What the teams said - Qualifying in Russia
Leclerc was comfortably ahead of even his team mate in FP3, and took that form straight into qualifying. Feathers firmly unruffled, he sailed through all three segments to grab his fourth straight pole. As for Vettel, his session was a mess by comparison - mistakes in Q1 led to him spending longer in the drop zone than was comfortable, and he ended up running used tyres in Q2. Pipped by Hamilton in Q3, the German was not best pleased with the result.
Charles Leclerc, 1st, 1:31.628
"The car was amazing to drive and the team did a great job anticipating the track evolution and setting up the car in the best way. We are just focusing on ourselves and the work we are doing seems to be slowly paying off. On my side, I continue focusing on the negative and working to improve and learn as much as I can. The lap in Q3 was great, apart from when I lost the rear a bit in turns 16 and 17. I’m still happy to end the day with a result like this, but I am already fully focused on the race now. Our race pace was good in FP2, which is a positive sign. We will start the race on different tyres to our competitors, but I don’t think that there is a huge difference between the soft and medium compounds in terms of their degradation. It will be difficult and crucial to keep everyone behind at the start, because it’s a long way to turn two. I will give it all I’ve got."
Sebastian Vettel, 3rd, 1:32.053
"Overall I was reasonably happy with the car, but not entirely satisfied. Q1 was a bit complex as I made a mistake on my first attempt and then I was slowed by two yellow flags. I found it difficult to get into a clean rhythm, especially towards the end of Quali, when it was vital to extract the absolute maximum out of the car. However the race is tomorrow and I am confident. We need a good start and then we can think about the rest of it. We start on the clean side, on the Softs while the Mercedes are on Mediums and being on different tyre strategies will make for an interesting fight. I believe we have made the right tyre choice for the start and I think we have an advantage over our rivals down the straight, so a tow might come into play."
Mattia Binotto, Team Principal
"We are very happy with the way qualifying went. Already yesterday we realised that our car was quick and today we delivered the result. Once again, Charles produced a good lap, even though he made a couple of small mistakes, which means he had the potential to do even better. It has to be said that the track surface here is very smooth, so it’s easy to make a mistake. Seb qualified third, which might actually be better than second when it comes to tomorrow’s start, even if it would have been nice to have locked out the front row. The SF90 has improved and we have accelerated our development to have more drag and aero downforce. Also, thanks to the new package, we now lose out less in the corners and the overall balance is good. As for the race, the key moment will probably be the start and another important aspect will be the fact we are starting on a different tyre compound to our competitors."
All eyes were on the Silver Arrows in final practice, to see if they had been sandbagging thus far. The answer was no, they were genuinely off the pace of Ferrari which was an interesting development at a track where they have been so dominant. Come qualifying and it looked like they were destined to play second fiddle, until a scintillating lap from Hamilton managed to split the Ferrari pair. Bottas aborted his final run after a mistake and wound up fifth.
Lewis Hamilton, 2nd, 1:32.030
"It feels like a really positive weekend so far and I'm very happy with the job that we've done collectively. We've worked so hard until late last night and again today and it all came together in the end. The ultimate goal is always to get as close to 100 percent as possible and I don't think there was much left in the car today. Sochi has always been a track that I struggled at, but today every lap was just getting better and better, there were no real mistakes and particularly the last lap felt good. The Ferraris have some crazy speeds on the straights, so to split them is a very good scenario for us. Now we have to try and convert that split into something even better. It's a long run into Turn 1, so it's not always the best for a start on the harder tyre, but we've got to try something and it's good that we're able to go for a different strategy tomorrow. The team has done a really good job to put us in that position and I look forward to the fight."
Valtteri Bottas, 5th, 1:32.632
"It was tricky qualifying for me today. I was struggling in the last sector, particularly in Turn 13 where I had rear snaps mid-corner in pretty much every qualifying lap. Those snaps made the rear tyres overheat which made the rest of Sector 3 really tricky and I didn't really find a way to drive around the issue. In my second run in Q3, the snap was pretty big and I lost multiple tenths there, so I aborted the final lap. The Ferraris are quite a bit faster than us on the straights, our race pace looked decent yesterday and we're starting on a different tyre to everyone around us, so we can hopefully create some opportunities. It's still all to play for."
