Lewis Hamilton survived various scares to clinch pole for 2020 Russian Grand Prix ahead of Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas.
Bottas entered Qualifying day as the favourite after dominating Friday Practice whilst a fierce midfield battle was forming between Red Bull, Renault, McLaren and Ferrari amongst others.
Hamilton however emerged triumphant in the quest for pole after surviving track limits difficulties and a red flag in Q2, as we bring a full roundup of FP3 and Qualifying.
A quiet start to FP3 saw Lando Norris be first driver to head out after five minutes on medium tyres and post a 1m 36.423, which was topped shortly afterwards by Daniel Ricciardo with a 1m 35.672 before Valtteri Bottas went quicker by 0.489 seconds with Hamilton sat third after his first flier.
Pierre Gasly snatched fastest lap time with a 1m 34.930 in 23rd minute but Bottas immediately struck back with a 1m 34.289, whilst Haas’ Romain Grosjean complained on team radio about the balance of his car.
Focus however soon switched to soft tyre qualifying simulations with Hamilton posting a session topping 1m 33.279, which was 0.776s quicker than Bottas as Carlos Sainz headed Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez to round out the top five.
Yesterday’s top three runner, Daniel Ricciardo could only manage tenth after struggling with a flappy right wing mirror during his fastest lap of a 1m 34.787, whilst Red Bull’s Alex Albon was only 19th fastest after his quickest time was deleted for track limits.
Bottas led the initial pace with a 1m 32.656 which proved quick enough to top Q1 as Hamilton saw his first effort deleted because he ran wide at Turn Two but managed to go 0.318s down on Bottas upon completing his second flier, whilst Ocon, Kimi Raikkonen, Antonio Giovinazzi, Grosjean and Nicholas Latifi found themselves in the elimination zone once everyone had posted a time.
Ocon however was the only one to escape as Raikkonen slid to rock-bottom after making a mistake on his final lap with Latifi just ahead of him on the last row of the grid, whilst Magnussen, Giovinazzi and Grosjean were also eliminated in a tight conclusion, which saw Sebastian Vettel flirt with danger as he dropped as low as 18th before scraping through into Q2 in 15th position.
A frantic start to Q2 saw several drivers head out early in case brief drops of rain turned into something more serious with Sainz leading Bottas briefly until Ricciardo set a surprise Q2 topping time of 1m 32.218, after Hamilton’s lap of 1m 32.085 was deleted for again running wide at Turn Two.
Once the majority of runners completed their opening laps, Hamilton found himself in 14th position alongside George Russell in having yet set a representative lap time but behind Vettel, Lance Stroll and Albon.
Russell however had chosen to run in the gap and posted a 1m 33.583 to go above Vettel into 13th position, just minutes before the German clipped the inside kerb on entry to Turn Four and spun into the barriers with two minutes and 15 seconds left on the clock, causing a ten minute stoppage from which Hamilton survived a mistake at Turn Two on his outlap to just make it to the line before the flag fell.
That pure luck ultimately worked as Hamilton improved to fourth whilst Albon went eighth to knock out Charles Leclerc and Daniil Kvyat, as Stroll found himself wheeled back to his garage and out of Q2 with an overheating power unit issue, whilst he was waiting in the fast lane.
Leclerc therefore will line up in 11th with Kvyat in 12th ahead of Stroll, Russell and Vettel on the grid for the race whilst Bottas and Verstappen qualified for the race on medium tyres unlike their fellow Q3 rivals who all got through on the soft tyre.
Ricciardo initially led the Q3 times with a 1m 32.364 before Bottas went top by 0.200s until Hamilton posted a stunning 1m 31.391 to claim provisional pole as Verstappen and Perez demoted Ricciardo to fifth at the end of the opening Q3 runs.
Everyone however found time on their final runs as Bottas could only get to within 0.565s of Hamilton’s initial effort until the Brit made sure of pole with a 1m 31.304 to set a new single F1 lap record around Sochi Autodrom,
Hamilton however found himself under investigation for a mistake in Q1 when he ran wide at Turn Two without going through required bollards, but avoided a penalty, by virtue of gaining no advantage and his time having of been deleted.
Verstappen joins Hamilton on the front row after producing a late lap to prevent an all Mercedes front row as Bottas finds himself starting from third ahead of Perez, Ricciardo, Sainz, Ocon and Norris who rounded out the top eight ahead of Gasly and Albon.
|1||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||1m 33.279|
|2||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes||+ 0.776|
|3||Carlos Sainz||McLaren||+ 0.817|
|4||Esteban Ocon||Renault||+ 0.960|
|5||Sergio Perez||Racing Point||+ 0.973|
|6||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||+ 1.027|
|7||Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari||+ 1.315|
|8||Lance Stroll||Racing Point||+ 1.453|
|9||Daniil Kvyat||Alpha Tauri||+ 1.489|
|10||Daniel Ricciardo||Renault||+ 1.508|
|11||Pierre Gasly||Alpha Tauri||+ 1.513|
|12||Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||+ 1.527|
|13||George Russell||Williams||+ 1.700|
|14||Romain Grosjean||Haas||+ 1.978|
|15||Nicholas Latifi||Williams||+ 2.013|
|16||Kevin Magnussen||Haas||+ 2.172|
|17||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||+ 2.311|
|18||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo||+ 2.320|
|19||Alex Albon||Red Bull||+ 2.324|
|20||Lando Norris||McLaren||+ 2.702|
|1||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||1m 31.304|
|2||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||+ 0.563|
|3||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes||+ 0.652|
|4||Sergio Perez||Racing Point||+ 1.013|
|5||Daniel Ricciardo||Renault||+ 1.060|
|6||Carlos Sainz||McLaren||+ 1.246|
|7||Esteban Ocon||Renault||+ 1.320|
|8||Lando Norris||McLaren||+ 1.543|
|9||Pierre Gasly||Alpha Tauri||+ 1.696|
|10||Alex Albon||Red Bull||+ 1.704|
|11||Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||1m 33.239|
|12||Daniil Kvyat||Alpha Tauri||+ 0.010|
|13||Lance Stroll||Racing Point||+ 0.125|
|14||George Russell||Williams||+ 0.344|
|15||Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari||+ 0.370|
|16||Romain Grosjean||Haas||1m 34.592|
|17||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||+ 0.002s|
|18||Kevin Magnussen||Haas||+ 0.089s|
|19||Nicholas Latifi||Williams||+ 0.474|
|20||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo||+ 0.675|