Bottas beats Hamilton to Russian Grand Prix pole

Valtteri Bottas achieved his second Formula 1 pole position this season, leading a Mercedes lockout of the front row at Sochi.

Bottas held a tiny advantage over team-mate Lewis Hamilton of just 0.004 seconds after the first runs in Q1, with everyone using the hypersoft Pirellis.

But on the second Q3 run, Hamilton was forced to abort his lap after setting the fastest time in the opening sector thanks to running wide in the middle sector.

This gave Bottas a clear run to post a one minute, 31.387 seconds lap to take pole by 0.145 seconds.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was third, 0.556s slower than Bottas, and admitted over the team radio that there was “one-and-a-half, two tenths, but not enough,” left in the car after making a small mistake.

Kimi Raikkonen had a difficult Q3, complaining on his first run that his set of tyres was not as good as the one used in the previous segment of qualifying, then failing to improve on is second run.

The top four will all start on ultrasoft Pirelli compound having used them to set their Q2 times, with the rest of the top six starting on hypersofts.

With Red Bull missing from Q3 thanks to grid penalties for engine part changes, meaning the team didn’t even attempt to run in Q2, Kevin Magnussen was best of the rest for Haas in fifth place, 1.794 seconds off pole.

That put him comfortably ahead of the Force India of Esteban Ocon, who shaded Sauber’s Charles Leclerc for sixth by just 0.006 seconds.

Sergio Perez was eighth, with Romain Grosjean ninth ahead of Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson.

Q2 was rendered an irrelevance because only ten cars ran, inevitably meaning they all reached the final segment of qualifying.

The Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo sat out the session because they will drop to the back with engine penalties, as will Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly.

Renault pairing Carlos Sainz Jr and Nico Hulkenberg also did not run because they are guaranteed to start P11 and P12 with a free tyre choice behind six midfield rivals who will all start on the hypersoft Pirellis.

All five of those who did not take to the track were classified in positions P11 to P15 based on their Q1 pace.

Toro Rosso driver Brendon Hartley was the fastest of those eliminated in Q1 in P16.

The former WEC champion, who will drop to the back thanks to Honda engine component changes earlier in the weekend, was unable to improve on his second run after backing off for the yellow flag caused by Sergey Sirotkin spinning his Williams at Turn 9.

Fernando Alonso was P17, almost half-a-second slower than Hartley.

Alonso also has engine-related grid penalties but is not due to start on the back row thanks to his car, driven by Lando Norris, being the first on track in FP1 of the five cars carrying penalties – which impacts the order of the five cars serving grid drops.

Sirotkin’s first-run time was good enough for P18 ahead of Stoffel Vandoorne, while Lance Stroll was slowest after also encountering yellow flags because of Sirotkin on his final lap.

So congratulations to Valtteri Bottas in scoring pole position at the Russian Grand Prix. This Sochi track suits the Mercedes so well and Bottas even achieved his first victory.

As for the championship fight, Lewis Hamilton is one position ahead of Sebastian Vettel. It’s going to be fascinating to see how the champs will do in the Russian Grand Prix.

Qualifying positions, Russian Grand Prix:
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m31.387s
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m31.532s
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m31.943s
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m32.237s
5 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1m33.181s
6 Esteban Ocon Force India-Mercedes 1m33.413s
7 Charles Leclerc Sauber-Ferrari 1m33.419s
8 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1m33.563s
9 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1m33.704s
10 Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 1m35.196s
11 Carlos Sainz Renault –
12 Nico Hulkenberg Renault –
13 Sergey Sirotkin Williams-Mercedes 1m35.612s
14 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Renault 1m35.977s
15 Lance Stroll Williams-Mercedes 1m36.437s
16 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Renault 1m35.504s
17 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault –
18 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Honda –
19 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso-Honda 1m35.037s
20 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Renault –

8 thoughts to “Bottas beats Hamilton to Russian Grand Prix pole”

  1. Russian Grand Prix qualifying review as reported by

    Valtteri Bottas had never been out-qualified by a team mate at Sochi going into this weekend. And after Saturday’s qualifying session, he still hasn’t. The Finn maintained that superb Russian record by pulling a fine lap out of the bag in Q3 to claim his second pole position of the year.