James Allison, Technical Director
"Mixed feelings after today. On one level we're really pleased with us having made a solid recovery from the day yesterday, with both our drivers now being able to put in their first laps pretty consistently. At the same time, we're sad that we didn't have the pace to beat Leclerc today, but congratulations to him for a very good series of laps. Looking ahead to tomorrow, with the Medium tyre, offset against everyone else starting on the Soft, it's going to be a very interesting race and hopefully some of the good race pace we saw on Friday will allow us to take the fight to the Ferraris."
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"We extracted everything from our package today, so I'm really happy with our performance, but we're losing seven or eight tenths to the Ferraris on the straights and there's only so much you can do against that. We have a big challenge on our hands, but we will give it everything to try and take the fight to them. Lewis put in a very strong lap and did a great job to claim P2 and split the Ferraris. It's a shame for Valtteri because he was on a good lap too before he aborted. Tomorrow, we'll be on a harder tyre to everyone around us which will make the start a little bit tricky but will hopefully create some opportunities later in the race."
Verstappen - like his team mate, carrying a five-place grid penalty - wasn't able to complete a soft tyre run in FP3 after a couple of uncharacteristic mistakes - first running wide and flying over the sausage kerbs, before then spinning and just kissing the barriers. But come qualifying and he was able to extract the maximum from the RB15 and grab fourth. As for Albon, he had a day to forget - off the pace in practice, he crashed in the same spot as his team mate had earlier but did a lot more than kiss the barriers. He'll start from the back of the pack.
Max Verstappen, 4th, 1:32.310
“I always knew qualifying would be tricky on such a power sensitive circuit but the lap was good and there wasn’t much more in it. The wind picked up and it seemed to hurt us in the last sector which is normally our strongest point so I couldn’t really use the full potential of the car. Yesterday looked positive but Ferrari didn’t have their engines turned up and they always open it up in qualifying as we could see today. The corners around here are mostly ninety degrees and very short, so you can’t gain a lot of lap time out of them but to be P4 and splitting the Mercedes is pretty good. With the penalty and starting ninth we need to make a clean start, stay alert and hope the people around us do the same. I think the realistic target is probably fifth but we will of course try to do better and it will be interesting to see what happens with Mercedes on a different strategy.”
Alex Albon, 19th, 1:39.197
“There’s nothing really to say other than I went in a bit hot like Max did in FP3 and I lost the rear. There’s a tailwind in that corner and it just caught me out. When these cars go, they go quick. It was a silly mistake – that’s pretty much it and it’s just frustrating. I haven’t really had the confidence during the weekend and I’ve struggled since FP1 but it was starting to come together and I was feeling more comfortable and getting into a rhythm coming into qualifying. I think this is one of those tracks where if you’re not confident in one corner, you’re not confident in any corner and that’s kind of how I felt up to qualifying. We’re starting out of place but I’m optimistic as the car feels good in the long runs and you can also overtake here. We’ve seen before when starting at the back that we can progress through the field so we’ll give it everything tomorrow.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“It was a shame for Alex today. He came across a yellow flag on his first lap in Q1 and unfortunately a spin on his second resulted in him touching the barrier which took him out of qualifying. For Max, he comfortably progressed through to Q3 and after a really strong last run he managed to get on the second row of the grid but unfortunately the Ferraris were just too fast today. With our penalty, that means he will be starting the race from P9 tomorrow and hopefully we can be in good shape for the race. It’s a track you can overtake at so it should be an exciting Grand Prix.”
Hulkenberg has seemed the happier of the two men all weekend with the balance of the R.S.19, and it showed when the German out-qualified Ricciardo, the first time the Australian has been beaten in qualifying at this track by a team mate in his career. Both made it into the top 10 to continue Renault's fight back against their midfield rivals McLaren, and the team will be confident of a double points finish tomorrow.
