Nico Rosberg secured only his third pole position of the season as he beat Mercedes AMG PETRONAS team-mate Lewis Hamilton in qualifying at the Sochi Autodrom.
The German driver achieved a best lap time of 1m37.113s in the final session to take pole position, while Hamilton struggled in comparison, ending 0.320s back after his first run and then aborting his second run when he made a mistake a turn thirteen.
Hamilton’s decision to abort saw Rosberg cut short his session as well, with the Mercedes duo well clear of the rest of the field.
Valtteri Bottas was the best of the rest in third, but was almost eight-tenths of a second back on Rosberg’s time in his Williams Martini Racing entry, with the Finn being joined on the second row by Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
Kimi Raikkonen will start fifth in the second Ferrari but the Finnish driver made a similar mistake to that of Hamilton at turn thirteen on his final flying lap, ending his opportunity to improve.
The Sahara Force India duo qualified sixth and seventh, with Nico Hulkenberg out-qualifying Sergio Perez by just 0.032s, while Romain Grosjean was eighth despite only having run fourteen laps of the circuit all weekend following all the disruptions seen at Sochi.
Max Verstappen was ninth in the sole Scuderia Toro Rosso participating in the session following Carlos Sainz Jr’s dramatic crash during free practice, while Daniel Ricciardo completed the top ten for sister team Infiniti Red Bull Racing.
Daniil Kvyat just missed out on the top ten shootout, qualifying eleventh in the second Red Bull, with Felipe Nasr twelfth for the Sauber F1 Team ahead of Jenson Button of McLaren-Honda, with Pastor Maldonado fourteenth in the second Lotus.
Felipe Massa had another disappointing Sochi qualifying session, finishing down in fifteenth in the second Williams, well down on team-mate Bottas after a number of mistakes during the session.
Fernando Alonso was eliminated in the first part of qualifying for McLaren, but will start at the back of the grid following his engine-change penalty, with Marcus Ericsson of Sauber and the two Manor F1 Team drivers at the back, Will Stevens ahead of Roberto Merhi.
Sochi Qualifying Result
|6||27||Nico Hulkenberg||GER||Force India-Mercedes||1m38.659s|
|7||11||Sergio Perez||MEX||Force India-Mercedes||1m38.691s|
|9||33||Max Verstappen||NED||Toro Rosso-Renault||1m38.924s|
|10||3||Daniel Ricciardo||AUS||Red Bull-Renault||1m39.728s|
|-||-||Eliminated in Q2||-||-||-|
|11||26||Daniil Kvyat||RUS||Red Bull-Renault||1m39.214s|
|-||-||Eliminated in Q1||-||-||-|
|20||55||Carlos Sainz Jr||ESP||Toro Rosso-Renault||No Time|