Nico Rosberg secured pole position in qualifying for the 2016 Russian Grand Prix as team-mate Lewis Hamilton suffered the same PU issue that hampered him during the last round in China, rendering the Brit unable to take part in the final Q3 segment of qualifying.
The German driver topped the times by seven tenths of a second with a lap time of 1m35.417s, leaving the rest of the field unable to pose any sort of threat to challenge the pace advantage of the Mercedes AMG PETRONAS.
Hamilton set the initial benchmark in Q1 with a time of 1m36.518s, before team-mate Nico Rosberg took the honours from his team-mate with a time of 1m36.119s. That time from the German was a second quicker than last year’s pole time, but before you could even shake a stick, Hamilton had shaded the German’s time by one tenth, to top the board with a time of 1m36.006s.
The battle between the two Mercedes’s runners, continuing from this morning. But despite ending the Q2 session second fastest Hamilton suffered a PU failure at the end of that session, which meant the Brit was unable to take part in Q3 and set any sort of time. The current world champion advised the team that he had lost power in the W07, and after investigation the team saw an issue on the Brit’s telemetry that confirmed the failure. That signalled an early exit from qualifying once again for Hamilton, ending any further challenge for pole from the Brit.
To compound matters further for Hamilton it was announced that the Brit was under investigation for failing to follow the Race Directors instructions regarding Turn 2, during Q1. The current world champion failed to go round the bollard that had been specially placed at that corner this weekend, so that the drivers could not run wide there without losing time. The Brit will have to see the Steward’s to explain himself, following the session.
Yet again Mercedes were in a class of their own, with Scuderia Ferrari‘s Sebastian Vettel best of the rest. However, due to a five place grid penalty tor a change of gearbox this weekend, the German will start the race from seventh place tomorrow.
Valtteri Bottas put in impressive performance to beat the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen into third spot, the Williams Martini Racing driver edging out his fellow countryman by just one tenth of a second, which means Bottas will actually start from the front row of the grid tomorrow following Vettel’s penalty. That will be a blow for the Maranello based squad who will have been hoping that Raikkonen could salvage something for tomorrow’s race. It had been reported that the Finn suffered an ERS failure following the FP3 session this morning, so perhaps that was the cause of Raikkonen’s lack of pace towards the end of Q3.
The Finn was the meat in a Williams sandwich as Felipe Massa took fifth place, ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in the first of the Red Bull Racing runners. A disappointing session for the Milton Keynes based squad who had started to show promise last time out in China.
Sergio Perez was next up in the Sahara Force India, a good comeback from the squad, after a torrid time in Shanghai. Daniil Kvyat took eighth place, but would certainly be hoping for better in front of his home crowd, whilst Max Verstappen completed the top runners in ninth for Toro Rosso. Hamilton was classified in tenth place, however if changes have to be made to the W07 overnight that may incur penalties, we could see the Brit drop further down the order.
Carlos Sainz was the first of the drivers who will have the option to choose which tyre they will start the race on in eleventh place, after a strong final lap kept the Spaniard at the head of that pack. Jenson Button meanwhile, was the first of the McLaren F1 team cars, finishing just one tenth off the time that would have seen him through to Q3, the closest yet that the Woking based squad have come to making it through to the final part of qualifying.
Nico Hulkenberg took thirteenth position in the second Force India, with Fernando Alonso next up, ahead of Haas F1 team’s Romain Grosjean. The Frenchman, who was suffering from further problems with the driveability of the VR16, did manage to make it through to Q2 along with team-mate Esteban Gutierrez but fifteenth and sixteenth place were all the pair could muster.
Both Renault Sport F1 cars were struggling with the RS16 throughout the session, which was evident in their finishing positions of seventeenth for Kevin Magnussen and eighteenth place for Jolyon Palmer, who had finished in that position during every session this weekend. It also saw both cars exit in Q1.
Sauber‘s woes continued, with Felipe Nasr ending the session in nineteenth and team-mate Marcus Ericsson bringing up the rear of the field in twenty-second. The Swiss based team’s cars sandwiched the two Manor Racing team runners of Pascal Wehrlein in twentieth, who manged to finish ahead of his team-mate Rio Haryanto for the first time this weekend.
Yet again Lewis Hamilton will have a challenge on his hands, as he starts tomorrow race down the order. After looking mighty all weekend, can both Mercedes runners finish on the podium in Russia?