Lewis Hamilton felt Valtteri Bottas did the better job in Qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix on Saturday, which is why the Finn is on pole position for the first time since the Austrian Grand Prix in July.
The two Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport drivers locked out the front row at the Sochi Autodrom but Bottas’ record-breaking lap of 1:31.387 was enough to deny Hamilton top spot by 0.145 seconds. However, a big mistake on his final flying lap that saw his W09 momentarily run off track ended what Hamilton felt was a much better lap than the one he ultimately was forced to rely upon to set the grid.
“This has never been the strongest circuit for me, but Q1 was really good,” said Hamilton. “My run on the HyperSoft at the end of Q2 was a great lap, but then I couldn’t repeat it in Q3.
“I was two tenths up on my final lap but I made a mistake – I went quite wide and then the back stepped out at the next corner. I think I had the pace for pole, but Valtteri did the better job this time.
“It’s great for the team to have a 1-2 here, we’ll try and convert that tomorrow.”
Hamilton says the race could be decided on Sunday by who can manage their Pirelli tyres better, particularly on the Ultrasoft that both he, Bottas and the two Scuderia Ferrari’s will start on, and by who can get the best start.
“We’ve made some big improvements to how we use the tyres and how we set the car up and it’s showing,” said the Briton. “It’s tough to overtake here, so the race will be about tyre management and who gets the best start.
“I’ll be pushing hard; you saw Valtteri’s great start last year, and I think that’ll be my best shot to win.”