Mercedes yin-yang: Rosberg’s charmed start continues with pole while Hamilton again hobbled by engine trouble; Ferrari’s Vettel qualifies P2 but dropped down 5-spots due to gearbox change; Williams’ Bottas impresses with speedy P3
The luck that seemed to cover Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton like a cloak on his way to two consecutive championships seems to have transferred entirely to his teammate and arch-rival Nico Rosberg in 2016. Thus far, Rosberg has had the charmed season with three straight victories to open his campaign, while Hamilton has been plagued by mechanical gremlins that have cost him valuable points. That dynamic continued in Saturday qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix from the gorgeous seaside Sochi Autodrom, with Rosberg grabbing pole by a large margin over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Hamilton having deja vu all over again with the same power plant problem that doomed him at the last race in China. In this case the issue arose after Hamilton had made it into Q3 so he will provisionally start from P10 on the grid. However, it remains to be seen if he will incur any additional engine change penalties that will push him further back (he was reprimanded for cutting a bollard in qualifying but received no further punishment for that). Either way, it will have to be another race of slicing and dicing for the reigning world champ, which he did beautifully in China to salvage a P7 finish after starting from dead last. Sochi, however, is not as optimal a passing track as Shanghai and also sees much less tire deg so don’t expect another crazy 5-stopper. Though Hamilton will surely give his best effort to claw his way to the front, it’s Rosberg who is clearly sitting in the catbird seat for Sunday.
Definitely facing a 5-spot penalty for changing a gearbox before quali, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel qualified P2 but will start from P7. His teammate Kimi Raikkonen posted the 4th fastest time and will start P3 after Vettel’s demotion and everyone above the German Ferrari driver also moves up a spot. Williams’ Valtteri Bottas had the team’s best qualifying effort this season after downforce upgrades on the car with a solid P3, so he’ll start P2, while his teammate Felipe Massa managed the 5th fastest lap and will start P4. Daniel Ricciardo of team Red Bull was quick enough for P6 and will start from 5th on the grid and Force India’s Sergio Perez was able to put in an excellent flyer for P7 and will start from 6th. That split the Red Bulls and leaves Russian-born Daniil Kvyat starting in P8 behind Vettel at his home Grand Prix. Rounding out the Top 10, Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen starts from P9.
Top 10 qualifiers for the Russian Grand Prix:
|6||3||DANIEL RICCIARDO||RED BULL RACING||1:38.091||1:37.569||1:37.125||22|
|7||11||SERGIO PEREZ||FORCE INDIA||1:38.006||1:37.282||1:37.212||20|
|8||26||DANIIL KVYAT||RED BULL RACING||1:38.265||1:37.606||1:37.459||22|
|9||33||MAX VERSTAPPEN||TORO ROSSO||1:38.123||1:37.510||1:37.583||20|
*Vettel will start P7 after 5-spot grid penalty for gearbox change.
Tomorrow’s race airs live on NBC Sports at the civilized hour of 8AM Eastern. Should make for some very entertaining and picturesque Sunday breakfast viewing.