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB11||1:39.768||+ 2.655||18|
|Pos||Q2 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap*||Laps|
|11.||Daniil Kvyat||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB11||1:39.214||+ 1.714||18|
|12.||Felipe Nasr||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C34||1:39.323||+ 1.823||18|
|13.||Jenson Button||McLaren Honda MP4-30||1:39.673||+ 2.263||15|
|14.||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus F1 Team Mercedes E23 Hybrid||1:39.811||+ 2.311||15|
|15.||Felipe Massa||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW37||1:39.895||+ 2.395||17|
|Pos||Q1 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap**||Laps|
|16.||Fernando Alonso^||McLaren Honda MP4-30||1:40.144||+ 1.801||7|
|17.||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C34||1:40.660||+ 2.317||8|
|18.||Roberto Merhi^||Manor Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03B||1:43.693||+ 5.350||9|
|19.||Will Stevens||Manor Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03B||1:43.804||+ 5.461||8|
|Outside 107%||Team / Entry||Time||Gap**||Laps|
|DNQ.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR10|
* Denotes gap to fastest Q2 time of 1:37.500 posted by Nico Rosberg
** Denotes gap to fastest Q1 time of 1:38.343 posted by Nico Rosberg
^ Post-qualifying penalties:
- Fernando Alonso – who originally qualified 16th-fastest – will drop 35 grid places for the use of new power unit elements.
- Roberto Merhi – who originally qualified 18th-fastest – will drop 20 grid places for the use of new power unit elements.
Image via XPB Images