    Bottas had laid down a marker early in the final segment, going fastest in the first runs after Lewis Hamilton had looked to be in imperious form in the early part of the session. On the second runs, though, Hamilton blitzed the first sector but ran wide through Turn 7 and had to abort the lap, while Bottas stayed cool and lowered the bar yet further.

    Ferrari couldn’t get close, with Sebastian Vettel only managing a time that was over half a second back from Bottas to go third. He led team mate Kimi Raikkonen to lock out a Ferrari second row, while Kevin Magnussen managed to pinch the best of the rest mantle in the final stages of Q3, the Haas driver going fifth fastest to equal his best start of the year.

    But the day belonged to Bottas…

    Lewis Hamilton laid down the gauntlet early doors in Sochi, clocking a best Q1 time of 1m 32.410s – a full 0.784s quicker than Sebastian Vettel’s pole time from last year. Bottas was second, while the Red Bull boys, despite knowing that they were going to start Sunday’s race from the back of the grid, went out and enjoyed themselves anyway, Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo taking P3 and P4. Interestingly for Sunday’s race, they looked in better shape than the Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel – Vettel’s best time in sixth a worrying one second off Hamilton’s pace.

    Eliminated first time out were Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley, who complained of vibrations on his STR13, McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, Williams’ Sergey Sirotkin – who suffered a minor spin near the session end – with those two followed by their sister cars of Stoffel Vandoorne and Lance Stroll.

    It was edgy segment for Renault, meanwhile, with Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg only managing P14 and P15 – right on the bubble of the drop-out zone as Sauber’s Charles Leclerc headed the midfield in P7.

    No driver has ever finished in the top four in Russia after pitting more than twice in the race. With that presumably at the forefront of their minds, both Mercedes and Ferrari sent their drivers out on the more durable purple ultrasoft tyre rather than the quicker hypersofts at the start of Q2. Drivers who make it through to Q3 have to start the race on the tyres they set their fastest Q2 time on, so the two teams were rolling the dice strategically to see if they could squeak through the segment on the more hardy tyres and gain an advantage in the race.

    Fortunately for them, both of their pace advantages were such that they managed it, Hamilton again going quickest by 0.149s to Bottas, with Vettel and Raikkonen over four-tenths back in third and fourth.

    With Red Bull and Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly not bothering to go out, given that they’ll all be starting from the back – and Renault opting to give the segment a miss, to allow them a free tyre choice in the race – all the drivers who ran in Q2 effectively got a free pass through to Q3.

    Leclerc once again led the way for Sauber, looking impressive around the Sochi Autodrom after having struggled there on Friday, while the lack of runners also meant that his team mate Marcus Ericsson got through to Q3 for the first time since the 2015 Italian Grand Prix. Both Force Indias and both Haas cars also made the cut.

    So Ferrari were a second off in Q1, four tenths off in Q2… were they keeping their powder dry ahead of Q3? Sadly, the answer for the tifosi was a resounding no.

    With the Ferrari SF71H seeming to lack the fluidity of Mercedes’ W09 around Sochi, the second row was the best the team could hope for, Sebastian Vettel going third ahead of Raikkonen, with Vettel a full half second off the ultimate pace.

    That ultimate pace, however, came not from Hamilton but from Bottas. The Finn had sat behind his team mate dutifully all weekend, and the expectation was that the number 44 Mercedes of Hamilton would do the business in qualifying the same way he had in Singapore with his now-famous ‘magic’ lap.

