For the first time since 2008 Sebastien Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen created a Ferrari front-row lock out in Sochi.
Ferrari set the pace and the agenda
Critically for Ferrari they were able to lead the tyre strategy through qualifying, putting pressure on Mercedes. The Silver Arrows were already struggling for grip especially in the final sector of the Sochi lap. Lewis Hamilton in particular was pushing too hard to compensate and ended up half a second behind Vettel’s lap.
Both Raikkonen and Vettel navigated through the first part of qualifying on super soft tyres. The rest of the field – Mercedes included – completed Q1 on the ultra-soft tyres. Vettel finished Q1 just half a second shy of the leading Mercedes time of Valterri Bottas. The advantage of saving a set of ultra-soft tyres will become clearer on Sunday afternoon.
Hamilton struggles for grip and pace
Lewis Hamilton struggled throughout qualifying ending up over half a second slower than Vettel in Q3. The Briton has work to do in solving the rear instability problems within his Mercedes in sector 3 of the lap.
Back to reality for Alonso and McLaren Honda
Followng the excitement of Fernando Alonso’s Indy 500 announcement, McLaren came back down to Earth with a bump in Sochi. Alonso wrung the neck of the McLaren to make it through to Q2 before qualifying 15th. Meanwhile Stoffel Vandoorne was hampered once more by technical issues and lost a chance to progress to Q2 following a crash by Jolyon Palmer.
A tale of two stories for Renault (again)
Palmer struggled again following a torrid time in practice. More technical issues further reduced his running but a mistake in Q1 left him in the wall and lining up 16th. Meanwhile teammate Nico Hulkenberg lines up 8th after dragging yet more performance out of the improving Renault. Interestingly the German was just over a tenth of a second slower than Verstappen suggesting continuing improvements in the Renault chassis.
Red Bull struggle for pace
Red Bull had a qualifying to forget as chassis issues left them struggling to even get close to the Ferrari and Mercedes cars. Ricciardo lines up 5th some 1.7 seconds off the pole setting lap. Teammate Max Verstappen lines up 7th, a further 0.2 seconds slower and behind Williams’ Felipe Massa. The Brazilian’s form continues to impress as he used the advantages of the Mercedes power unit and Williams chassis to good effect.
F1 Russian Grand Prix Qualifying results:
*3 place grid penalty to be applied
**15 place grid penalty to be applied