The conspiracy theorists were out in force as once again Lewis Hamilton suffered a power unit failure. The Mercedes driver was forced to sit out Q3 in qualifying and to pile on the misery he is now one step away from a grid penalty as he had a visit to the stewards over how he rejoined the track in Q1. That’s strike two for Lewis. One more this season will see a grid penalty applied.
Once again Ferrari were unable to fully capitalise on Hamilton’s misfortune. Vettel took P2 in qualifying but he’ll will drop five places after his penalty is applied so it is Williams driver Valtreri Bottas who will line up beside Rosberg on the front of the grid ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa. It really was a special lap by Bottas, half a second ahead of his team mate. Daniel Ricciardo and Sergio Perez will move up to 5th and 6th respectively as the penalised Vettel lines up in 7th, ahead of Daniil Kvyat. The Russian impressing on his home track on his way to the top 10.
Nico Rosberg set the fastest lap ever of Sochi to claim pole on the P Zero Red supersoft, comprehensively beating the previous record of 1m37.113s set in qualifying last year. With every driver using the supersoft in Q2 as well, this is the tyre that the top 10 on the grid will start on tomorrow. As conditions were cool in Russia today, drivers had to concentrate carefully on warming up the tyres. Similar conditions are expected for tomorrow’s race as well.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director: “Russia is by no means a typical track as it features low grip that keeps wear and degradation at very low levels and also enables long stints. For this reason we saw drivers complete multi-lap runs during qualifying, with consistent performance from the tyres. We expect a one-stop strategy to be the preferred choice for most contenders tomorrow, and it’s unlikely that the medium tyre will be used.”
How the tyres behaved today:
Medium Not seen at all during qualifying and unlikely be used during the race.
Soft The frontrunners are expected to finish the race on this tyre: key to the strategy.
Supersoft Just under a second faster than the soft and capable of long runs as well.
Race strategy: A one-stopper should be the favoured tactic on the smooth asphalt of Russia for the 53-lap race. Starting on soft or supersoft makes little difference to the overall race time. Starting on supersoft, the fastest way is to change to soft on lap 18. Starting on soft, it’s best to change to supersoft on lap 35. Some teams may gamble on a two-stopper, which is theoretically the fastest way to do the race but risks traffic. In which case: start on supersoft, change to soft on lap 12, then soft again on lap 32.
FREE PRACTICE 3 – TOP 3 TIMES
|Hamilton||1m36.403s||Super Soft – New|
|Rosberg||1m36.471s||Super Soft – New|
|Vettel||1m37.007s||Super Soft – New|
QUALIFYING TOP 10
|Rosberg||1m35.417s||Super Soft – New|
|Vettel||1m36.123s||Super Soft – New|
|Bottas||1m36.536s||Super Soft – New|
|Raikkonen||1m36.663s||Super Soft – New|
|Massa||1m37.016s||Super Soft – New|
|Ricciardo||1m37.125s||Super Soft – New|
|Perez||1m37.212s||Super Soft – New|
|Kvyat||1m37.459s||Super Soft – New|
|Verstappen||1m37.583s||Super Soft – New|
LONGEST STINT SO FAR
|SOFT||Sainz J||24 Laps|
BEST TIME BY COMPOUND SO FAR