    When Hamilton blitzed the first sector, the Sochi Autodrom braced itself for more Hamilton stardust. But a rare mistake from the Brit as he overcommitted into Turn 7 sent the Mercedes driver into the run-off area, ruining his lap. His qualifying was over, and he didn’t even bother to finish his lap. Meanwhile Bottas, Raikkonen and Vettel were all still lapping hard, but the Ferraris quite simply couldn’t live with the Finn’s pace at a track he thrives at. Bottas duly improved again to secure the sixth pole of his career, 0.145s ahead of Hamilton.

    It was a welcome tonic for Bottas, who took his maiden win here last year, after his recent admission that his lack of results had been draining his stores of confidence. Hardly surprising, then, that he was shaking when he stepped out of his car at the end of the session…

    In all the excitement, meanwhile, few noticed Kevin Magnussen’s sterling final effort, which saw the Danish Haas driver finish P5, leapfrogging over the early Q3 midfield pace-setters of Force India’s Esteban Ocon and Sauber’s Charles Leclerc. Sergio Perez and Romain Grosjean were eighth and ninth in the second Force India and Haas cars, while Marcus Ericsson wound up 10th.

    So a gripping session in Russia with an unexpected outcome. Friday’s race simulations showed Ferrari and Mercedes neck-and-neck on speed over a whole Grand Prix. But do the Scuderia really stand a chance of preventing a Silver Arrows whitewash – especially if Bottas sacrifices his race to help title-chasing Hamilton? Sunday’s race should be a fascinating chess match of a race between the two squads.

  2. After qualifying on pole position, Valtteri Bottas makes it difficult for the team to place orders in the sake of the championship. has the full story.

    Mercedes Formula 1 boss Toto Wolff says Valtteri Bottas’ pole position means it will now be “difficult” to impose team orders in the Russian Grand Prix.

    Bottas took his second top grid spot of the season at Sochi on Saturday, with teammate Lewis Hamilton helping secure a front row lock out for Mercedes.

    With Hamilton pushing to extend his points advantage over Sebastian Vettel, there would be clear benefits to telling Bottas to play a supporting role on Sunday.

    But with Bottas having dug deep to secure pole, Wolff admits that it may be hard to do anything other than let the Finn go for the win himself.

    “It is going to be difficult to tell him ‘you are not allowed to race’ after putting it on pole,” Wolff told Sky.

    “We will have the conversation tomorrow morning, and let’s see how the race is going to pan out.”

    The team orders situation is especially complicated for Sochi because the long run from the start down to Turn 2 allows opportunities for pursuing cars to leapfrog those ahead.

    Wolff admitted that there was a risk of blowing the race totally if his drivers fell behind Ferrari’s men on lap one.

    “That is the tricky bit here because Valtteri from P3 slipstreamed them [last year] and was in the lead,” he said.

    “So you need to have a good start and be as wide as a Mercedes truck, and hope they are not having a good start because if not you have lost the race.”

    Bottas himself said for now his thoughts were only on going for the win tomorrow – even though he was mindful of the championship situation.

    “My approach to the race tomorrow is definitely to try to win the race,” he said. “You can’t have any other goal starting from pole so that is for sure going to be the aim.

    “But of course we are here as a team, we are fighting for the championship, Lewis is leading the championship and has a bit of a gap to Sebastian and a very big gap to me, so always need to keep those things in mind.

    “But my approach starting the race is to try to win, and we will see then how it goes.”

  3. Championship leader Lewis Hamilton admitted that he made a mistake in Q3. has the details.

    Formula 1 points leader Lewis Hamilton says he had been “slacking” in the Sochi Autodrom’s second sector during Russian Grand Prix qualifying, which contributed to his error in the decisive final lap

    Hamilton had led Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas in all three practice sessions of the weekend, as well as the first two qualifying segments.

    However, he was left 0.004s down on Bottas after the opening runs of the Q3 pole shoot-out, with the time gained on the Finn in sectors one and three not enough to make up for the quarter-second loss in the middle part of the lap.

