The Saturday in F1 Russian GP panned out mostly how it was predicted to be, apart from the end results which surprised many.
While it was expected Mercedes to rule Saturday in F1 Russian GP, it didn’t pan out that way after a silly mistake from Lewis Hamilton in Q3. Until then, they did exactly how they were supposed to and were on-song for a Top 2 finish. But eventually, they ended up fourth and seventh, with the Brit ahead of Valtteri Bottas.
It was a mistake from Hamilton entering the pits foe the slick tyres change, which started the chain reaction. Already Mercedes pitted one lap late, leaving their drivers with just the one chance. With the Brit requiring a front wing change, they had to remove him and pit Bottas to not keep him waiting – in the end, neither got their laps in.
They both, though, have the pace to fight back and get on the podium. However, a big question remains regarding Hamilton taking the engine penalty or not. Max Verstappen is anyhow to start from the back, his teammate Sergio Perez is at the fag end of the Top 10 after he felt the team were one lap late in pitting him for slicks.
Hamilton: “It was 100% my fault, so I’m really sorry to the team. It was right on the cusp of timing to come in [for slicks], so I was really trying to rush to come in and out as quick as possible. Ultimately, I’m really disappointed in myself, because up until then, I was clean, every lap, boom boom, no problem. A silly one, but you live and you learn. There’s nothing I can do about the past now, I’ll just hope the car can be fixed for tomorrow and I’ll give it everything I’ve got. It’s difficult to say regarding my spin. One lap was not enough, you needed to be able to do more.”
Bottas: “Definitely. It was going quite well. Q1, Q2 we seemed to be strong in the inter conditions. But in the end, when it started to dry, we came in. Obviously we were hopeful to get two laps but we only got one. I couldn’t get the tyres to work in one lap and I think all the cars ahead of us, they got two laps and that was the issue.”
Perez: “Yes, it was all about getting that timing [to get] heat into the tyres. That’s something we didn’t do. We just lacked [slicks] probably a lap too late because we went for a prep lap on the first set and that just put us behind, and in the end when we tried the slick tyres, we had one lap really to be able to put it together.”
While Mercedes and Red Bull are supposed to be the leaders, the F1 Russian GP had McLaren’s Lando Norris on pole alongside Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, with Williams’ George Russell in third after the latter’s early gamble to switch to the slick tyres. For the former, it follows on from his career best finish at Monza, to register career first pole.
Having had those moments in his junior career aplenty, Norris had his first moment of top glory albeit a pole position, which was also something he enjoyed thoroughly. It was a first front-row start for Sainz, who was pleased to have set the lap, especially to be alongside his current close rival and friend. For Russell, it was his second time to be in the Top 3 in four races, as he continues on to build the momentum he has got.
Norris: “It’s just an awesome feeling altogether. I don’t know what to say. It feels like you have just qualified well, but it’s a pole position, which doesn’t come around much. It’s my first in X amount of races and it could be my only pole for a while. It feels amazing, especially in these conditions. It’s tricky and you have to put a lot of risk on the line and just try to see if it pays off and it did. An amazing feeling, my first pole. Probably the only place I wouldn’t want to be pole is here, especially with the straight down to Turn 1, but I’m still very happy. Talking more, I don’t like my engineer talking to me normally.
“Obviously when I ask for information I like him to talk but when I’m on a qualifying lap, especially in these conditions, the last thing I want him to do was talk. I was asking for info from George, because I was watching his lap on the TV while I was driving round to see what it was like, whether he was up and so on and I was asking for sectors and corners where he was strong, where he was struggling and so on. I think that information definitely helped to know what sectors were definitely quick, what sectors were maybe a bit wetter and trickier but like I said, the difficult thing is now, I guess in Q3 you’ve got 10 of the best people on this day in Formula 1, in the world in a way, to try and put these laps in so you can’t just drive round under the limit and know what to expect.
“Sometimes you’ve got to push it over and just find out if you’ve made it once you’ve gone through the corners. There was plenty of corners where I thought I might have run in a bit hard here and this all could go rather wrong but I didn’t so that’s just the level you’ve got to be at to be in this position, so I’m happy I took those risks and made those decision because they paid off the way they have. Many times during the lap I thought it was going to go quite badly wrong and you’re going to mess it up, especially in the final chicane, 15/16 I think it is, it was still very wet in this section and I had quite a few big wheelspins and some big snaps but kept it cool and brought it home, so yeah, they’re just fun, from start to finish, it’s many risks but all part of it.
“As for Sunday, another race win for McLaren would be lovely. I don’t expect so, I think Mercedes are a long way up the road from us and Red Bull probably similar. I think we have decent pace. We saw yesterday that the cars are in a good position, in the wet now and also in the dry. A long run down to Turn 1 or Turn 2, whatever you want to say, so I have to look forward to that and make sure I prepare for that well. But I think either conditions I look forward to, we can score some good points, we can have a good race, because we are in the best position possible.”
Sainz: “I was so close to pole position that maybe the second place doesn’t taste as good as it should – but I think it was a well-executed session and a good lap there at the end. Unfortunately I was one of the first ones across the line once on the slick, which obviously you always are left wondering if you would have gone a bit later how much quicker could you have gone? But it was a good lap on the limit. Good battle with these guys out there, so yeah, got to enjoy it and it was tricky conditions that you enjoy more honestly in a Formula 1 car.
