NOTEBOOK – Russian Qualifying

Features Notebook

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel has beaten his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen by .05 of a second to take the first non-Mercedes pole position at the Russian Grand Prix.

Pole lap – S. Vettel 01:33.194

Sebastian Vettel comes out the corner and heads to the outside, running along the kerb and builds his speed along the straight, keeps the speed through the flat-out Turn One. He then goes to the outside of the track along the run to Turn Two, breaking at 100m before the turn. Hits the kerb on entry, then on exit he runs to the inside, before running through the centre at three. Before going to the outside for four, he runs close to the apex, before going to the outside.

Breaks at the 50m metre board for five hits the apex before running to the outside. Carry’s the speed through the kink which is turn six. Then goes to the outside for seven, runs straight through the corner and runs to the outside, before recrossing the track. Breaks into eight hits the apex run to the inside carrying speed. Breaks on the outside of the circuit for ten hits the apex and runs to outside along the kerb. Flat through what is effetely a long straight.

Breaks a 100m before turn twelve, turns in nicely setting himself up nicely thirteen and fourteen going nicely through. Runs to the outside before crossing the track hits apex of fifteen and sixteen, runs to the outside where he says. He breaks into seventeen hits the apex, runs to the outside. Cross the track, hits the apex then goes to the outside and across the line, with a 01:33.194.

Vettel said “I think it’s just great. We had had a very good run also yesterday and this morning, and the car was phenomenal. So there’s no real secret to today’s result, it’s just the fact that if you get along with the car you find the rhythm and know what to expect.”

“We knew it would be very tight against the Mercedes, it could have gone the other way, but I am very happy that we locked out the front row for the team.”

Ferrari are Genuinely on it

Vettel’s pole lap was one he had to fight for with Raikkonen and the two Mercedes. I think tonight, there will be some surprised faces within Ferrari as they beat Mercedes with both cars by the slimmest of margins on track, without yellow flags or other incidents.

The last time they did that was in Magny-Cours in 2008. They went on to win but it was Felipe Massa who won from P2 that day.

I think that Ferrari is beginning to feel quietly confident about this season and feel there really in the fight this season. It’s a great turnaround following the tough 2016 they had, but I see similarity’s in the way they are talking like Mercedes were last season.

What went wrong for Mercedes

Valtteri Bottas out-qualified Lewis Hamilton once again. Watching qualifying I get this impression that Hamilton was a bit scrappy once again on his best laps. Hamilton has said tonight that he had an issue with getting his tyres to work on track, as well as the underlying setup of the car left him with armfuls of oversteer.

“I don’t think my problem today was with the tyres, it was more with the balance of the car. We had similar setups, Valtteri and I, but electronically, with the differential and everything, it wasn’t best suited for me, I would say. I had big snaps of the rear end of the car in the last sector, if you see all those little tiny mistakes, they were all because the rear end was very weak.” He said

If the rear instability continues in the race, Hamilton is unsure if he will be able to push as hard as he would like throughout the race. But, if they can sort it out I still believe he can be in the mix this weekend.

Red Bull

Red Bull are in their own class at the moment, they aren’t really able to fight with Ferrari and Mercedes on one lap pace but you cannot write them off over the long distances. Daniel Ricciardo was over a second down on Hamilton, and yes Felipe Massa slotted in between him and Max Verstappen.

But, in race trim, I believe that Red Bull will have enough in terms of pace they can stay ahead of Williams. Ricciardo said “I think fifth was all we could ask for today and that’s obvious looking at the gap to the front. Fifth is our best qualifying result here in Russia and we have to take the positives for now so I’m pleased to have achieved that for the team.”

Verstappen said “A frustrating day all things considered, we knew this would be one of our toughest tracks of the season but I had hoped qualifying would go better than that. Q1 was not too bad for us but in Q2 I had a really bad feeling with the rear tyres and I suddenly lost grip, especially going into the last sector. Sector 1 and 2 went well on most of my laps but the time just fell away in sector 3 as I just didn’t have the heat in the tyres.”

Red Bull may have the same issues as Mercedes, in getting these tyres to work properly.

Palmer crash

Renault’s Jolyon Palmer crashed out in Q1 in what has appeared to be a tough weekend for him. That was after the hard work Renault put in in-between FP3 and qualifying.

He clipped the kerb at turn four sending the rear of the car out and he tried to correct but locks up. That sent him spinning into the barriers. It’s not been a good weekend yesterday hot exhaust damaging his car on Friday, his new chassis stopping with an engine failure on Saturday morning.

He told “Qualifying was actually going okay. I was quite happy with the car and then, on the second set of tyres, I had a massive snap on the first lap and I didn’t improve. I was down to one lap. And then, under pressure, I just committed hard and took a little bit of kerb, which wasn’t ideal.”

Race preview

Tomorrow’s race looks to be potentially I think a three-horse race between Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull. I feel that it’s Ferrari’s to lose as they seem they have momentum on one lap pace like Mercedes. However, overtaking can be harder here because it’s a street circuit.

Red Bull will try and get past the Mercedes on track. Timing will be key throughout the race as I expect a close fight. Pirelli says that the most likely race strategy is a one stop. Tyre life could also play an important factor in the latter part of the race.



Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.

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