    Hamilton was once again significantly up on Bottas in sector one on his final attempt, but overshot the entry into the Turn 7 right-hander, running well wide and ruining the lap, ending the session second to his teammate.

    “I don’t know where it really got away from me in Q3, but I struggled a little bit, and Valtteri obviously picked up quite a bit of pace,” Hamilton explained after qualifying.

    “I think middle sector was really where I was slacking, but anyways it’s great to have a 1-2.”

    Asked by whether the time he’d been losing in the second sector played a part in the mistake, he said: “Yeah, I think the middle sector I haven’t been too bad through qualifying – Q1 was really good, and then Q2 wasn’t so great.

    “Just generally throughout the weekend it’s been a bit up and down through that sector, but I’ve been quick in the first and third.

    “The first lap in Q3, down three tenths in the middle sector but I was quickest in the first and last.

    “So anyway I did push quite a lot because I knew also he would gain time, so it was not three tenths, it was like half a second I needed to improve.

    “I just over-egged it a little bit. I think I picked up a little bit of dirt on my outside tyres and then there was less grip there for the next corner.”

    With Hamilton’s chief title rival, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, finishing a distant third, the Briton was not too dismayed to miss out on pole.

    “Big congratulations to Valtteri, he did a great job in Q3,” Hamilton said. “It’s been a really good weekend so far, honestly, really can’t complain.”

  4. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel felts that the new track surface for first three starters was “wrong”. has the story.

    Sebastian Vettel says it is wrong that the Sochi circuit has been partially resurfaced in a way that means the top grid slots are positioned on newer asphalt.

    Ahead of this year’s Russian Grand Prix, a small stretch by the start-finish line was resurfacing and the same was done just before Turn 1 and on the approach to Turn 8.

    The front row of the grid will be occupied by Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton on Sunday and they will be completely on the new surface.

    Third-place starter Vettel’s front wheels will be on the newly-laid asphalt but his rear wheels are likely to be on the older surface, and those behind will all be on the older track.

    Asked by about the impact this could have, Vettel said: “I don’t know, I thought P3 is also just in range. If not that’s not good.

    “I think the resurfacing should be a bit higher. I think it’s wrong to resurface just a bit, whether it it’s positions 1-2-3, or 4-5-6, or 8-9-10.

    “If you resurface something on the grid you should resurface everything. But it is what it is.”

    The Mercedes duo were uncertain about whether it would be a good thing or a bad thing.

    However, they both acknowledged that a new surface usually makes a difference of some kind.

    Poleman Bottas said: “It’s a little bit unknown to say exactly how much there’s going to be a grip difference [or] if there’s going to be.

    “Usually new tarmac tends to have a bit more grip but it also depends on the type of the tarmac.

    “We’ve been only driving around that part of the track in non grip-limited conditions, flat out, so we’ll find out tomorrow how it’s going to affect it.”

    Practice starts have only been carried out in the pitlane, where this is a small patch that is the same new surface as on the front row.

    However, per the usual rules for free practice, nobody has attempted a practice start on the grid itself.

    “It’s pretty much the same as what Valtteri said: tarmac is always different but we’ve not done a start out there,” Hamilton said.

    “I’d anticipate it will probably be different to the older stuff but whether it’s better or worse we’ll find out.”

  5. McLaren’s Fernando Alonso says FP1 trick the “biggest gain” in Russia. has the details.

    Fernando Alonso says McLaren’s smart tactic in first practice for the Russian Grand Prix was the “biggest gain” of the weekend for him.

    Under current regulations, the grid order for drivers with engine penalties is decided by the order in which new elements are first used on track.

    Alonso, who has replaced his engine and will start from the back of the grid, will line up 16th thanks to Lando Norris – driving the Spaniard’s car in FP1 – being first in the queue to leave the pits ahead of the start of the first session of the weekend.

    “Yeah, that’s the biggest gain we did the whole weekend, four positions in FP1,” joked Alonso, who finished in 17th place in today’s grid-deciding session.

