Lewis Hamilton snatched pole position away from his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg during qualifying for the 2014 FIA Formula One World Championship Russian Grand Prix after a dramatic hour in Sochi.
The first phase of the session, Q1 passed with notably little incident. At the top of the time sheets, Hamilton and Rosberg jostled for the fastest time with Valtteri Bottas’ Williams in third position. It was the other Martini car, that of Brazilian Felipe Massa that provided the main story, as what was believed to be a fuel pressure problem hobbled his car.
This left him unable to qualify within the top sixteen and thus out of qualifying within the first eighteen minutes. To add insult to an injured car, Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson managed to force Massa down to eighteenth position. Behind those two and thus additionally out of the session were Kamui Kobyashi (Caterham), a still car troubled Pastor Maldonado (Lotus) and Max Chilton (Marussia). Maldonado however, will start last for tomorrow’s race with a carryover from a penalty he partially took at Suzuka.
Onwards to Q2 which again featured a notable contender in the drop zone. The presence of the second Lotus of Romain Grosjean (sixteenth) and indeed the two Sauber’s of Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez (fifteenth and fourteenth) outside the top ten and thus unable to progress to the final twelve minute phase of the session was not surprising.
Force India’s weekend has seen them lack the pace they so often show, so again it was not great drama to see Nico Hulkenberg (who has a five place gear box change penalty) and Sergio Perez in twelfth and thirteenth respectively. Yet the presence of reigning quadruple champion Sebastian Vettel and his Red Bull was hugely dramatic, especially seeing as his young Australian teammate Daniel Ricciardo was securely in the top ten shoot out.
The final element of qualifying was contested by Mercedes, Bottas, the McLaren cars of Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button, both Ferrari machines (Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen), the aforementioned Ricciardo and impressively both Toro Rosso’s of Jean Eric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat.
Initially it appeared Hamilton had handed Rosberg the upper hand, a series of errors on his first run and a clean lap by the German giving the latter provisional pole and the former a lot of work to do. Yet the Brit set to it with aplomb and delivered a stunning end to the session to confidently claim pole. In the dying seconds it appeared Bottas was going to perform the shock of the season and snatch said pole position away, yet an error strewn end to a very quick lap left him in third.
Behind lay Button and Kvyat both putting in great performances. Magnussen was sixth, yet will have to take a five place grid drop due to a gearbox change. Ricciardo placed ahead of Alonso and Raikkonen in the category of teams that really should be doing better. In tenth was Jean Eric Vergne, again putting in a mature performance.