With grid penalties looming, both Daniel and Max opted to only run in the first segment of qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix. And while Max ended the session in P11 and Daniel in P12, a grid drop ahead of the race will see the Bulls facing a battle from the lower reaches of the grid tomorrow.
Having reverted to an older-spec power unit ahead of the weekend and then electing to take new gearboxes on Saturday morning, the Bulls were faced with a raft of grid penalties and thus chose to minimise running in qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi.
As Mercedes dominated Q1, with Lewis Hamilton running half a second ahead of team-mate Valtteri Bottas and almost a second ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, Max and Daniel waited until late in the session to undertake their few planned laps.
On hypersoft tyres, both quickly made their way to the sharp end of the order, with Daniel setting a good time of 1:33.247 to take P3 and Max slotting into P4 with an opening time of 1:33.314. In the final moments Max then improved to a time of 1:33.048 to drop Daniel to P4.
That left Hamilton well clear in P1 ahead of team-mate Bottas, and with Max and Daniel occupying a virtual second row at the end of the session, Vettel and Raikkonen finished fourth and fifth.
In the drop zone and eliminated at the end of the session were Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley in 16th place, followed by McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, Williams’ Sergey Sirotkin, who spun on his final lap, the second McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne and the man in P20 in Q1 was Lance Stroll in the second Williams.
In Q2, Hamilton was again to the fore, a time of 1:32.595, putting him ahead of Bottas. Vettel took third place ahead of Räikkönen, though both Ferrari driver were over four tenths of a second off the pace of the Mercedes cars.
- 11 – Max’s qualifying place of 11th is his worst in Sochi. In 2015 he qualified ninth, a result he repeated the following year. Last year he qualified in P7.
- 12– Daniel’s qualifying place is his lowest in Sochi. Prior to today, he’s qualified in seventh, 10th, sixth and fifth.
Neither Max nor Daniel ran in Q2 and they were joined in that choice by Renault’s Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg, as well as Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly. That led to the strange situation that ahead of the final runs the top 10 on the timesheet were secure in the knowledge that they would progress to Q3 and therefore had no need to run. Some elected to get more feeling for the hypersoft tyres, however, including Mercedes and Ferrari. However, their drivers backed out of their final runs and so will start on the ultrasoft tyres used in their opening Q2 runs.
In Q3, it was Bottas who seized the initiative, setting an opening run time of 1:31.528, a lap that left him 0.004s up on Hamilton. Ferrari were again a distance back, with Vettel third and 0.639s off Bottas and Raikkonen fourth and seven tenths adrift of P1. Force India’s Esteban Ocon was fifth, just six thousandths of a second ahead of Sauber’s Charles Leclerc.
And in the final runs Bottas held his nerve to claim a sixth career pole position. First across the line, the Finn improved to a time of 1:31.387. Behind him on track, Hamilton was quicker through the first sector, but pushing to catch his team-mate, the Briton made an error in Turn 7 and ran wide. The mistake cost Hamilton a large amount of time and with Bottas already across the line, Hamilton abandoned his lap and headed for the pit lane.
Vettel took third, half a second adrift of Bottas, while Räikkönen is set to line up in fourth place. Haas’ Kevin Magnussen put in an impressive final lap to claim best-of-the-rest status at the front of row three, with Ocon sixth ahead of Leclerc, Sergio Perez of Force India, the second Haas of Romain Grosjean and the Sauber of Marcus Ericsson.
Russian Grand Prix - Qualifying Top 10:
- Valtteri Bottas
- Lewis Hamilton
- Sebastian Vettel
- Kimi Raikkonen
- Kevin Magnussen
- Esteban Ocon
- Charles Leclerc
- Sergio Perez
- Romain Grosjean
- Marcus Ericsson
- MAX VERSTAPPEN*
- DANIEL RICCIARDO*
*Penalties to be applied