Lewis Hamilton is on pole for the Russian Grand Prix but it wasn’t an easy qualifying for him.
In Q2, the session was red flagged due to Sebastian Vettel hitting the apex at Turn 4 and spun into the wall. At this time there was only 2:15 left on the clock. Hamilton had set a time earlier in the session but it was deleted due to exceeding track limits so at this time, Hamilton had set no time.
When the session was restarted, Hamilton got to the line to start his flying lap just over one second before the checkered flag was flown and comfortably made it into Q3.
Hamilton said: “That was one of the toughest Qualifying sessions I can remember, proper heart in your mouth the whole way. But I feel super grateful for everyone keeping their cool as it could have been a lot, lot worse. Q2 was hugely challenging, my first attempt was taken away for going over the track limits at the final corner.
“The team brought me in for refuelling and to fit new tyres but when I was on my second lap, the red flag came out. After that, it was very close to still get that final lap in – I overtook a few cars in the last sector but then lost time behind a Renault. I just heard Bono say ‘go, go, go’, so I was gunning it to get across the line.
“There was so much going on and I had to just calm down and find my centre. Valtteri had been strong all weekend, so I had no choice but to deliver with those final Q3 laps. The first lap in the final session was really great, and I thought it would be difficult to improve, but I managed to find a tiny bit on the second lap.
“It’s nice to take pole position, but this track is probably the worst place to be on pole, due to the long run to the first braking zone. So, I’m expecting a tough fight down to Turn 2 and a challenging race, especially as I’m starting on the Soft tyre, which is a good compound for the race start but is the worst tyre for the opening stint. We’ll sit down tonight and figure out the best approach to the race.”
Valtteri Bottas looked like he was going to be the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team car to get pole after being strong on Friday and in Q1/Q2. However, the Finn driver just didn’t have the pace in Q3 and had to settle for third, 0.652 seconds behind his team-mate.
“It was looking pretty good for me, I felt like I had the pace through Q1 and Q2, and both of those sessions went nice and smoothly. But Q3 was a tricky one. I felt like I found some gains but clearly the others found more. On the first run in Q3 the tyres were a bit too cold, so out of the last corner I had a big snap and was already a few tenths down on the run to Turn 2.” Said Bottas
“I was waiting for the second run and that lap felt better, there weren’t really any mistakes so I’m not sure why I couldn’t get closer to pole. There are some question marks there, which we’ll need to look into in the debrief and figure out why there was such a gap. But P3 is actually a pretty good place to start here and I think I’m on the right tyre as well. I’ve started third here before and look what happened, so I’ll try and do the same. It’s still all to play for.“