“As for the F1 race, I think there’s two options. I either get a good getaway and it’s a direct race into Turn 2, or if not, obviously I’ll need to try to find a slipstream, because we know we are not the fastest on the straights and we are doing to need to find some tow, some draft, because if not, it’s going to be a long run down into Turn 1. Exciting. I’ve been sharing rows with this this guy pretty much the last two years in Formula 1, so we know very well each other and yeah, hopefully we can have a good start, both and keep pulling away because there’s going to be the guys behind coming, and that’s going to be when the fun starts.”
Russell: “I came on the radio to say to the guys, let’s get the slicks ready, because it’s definitely going to go slicks, and they replied saying ‘OK, let’s box this lap’, so I thought they may have misunderstood what I meant by that radio comment. I said ‘let’s go for it’. We’ve got to go for it in these sessions. High risk, high reward. Especially in these conditions. When I came out of the pit lane on the slicks, almost crashing straight out of the box. It was only that last lap, I kept getting a bit of traffic here and there. I couldn’t complete the laps so that was a bit frustrating, but as it was for everybody, I knew that last lap was going to be the killer lap, so we saved it all for them and here we are. It’s a bit surreal that it’s our second top three in four races now.
“I was running quite a high energy mode anyway, just because we were doing consecutive laps, so you obviously can’t keep on deploying the battery, but I saw I think it was Fernando ahead of me who was pretty slow and I was catching him up and I knew that I’d get to the last lap and I would be too close, so I sort of made a decision out of Turn 10 to recharge the battery and make sure that it was full for the following lap and then deplete everything and that definitely gives you an extra four, five, six tenths really from the lowest mode to the highest mode so on a track like this it’s very important.”
For their teammates, Daniel Ricciardo is up there in fifth, which makes it sweeter for McLaren F1 team, especially in the constructors’ fight, as Leclerc will require to get up through the pack. The Australian was pleased with his effort after a slower start to the weekend and the power unit change they had to do.
On Williams side, they too had to change the power unit after finding an issue on Latifi’s car, but his pace was looking good enough to be in the Top 10. Aside them, it was a decent outing for Alpine F1 duo as both of their drivers made it into the Top 10, where Fernando Alonso is to start in sixth and Esteban Ocon in 10th.
The Spaniard reckoned he lost about five-tenths on his final, which would have out him higher. As for the Frenchman, he had a similar problem like Perez where the team called him late to pit to switch to the slick tyres. In the Top 10, they have Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, who made the most of the wet conditions, where his teammate Sebastian Vettel just missed out on a Top 10.
The German reckoned Yuki Tsunoda hampered his final attempt, otherwise he was fine to get inside the Top 10. The Japanese F1 driver’s teammate Pierre Gasly was pretty livid after the session, as he was knocked out in Q2. He reckoned the team made a mistake of staying out on the used tyres for the whole session rather than pitting to change it.
Gasly: “Q1 we were very fast, Q2 we were very fast. But in Q2 we stayed out on tyres which were dead. I asked to box a couple of times. In the end we stayed out on used tyres. We clearly had the pace to be right there in Q3 until the end. Today we did a bad job and I don’t really understand why we didn’t box. Now it’s done. It’s not going to give us a better starting position, so we need to focus on tomorrow. It’s going to be dry, but honestly I don’t really know what to say now.”
Vettel: “The traffic didn’t help, but I don’t like to blame it on that. For sure on that lap, I lost half a second and that didn’t help, but it’s a pain because I felt the car was very good today and I could have been much higher up than we ended up, so that’s disappointing.”
Alonso: “I’m happy with sixth position in qualifying as the conditions weren’t easy out there today. It was very stressful as we’ve never run in the wet in Sochi. There was no time to experiment and find where the grip was on the track. But, in the end, we were competitive in both wet and damp conditions. I also lost about five tenths of a second on my final lap in Q3, so I could have qualified even higher than sixth. Tomorrow will be difficult because we have several very fast cars starting behind us, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
At the back, it was a mixed bag for the Alfa Romeo and Haas F1 drivers, where Kimi Raikkonen headed Mick Schumacher, Antonio Giovinazzi and Nikita Mazepin – all gaining three places for the penalties to others. The Italian had a spin in Q1, mostly due to the brakes, which gave the German a glimmer of hope. He was 3.934s quicker than his Russian teammate, who agreed that he struggled out there for grip on all of his runs.
Giovinazzi: “A disappointing day in which we couldn’t express all our potential. I had an issue with the brakes that made it difficult to drive, especially in the wet and not having run FP3. We need to understand what happened and fix it to have a better day tomorrow. We’ll need to see what weather we’re going to have and focus on our job. We will have faster cars around us, starting from the back, we will need to stay out of trouble and see how we can progress.”
Mazepin: “Overall, the session was going good. I wasn’t quite sure what we were going to do because I felt like the tyres needed quite a lot of laps versus what I felt at Spa. I finally got the balance right, set the steering wheel settings right, got the temperatures in the window to get comfortable, did a decent lap and then we boxed. I was just really struggling out there. That one lap, I felt that the track wasn’t quite dry enough to get the tyres going but nevertheless the position isn’t really that different to what it could have been, but it felt pretty tough to drive. We don’t know what the weather’s going to do but I think we’re ready for dry and wet conditions, so we’ll just have to see what’s going to happen.”
Here’s all of Lewis Hamilton’s troubles: https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/video.raw-radio-how-lewis-hamiltons-pole-position-chances-unravelled-at-sochi.1711893415846689850.html
Here’s Pierre Gasly losing out: https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/video.2021-russian-gp-qualifying-frustrated-gasly-out-in-q2.1711889341910798262.html
Here’s how F1 Russian GP panned out