    “Tomorrow hopefully we can fight for points. We know this circuit is tough for us.

    “We knew that coming here and that’s why we took the penalty, but at Monza we were uncompetitive and we retired the car when we were P11, so I think tomorrow the points is still the target,” he added.

    Alonso finished half a second ahead of teammate Stoffel Vandoorne despite saying his main focus for qualifying was to assist the Belgian make it to Q2 with a tow.

    The Spaniard called the result “a coincidence.”

    “It was a coincidence because the first lap I did it without the qualifying mode on, without anything and with a lot of fuel, and then the last time we were out on track I was running with used tyres just to give him a tow in the first straight.

    “But the positions were already set for tomorrow so we just tried to be within the 107% to avoid problems and after that I tried to help Stoffel.

    “He couldn’t make it to Q2 but he’s starting ahead of me tomorrow anyway.”

    McLaren tried some extreme set-up solutions in practice in order to try to improve its straightline speed given its known problems with excessive drag this year.

    Alonso said the tests proved useful, but admitted it was not enough to make a significant difference on a track like Sochi.

    “I think we did improve the car. Definitely we found some solutions that made the car faster, but obviously not fast enough.

    “We are still quite down in terms of performance in this kind of circuit.”

  6. Max Verstappen has been punished for a yellow flag infringement during Russian Grand Prix Formula 1 qualifying, increasing his grid penalty for the weekend.

    The Red Bull driver was already last on the provisional starting grid for the Sochi race, having taken new engine components and a fresh gearbox this weekend.

    However, he has been given another three-place grid penalty and two licence penalty points for failing to slow down for yellow flags when Sergey Sirotkin spun his Williams in Q1.

    The verdict from the stewards said: “The driver admitted seeing the yellow flag and stated that he steered to the left to avoid the stationary car.

    “However, the regulation is very clear and states ‘it must be evident that a driver has reduced speed’.

    “The telemetry shows that the driver maintained full throttle and did not apply any braking.

    “In his defence the driver expressed the view that he felt he had acted safely.”

    The stewards added that Verstappen accepted their take on the situation.

    “[We] noted that the driver understood the error in not slowing and acknowledged that in future he will comply with the regulations.

    “However in view of the emphasis now placed on compliance with yellow flag regulations, in the interests of safety, the stewards have applied the usual penalty for this offence.”

    Verstappen’s running total of licence penalty points is now up to seven, which puts him five short of the 12 that trigger a race ban.


  7. Renault defends “awkward” decision to sit out Q2 with neither drivers opting to go for a qualifying time. has the details.

    Renault F1 team boss Cyril Abiteboul has defended the team’s “awkward” tactical decision to sit out Q2 in Russia in order to claim 11th and 12th places on the grid for Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg.

    With five drivers known to be taking engine penalties and thus unlikely to run in Q2, Renault realised that it might be able to guarantee 11th and 12th places – and thus have the advantage of a free choice of tyres for the start.

    Renault has in general been harder on its tyres than rivals this year, and the team wanted to avoid the requirement to start on the hypersofts.

    When three of the penalised drivers made Q2, the team knew that simply by not running and not setting a time, its drivers would start 11th and 12th.

    Abiteboul hopes the decision sends a message to F1 bosses to consider changes to the rules.

    “It’s a bit strange, a bit awkward to decide voluntarily not to try your best,” Abiteboul told

    “It does say something in my opinion about the whole situation between penalties and tyres and degradation and starting tyres being your Q2 tyres and so forth.

    “If anything it sends a small message to all the people setting the rules.

    “We’ve been talking about trying to secure 11th and 12th since quite a long time this season, because it’s clearly an advantage.

    “And every single time we concluded there is no way you can guarantee this is what you get, there is no way in targeting 11th or 12th or whatever.

    “For the first time it was very clear it was possible on the back of penalties.”

