On a cloudier a cooler Saturday, Qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix started with the twenty two drivers entering the track in Q1.
Mercedes were out early, Nico Rosberg the first of all the drivers on the circuit for qualifying, along with Felipe Nasr and the Haas. Wehrlein set the pace in the Manor, before Nasr set his time in the Sauber with replays showing that he went outside the track at turn 3. Gutierrez and Grosjean went ahead of the two Saubers, with Palmer separating the pair of them while Hulkenberg went slightly ahead for the fastest. Wehrlein went around for a second lap and went faster to separate the two Saubers.
Having had two warm up laps Rosberg went faster by nearly two second, before Hamilton went a tenth of a second faster than his team mate. Magnussen looked like he was having a problems with oversteer in the final sector, with Renault teammate Palmer a place higher, after a difficult Friday.
Rosberg went around for another lap, and went four tenths faster than Hamilton. Kvyat had a difficult lap and could only make sixth place in the Red Bull, behind Nasr and Grosjean. Having been held up in traffic on the previous lap Lewis Hamilton went a tenth again faster than Rosberg. Bottas went third, with Massa slotting in right behind him in fourth. Vettel then went third fastest in the Ferrari, with Perez lumping to sixth ahead of Sainz and Verstappen.
While Hamilton was fastest, the British driver was investigated for not following the directors instructions at Turn 2, going off the road. With Kvyat struggling in the sister Red Bull, Ricciardo got his car into eighth.
Those at the bottom with three minutes remaining included Palmer, Magnussen, Grosjean, Haryanto, Ericsson and Wehrlein.
A number of drivers were struggling with grip on the Russian track, Nasr was one of those casualties into Turn 13. Massa improved, but not position, with Vettel also doing the same to get within half a second of the Mercedes. Alonso was seventh with Button also in the top ten. An improvement from Kvyat meant that Nasr was dropped in the Sauber, with Gutierrez’s Haas on the bubble.
Renault were struggling once again, with Magnussen only going 17th with the chequered flag waiving. Palmer would only go 18th. Grosjean improved to 12th in the Haas, dropping his team mate back to 18th again. With no other improvements it meant that Magnussen, Palmer, Nasr, Wehrlein, Haryanto and Ericsson would not make it past Q1.
Once again it was Nico Rosberg who would be on the track first at the start of Q2, followed by his team mate, Fernando Alonso and Force India. Sainz set the pace on a 1:37.6, with Rosberg doing the same as he did in Q1, a slow out lap and then going for a fast one. Perez was three tenths faster than Sainz, with Verstappen a tenth faster than his Toro Rosso teammate. Grosjean went fourth, with Gutierrez in sixth.
Rosberg, first on the road went fastest and nearly two seconds faster than Sergio Perez and was on the super soft tyres. Hamilton went second int he other Mercedes and was half a second off the pace, also on the super soft tyres. Button went sixth in the McLaren, although neither Ferrari or Williams driver had so far set a lap with eight minutes remaining.
Ricciardo split the Toro Rosso drivers, with Kvyat still slower than his Australian team mate and only in eighth place for the Russian. Alonso was ninth and Grosjean still in the top ten. With less than five minutes remaining, Ferrari put in their first times. Vettel ahead on the track went third, 1.3 seconds down on the Mercedes. Hamilton, although not needing to came out on the track for a second time on a second set of the super soft tyres. Raikkonen in the second Ferrari went fourth.
The battle would be behind the leading four. Hulkenberg improved to 9th, with Williams leaving it to the very last minute to set a time with no margin to spare. Massa went fifth, with Bottas taking that position shortly afterwards. It meant that Hulkenberg and Button dropped outside the top ten, with Sainz on the bubble in the second Toro Rosso. Dany Kvyat was in 13th. His teammates wing mirror fell off mid lap, although meant that he couldn’t improve from 9th.
Alonso only improved to 12th, with Hulkenberg not improving and Button missing out by less than a tenth in 11th. Kvyat had a great final half to the lap, dropping Sainz outside the top ten.
Those who left us in Q2 included Sainz, Button, Hulkenberg, Alonso, Gutierrez and Grosjean.
Lewis Hamilton, despite having the speed to battle Rosberg, would not take part in the final part of qualifying with the power unit failing in the same way it did in China. It meant that it would a nine car shoot out for qualifying, with Vettel also due to take a penalty for changing a gearbox.
OUt ont he track early, Raikkonen set a 1:42.5 on his outlap, before Vettel setting the first competitive time. Rosberg went eight tenths faster than Vettel, with Bottas splitting the two Ferrari drivers. Raikkonen in fourth did a racing pit stop, and therefore indicated that he was carrying a lot of fuel in the Ferrari. The Williams was only a tenth faster.
After going off the road, Rosberg went back into the pitlane although with little competition it wouldn’t be a problem. Bottas didn’t improve on his time, staying a nett second, but Raikkonen couldn’t improve either so remained on the second row. Vettel went slightly faster, although would remain second (seventh).