Sebastian Vettel on pole in Russia

Ferrari lock out front row for first time since 2008

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By Olivier Ferret

29 April 2017 - 15:01
Sebastian Vettel on pole in Russia

Sebastian Vettel took his first pole position of 2017, as Kimi Raikkonen’s second place in qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix saw Ferrari score it’s first front-row lock-out since the French Grand Prix of 2008.

All through practice at the Sochi Autodrom, Ferrari had the edge over Mercedes but in opening qualifying session Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton claimed the top two positions and in Q2 Bottas again took P1 to signal that the Silver Arrows were set to once again stamp their authority on the battle for grid supremacy.

That eventuality failed to materialise, however, as first Raikkonen and then Vettel stepped up the pace and stole ahead of the Mercedes in Q3. After the first runs Raikkonen led with a lap of 1:33.253, three hundredths of a second ahead of Bottas. Vettel who later admitted to a scrappy first flyer was third ahead of Vettel.

The German corrected the errors in a supremely tense final run, however. The four-time champion improved and jumped to P1. First across the line, he was then forced to wait as his rivals completed their laps.

“I knew it would be tight,” said Vettel of this 47th career pole position. “I immediately and asked about everybody else, ‘tell me about the others’. My race engineer Ricardo told me ‘they are closing the lap, they are closing the lap’. I said: ‘Yeah, let me know, let me know, how are the sectors, how are the split times?’ The first one I got was Valtteri who didn’t manage to improve and then when I got the message that we got it, I was over the moon.”

In the end Vettel was the only one of the top four to improve on his final run, and so Raikkonen finished second ahead of Bottas, while an oddly muted session for Lewis Hamilton saw the Briton qualify fourth, almost half a second behind his team-mate.

Behind the Mercedes cars, Daniel Ricciardo was fifth for Red Bull Racing. As with the front four the Australian failed to improve on his opening Q3 run. His margin to rivals behind was good enough, however, to keep him at the front of row three. Team-mate Max’s Verstappen’s opening-run time was not as secure, however, and in the last moments of the session, Williams’ Felipe Massa stole in with a lap of 1:35.110 to push the Dutchman to P7.

“I was actually very poor after Q2,” said Verstappen. “I had two sets [of tyres] in Q3, but I was already complaining in Q2 the last sector I was losing a lot of grip under braking into Turn 13, so I was losing the rear.

“And then you overheat the tyres and everything gets worse and worse. And with the two sets in Q3 it got worse again.

“Normally with less fuel in the car you should do better, but I went slower so that’s not the way to go. And that results in this seventh on the grid.”

Verstappen will line up beside Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg on row four, while row five will feature the Force India’s of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon.

Eleventh place in the session went to Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz, with Williams Lance Stroll 13th ahead of the second Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat in P13. The three were separated by just two hundredths of a second. McLaren’s Fernando Alonso was the last man eliminated in Q2 in 15th.

Jolyon Palmer was 16th. The Renault driver crashed out at the end of Q1 when he caught too much of a kerb in Turn 4 and was pitched into the barriers on the opposite of the track. He was eliminated ahead of McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne, the Saubers of Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson and the second Haas of Romain Grosjean. Vandoore, though, will start from the back of the grid as he is due to take an engine-related grid penalty.

Pos.DriverTeamQ1 timeQ2 timeQ3 time
01 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:34.493 1:34.038 1:33.194
02 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:34.953 1:33.663 1:33.253
03 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes AMG 1:34.041 1:33.264 1:33.289
04 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG 1:34.409 1:33.760 1:33.767
05 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Tag Heuer 1:35.560 1:35.483 1:34.905
06 Felipe Massa Williams Mercedes 1:35.828 1:35.049 1:35.110
07 Max Verstappen Red Bull Tag Heuer 1:35.301 1:35.221 1:35.161
08 Nico Hulkenberg Renault F1 1:35.507 1:35.328 1:35.285
09 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:36.185 1:35.513 1:35.337
10 Esteban Ocon Force India Mercedes 1:35.372 1:35.729 1:35.430
---------------- --------------- ---------- ---------- ----------
11 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso Renault 1:35.827 1:35.948
12 Lance Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:36.279 1:35.964
13 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso Renault 1:35.984 1:35.968
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:36.408 1:36.017
15 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 1:36.353 1:36.660
---------------- --------------- ---------- ---------- ----------
16 Jolyon Palmer Renault F1 1:36.462
17 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Honda 1:37.070
18 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber Ferrari 1:37.332
19 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:37.507
20 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:37.620

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