At the Russian circuit in Sochi Max Verstappen has provided a nice surprise. In his RB16, the Dutchman put the second time during the qualification of the Russian Grand Prix. Pole went to Lewis Hamilton.
Verstappen predicted on Friday that a third place during the qualification won‘t just blow up. It is also not Verstappen’s favourite job, which has never been on stage in Russia. This applies to the whole of Red Bull Racing in Sochi, where since 2014 has been racing. However, Verstappen was quite wrong with his prediction, in a positive sense.
An hour before the qualification started, some dark clouds were piling up over the Sochi circuit. During Q1 it remained dry, but at the next session Sergio Pérez (Racing Point) called on the drilling radio that he experienced light rainfall. The other drivers seemed to have nothing to worry about, although Hamilton once exceeded the track limits and Valtteri Bottas also balanced on the edge of crossing the track.
Again red flag and drama for Ferrari
Q2 was the final station for Sebastian Vettel. The German crashed two minutes before the end of the session in his Ferrari. He slipped over the kerb stones and ended up in the tires. There was little left of his red car, but Vettel got out of his car unharmed. The red flag was taken straight out of the closet.
For a moment, there was a fear that Charles Leclerc also had to stop the battle early. The Ferrari driver drove right behind his teammate when he got off the track. The nose of Vettel‘s car was on the track, where Leclerc was forced to drive full over. “That just went well…”, he sighed. Leclerc was able to move on and Vettel was so neat to remove the front wing itself from the circuit.
Battle for pole
Hamilton got away well in Q2. His time was scrapped when he crossed track limits and after the red flag he had to stop his round. So there was no time for the Brit on the scoreboard, but luckily for him there was still enough time on the clock to place himself for Q3, although in close time. Leclerc didn’t make it to the last qualifying session.
The reigning world champion and leader in the World Cup stand was not the only driver who didn‘t follow the rules on that turn. Kevin Magnussen, Romain Grosjean and Nicholas Latifi also had to answer for themselves. They, too, lost their respective lap time. In the race, such a crime will result in 5 punishable seconds, as the stewards stressed.
Hamilton conquered pole position at the Sochi circuit for the 96th time in his career. On Sunday, the British will hunt for his 91st victory in Formula One, with which he would match record holder Michael Schumacher.
Hamilton plays murdered innocence
“I don’t know what it‘s about, I don’t remember doing anything wrong,” said Hamilton at the press conference, even before he had to report to the stewards. “I think my lap time has been cut. It will be about that.” Hamilton has Max Verstappen standing next to him on the front start line.
In Q3 Hamilton was all too fast off, so again pole position for the World Cup leader. Verstappen took the second place surprisingly at the last. In the last round, the Dutchman rushed past Bottas, which starts from the second start line.
However, Hamilton and three other fellow drivers still have to report to the stewards for not following instructions from the race director in turn 2. Possibly resulting in gridpunishment, although that chance does not seem very plausible with a total of four drivers who will then have to pay a penalty get.
During the free training sessions Verstappen noted the third, seventh and sixth time respectively. It didn‘t work out with heart. During VT2 Verstappen complained about grip and even had a ‘moment‘, without major consequences.
During the last free training it became clear that Mercedes was going to make the service in Russia. Especially Hamilton showed him to be very fast. Then the British was no less than a second faster than Verstappen.
Race and program
The race of Sunday starts at 13.10 pm Dutch time. Of the top 10 only Verstappen and Bottas are on the mediums. Hamilton is forced to start on the softs.
After the Russian Grand Prix, the Formula One circus travels to Germany, but first the drivers get a week’s rest. The Eifel Grand Prix will be held on 9 to 11 September at the Nürburgring.
Also check out the results and intermediate positions in the Formula 1 World Championship battle.