Lewis Hamilton will start the inaugural 2014 Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix from pole position after edging out Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg and Williams’ Valtteri Bottas in a tense qualifying fight in Sochi.
McLaren’s Jenson Button was fourth quickest, just ahead of Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat who delighted his home fans by claiming fifth.
Q1 proved a disaster for Felipe Massa in the second Williams – as Hamilton set the pace with 1m 38.759s, the Brazilian’s FW36 was afflicted by a fuel pressure problem and was duly eliminated in 18th.
Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson failed by a tenth to make it through to Q2, with 1m 42.648s to the 1m 42.526s posted by Lotus’s Romain Grosjean in 16th. Massa could only muster 1m 43.064s, which still kept him ahead of Kamui Kobayashi in the second Caterham on 1m 43.166s. Pastor Maldonado in the second Lotus was struck by technical problems and couldn’t better 1m 43.205s for 20th, while Max Chilton brought up the rear in the sole Marussia, with 1m 43.649s.
There was another big-name faller in Q2. Once again Hamilton led the way with 1m 38.338s, but Sebastian Vettel struggled throughout with his Red Bull and his 1m 40.052s left him out in the cold in 11th place, a fraction ahead of Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India on 1m 40.058s.
Sergio Perez was right behind them with 1m 40.163s in the second Force India, ahead of the duelling Saubers of Esteban Gutierrez on 1m 40.536s and Adrian Sutil on 1m 40.984s. Romain Grosjean was 16th for Lotus on 1m 41.397s.
Hamilton’s first lap in Q3 was underwhelming, a full second slower than Rosberg’s, but his second restored his previous advantage and he later trimmed down to 1m 38.513s to take a firmer grip on pole.
Rosberg’s best of 1m 38.713s left him two-tenths of a second shy of Hamilton’s improved time, but Bottas was the danger man as the Finn set overall bests in the first two sectors of his final run. He pushed too hard in the final sector, however, getting loose in Turn 17 and then having to catch wild oversteer through the final corner, scuppering his lap. His previous best of 1m 38.920s ensured him third on the grid and he said that he didn’t feel he lost more than one place overall.
Button was an excellent fourth with 1m 39.121s, as Kvyat claimed a tremendous career-best fifth for on 1m 39.277s.
That pushed his future Red Bull team mate Daniel Ricciardo down a place, and the Australian lost another right at the end when Kevin Magnussen in the second McLaren banged in a 1m 39.629s lap against Ricciardo’s 1m 39.635s. He gets that place back, however, as Magnussen will drop five grid places for his gearbox change this morning.
The Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen were eighth and ninth on 1m 39.709s and 1m 39.771s respectively, as Jean-Eric Vergne took 10th on 1m 40.020s in the second Toro Rosso.
Maldonado still has a five grid penalty left over from Japan, while besides Magnussen, Hulkenberg and Chilton also have five-place penalties for gearbox changes.
|Russian Grand Prix Qualifying Results|