    Abiteboul said all scenarios were discussed in advance.

    “We planned it before Q1. There were a couple of things we wanted to monitor, what would be the cars remaining in Q2, because if the five cars remaining in Q2 were the ones taking penalties we could have been able to go into Q3 with any tyre, which would have been interesting, and then have a normal Q3 on hypersoft.

    “And the second thing we wanted to see in Q1 was our potential pace if we were to go for a normal, straightforward qualifying session, where would we end up in Q3.

    “If you can really start in P5, it’s better than starting P11, but it was clear unfortunately that given our pace here we would not be able to do be P5, The best strategy was then to be P11 and P12.”

    “So we decided to actually go for it, and go to the end of our constant speculation about the fact that it’s probably a better position in the current set-up.

    “It was very visible in Singapore, 11th, 12th, 13th, they finished seven, eight, nine or something like that, which was extreme. But pretty much each time the hypersoft is out that’s pretty much what happens for this group of teams.”

    Abiteboul admitted that the high chance of a first-lap incident propelling the cars up the order also contributed to the decision to target 11th and 12th.

    “We also need to balance that with the safety car possibility, it’s quite high here in the opening laps of the race, that’s something we need to take on board.

    “If there is an incident at the start you don’t want to be on softs for instance, it kills your race. That decision was straightforward to make, we still have a bigger decision, which is which starting tyre.”

  8. Q2 was a farce and double world champion Fernando Alonso even commented that F2 was more fun than “nonsense” Formula 1 qualifying. has the full story.

    Fernando Alonso believes the Russian Grand Prix’s Formula 2 support race was “the most fun part of the day” for fans after Formula 1 qualifying featured “nonsense” and “boring” segments.

    Alonso went into qualifying with a grid penalty because of engine component changes and claimed his only intention in Q1 was to set a time within F1’s 107% rule.

    The second part of qualifying featured zero running from the Red Bulls and Pierre Gasly’s Toro Rosso because they too had grid penalties for engine changes, while the Renaults also chose not to set a time to give them 11th and 12th on the grid and free tyre choice for the race.

    “For us it’s OK, this is what we’re used to and we follow whatever,” said Alonso when asked by about the qualifying spectacle.

    “For the fans, it’s maybe a problem. It’s more asking the fans what they think to have a nonsense Q1 and a not very important Q2.

    “At least I think they enjoyed the F2 race. It’s definitely the most fun part of the day for the spectator.”

    Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg, who will line up 12th as his midfield rivals progressed to Q3, admitted there was frustration but said the best tactics for the race need to be employed.

    “[It was] boring more than anything,” he said. “It is not what you want to do heading into qualifying.

    “Sometimes you have to play the game to come out better tomorrow and we had to do what we had to do today.”

    Daniel Ricciardo took no part in Q2 as his Red Bull team has switched to an old-spec Renault engine in Russia.

    “It is weird when you know you are not really going out,” Ricciardo admitted. “You wake up and know you are going to do about eight laps or something.”

    Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said it was “bizarre” and “not good” when he saw that five cars were not taking part, although his team inadvertently gave the redundant Q2 an anti-climactic end.

    Both Mercedes and Ferrari made it through to Q3 using the ultrasoft to avoid starting on the hypersoft tyre, but Lewis Hamilton appeared on the softest compound at the end.

    Even if they are trying to progress on slower rubber it is not unusual for leading teams to go out again at the end of Q2 on the softest-compound to a preparation lap in ahead of Q3.

    However, the lack of any drama from drivers trying to make Q3 meant Hamilton was centre-stage when he back off exiting the final corner on a flying lap, coasted across the line and avoided setting a quicker time.

    McLaren sporting boss Gil de Ferran said that what fans witnessed should at least set up a slightly different race.

    “It will create some interest on the race tomorrow because of the different strategic options everybody will have,” he said.

    “You can clearly see a lot of people were very focused on tomorrow rather than today.”

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