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Rosberg clinches pole as Hamilton falters

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Russian GP: Rosberg clinches pole as Hamilton falters

Russian GP: Rosberg clinches pole as Hamilton falters

Nico Rosberg made a dominant performance to beat championship leader Lewis Hamilton and take pole position for Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix.

With more than half of the session was red-flagged after Carlos Sainz’s huge shunt in the final practice session, the drivers had their work cut out not only to qualify in a strong position on the grid but also to gather as much information as they can for tomorrow’s race.

The smoother and cooler track surface was also something to be kept an eye on as they worked their way to get into the optimum operating temperature window.

The only remaining Toro Rosso of Max Verstappen set the initial benchmark in the first part of qualifying with a 1:40.529 before others displaced him to seventh by the halfway stage.

Rosberg put the hammer down with a 1:38.343 on par with last year’s pole time on soft rubber, 0.215s ahead of championship leader and Mercedes teammate Hamilton who also lapped on the prime rubber.

Vettel brought himself close to the Mercedes pair with a lap just over four hundredths shy of Hamilton while his Ferrari teammate Raikkonen lined up behind him in fourth. With under three minutes left to play, Grosjean split the Ferrari duo as Massa did a decent lap for sixth before deposed by his Finnish teammate Bottas.

At the back Alonso, Maldonado, Button, Nasr, Perez and Ericsson were in the danger of getting relegated in the closing stages. The Force India of Perez improved to tenth whilst Button went 13th fastest and Nasr just about hung on in 15th.

Home driver Kvyat endured a good final flying lap to complete Q1 just outside tenth as the Sauber of Ericsson was knocked out by finishing behind the other casualty – McLaren’s Fernando Alonso who has already received a 35-place grid penalty for power unit changes and will start from the back.

Williams looked threatening in the final practice but Bottas’ late improvement to sandwich between both Mercedes came only on supersoft tyres – one tenth behind topper Rosberg who did the fastest lap on softs.

Eliminated: Alonso, Ericsson, Stevens and Merhi

The second part of qualifying came alive with Sergio Perez setting 1:39.486 before Rosberg topped the session going almost four tenths quicker than the other Force India of Hulkenberg.

Sliding around Sochi, the championship leader Hamilton did a stonking lap nearly seven tenths clear of his own Mercedes teammate on top before the German went quickest once again.

Lotus’ Grosjean was also up there as he momentarily went fourth ahead of Kvyat, Perez and the other Red Bull of Ricciardo whilst the first flying lap earned Ferrari’s Raikkonen third.

Also leaving it late, Vettel’s flying lap produced a time good enough for fourth. With a minute remaining Kvyat, Perez, Ricciardo, Nasr, Button, Maldonado and Massa found themselves on the verge of getting eliminated.

Narrowly missing out the cut was Kvyat who felt his tyres were not up to the mark and will lineup ahead of Nasr, Button, Maldonado and disappointed Massa whose Williams teammate Bottas ended the session third quickest.

Having spent four engine development tokens, McLaren have made a solid progress with 13th for Button on the third longest circuit on the calendar.

Eliminated: Kvyat, Nasr, Button, Maldonado and Massa

As the lap times started tumbling down, drivers banked on the second flying lap to get tyres working optimally and in turn set their fastest lap. At the end of first run, Rosberg led the way with a 1:37.113, three tenths ahead of Hamilton, Bottas, Vettel, Raikkonen, Hulkenberg and Perez.

Grosjean’s serene lap when everyone went into the pits, earned him only eighth fastest time. Rosberg didn’t improve on his next run but much to his joy a big oversteer moment at Turn 13 forced Hamilton to abort his final flying lap thus gaining him his first pole on Russian soil.

The fight for the best of the rest continued on till the chequered flag but it was Bottas who finished eight tenths behind the Mercedes pair after a stunning lap and denied Vettel for third. The other Ferrari of Raikkonen will start from fifth ahead of Hulkenberg, Perez, Grosjean, Verstappen and Ricciardo rounded out the top ten.

# Driver Nat Team Time Gap Laps
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:37.113 20
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:37.433 0.320 18
3 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:37.912 0.799 26
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:37.965 0.852 15
5 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:38.348 1.235 19
6 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:38.659 1.546 21
7 Sergio Perez Force India 1:38.691 1.578 20
8 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:38.787 1.674 19
9 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:38.924 1.811 23
10 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:39.728 2.615 18

Russian GP – Qualifying Results Full

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