Max and Alex are preparing to fight their way through the pack after a tough qualifying session for the Russian Grand Prix saw Max qualify in fourth place, while Alex crashed out of the session in Q1. Combined with PU-related grid penalties for the race, Max will start in ninth place, while Alex is set to start from P18 on the grid.
Q1 got underway with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc setting the pace on medium tyres. The Monegasque driver logged a time of 1:33.613 to top the timesheet but Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton took over in P1 on soft tyres with a lap of 1:33.230.
Max and Alex then took to the circuit and Max immediately jumped to second place with a lap just 0.138 slower than Hamilton’s early table topper. Alex’s opening run was compromised, however, when Williams’ Robert Kubica spun ahead of him.
He went for another attempt, but in turn 13 the Thai driver lost the rear end of his RB15 and slid backwards into the tyre barriers. It was the end of Alex’s session and he qualified in 19th place.
Sebastian Vettel, who had earlier also had a moment at turn 13 was first on track after the re-start, having shed medium tyres for softs. He immediately vaulted to the top of the timesheet with a lap of 1:33.032.
The remainder of the leading drivers elected to sit out the final runs, however, and when the chequered flag was shown Hamilton progressed in second behind Vettel, with Max in third place thanks to his early lap of 1:33.368. Valtteri Bottas was fourth in the second Mercedes with Leclerc through in fifth.
Eliminated at the end of the session, however, were 16th-placed Alfa Romeo driver Kimi Räikkönen, Williams pair George Russell and Robert Kubica (with the Briton ahead of the Pole) and Alex. Already facing a back-of-the-grid start due to replacing PU elements and having suffered another PU problem in final practice, Daniil Kvyat did not take part in the session.
In the second session Leclerc led the way with the Monegasque claiming top spot with his first run before shaving more time off to hold the position after the second run thanks to a lap of 1:32.434.
2019 Russian Grand Prix - Qualifying Stats:
- 4 – P4 is Max’s best qualifying result at the Sochi Autodrom. His previous best was seventh in 2017.
- 14 – Alex will start in P18 but he can take heart from Max’s performance here last year. On that occasion the Dutchman picked up 14 places in the race to finish in P5 after starting in P19.
Vettel was closer to his team-mate this time, finishing the session just 0.102s behind the younger Ferrari driver and Max progressed to Q3 in third place with a lap of 1:32.634, two tenths of a seconds off the P1 pace.
When the chequered flag fell there would be no further progress for 11th-placed Toro Rosso driver Pierre Gasly with the Frenchman followed out of the session by Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez, Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi and the second Racing Point of Lance Stroll.
Having topped the opening two segments of qualifying there was to be no denying Leclerc in the final top-10 shoot out. Vettel began his first flying lap strongly but a very quick final sector saw Leclerc take provisional pole with a lap of 1:31.801m, with his team-mate three tenths back.
Max, meanwhile, lost the rear end slightly through the final turn of his opening flying lap and the error saw him slot into fifth place behind Hamilton and Bottas with a lap of 1:32.729. The Dutchman repaired the damage on his final run however and he found four tenths of a second to qualify in fourth place, ahead of Bottas.
Ahead, Leclerc improved again on his final run to seal his fourth consecutive pole position with a lap of 1:31.628, while Hamilton split the Ferraris with a lap just two hundredths of a second quicker than Vettel’s.
Behind Bottas, sixth place in the session went to McLaren’s Carlos Sainz with Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg in seventh. Lando Norris was eighth in the second McLaren ahead of Haas’ Romain Grosjean and the final top-10 place went to Daniel Ricciardo in the second Renault.
Russian Grand Prix - Qualifying Top 10:
- Charles Leclerc
- Lewis Hamilton
- Sebastian Vettel
- MAX VERSTAPPEN*
- Valtteri Bottas
- Carlos Sainz
- Nico Hulkenberg
- Lando Norris
- Romain Grosjean
- Daniel Ricciardo
* 5 place grid penalty to be applied. Max will start from P9 on the grid.