Nico Hulkenberg, 7th, 1:33.289
“I’m pleased with that today; my laps were clean and tidy, we progressed through the sessions well and deservedly qualified well inside the top ten. I’ve felt comfortable in the car since the beginning of the weekend and I’ve been driving well. It would have been nice to be ahead of Carlos [Sainz]. It was tight in the midfield again, but we’ll take it and fight tomorrow for some strong points. It was a decent day’s work.”
Daniel Ricciardo, 10th, 1:33.661
“I’ve not been that fast all weekend, so to get into Q3 was pretty good. That was our target and we got there. I had to use an extra set in Q1 and that meant I only had one new tyre run at the end of Q3 and it wasn’t quick enough to be higher than tenth. We’ll do better tomorrow; we’re in a position to take points and we’ll be working hard to do that. Credit to Nico for his qualifying, he’s been fast this weekend.”
Alan Permane, Sporting Director
“That was an exciting qualifying session and we’re happy to come away with both cars in the top ten. It’s very close in the midfield with a tenth here or there making a huge difference. The key thing was Nico progressing through Q1 on one set of tyres, meaning he had two new sets for Q3, which helped. Tomorrow should be a one-stop race and we’ll be aiming for it to be straightforward with both drivers scoring well.”
Grosjean showed the sort of form that has earned him a Haas seat for next season, beating his team mate in Q2 by four-tenths to make it to the top 10 shootout for the first time since the summer break. Magnussen made a mistake on his final flying run, but at least has the bonus of free tyre choice for tomorrow.
Romain Grosjean, 9th, 1:33.517
“It was a good qualifying session today. It was very difficult as the wind picked up a lot from FP3, that really put the balance off initially in the session. I was happy that we managed to finally get back into Q3. The balance was very different between some corners, maybe I need an adjustable front wing, that would help. But seriously, we know the hybrid car we’re running doesn’t really like the wind, it was always going to be a bit of a challenge. We’re just happy that we were competitive today. Race pace was encouraging, so I hope we get a good one tomorrow.”
Kevin Magnussen, 14th, 1:34.082
“It was a strong Q1, but then just messed it up in Q2 on my side, I lost it in seven and eight. I had very good pace in the car, so it’s a real bummer. I don’t know how the race will go. It looked good yesterday in terms of race pace, so we’ll see what we can do tomorrow.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“Not bad starting positions. We didn’t expect this, but we never expect anything. We’re pretty happy with these positions. We were happy to get into Q3 with Romain (Grosjean), who’ll start eighth now, and unfortunately Kevin (Magnussen) had a gust of wind at Turn 10 on his Q2 run otherwise I think he’d have made it into Q3 as well. At the moment we’re content with what we’ve got. We’ll try to have a good race tomorrow and hopefully we can bring some points home.”
Despite Sainz's predictions of a 'challenging' weekend for the team, Saturday went remarkably smoothly, with both drivers making Q3 for the second straight race. The Spaniard was the 'best of the rest' in sixth, which will become fifth after Verstappen serves his grid penalty. Norris wasn't as happy with his final lap after making a mistake, but nonetheless should be able to bring some points home if he can avoid any chaos at the start.
Carlos Sainz, 6th, 1:33.222
“Good day today! Improving every time we went on track and adapting to the circumstances. I couldn’t have done that lap without the help of the whole team. Thank you. To line up fifth tomorrow on the grid feels great after our initial struggles from yesterday. We managed to adapt, progress and find a way to recover from that, which shows we’re also doing a great job this year in understanding the car.
“I look forward to starting P5 tomorrow. I’m confident we’re capable of putting together a strong result. Congratulations to everyone today.”
Lando Norris, 8th, 1:33.301
“A good qualifying and a good starting position for tomorrow. I had a positive feeling throughout qualifying – the track was improving, as was my car. It was pretty good but I didn’t nail the lap as well as I did in Singapore because I wasn’t able to put it all together.
“But I’m still happy, despite making a small mistake on my final push lap in Q3 – starting P7 due to Max’s penalty is a good position. Big thanks to the team, here at the track and back in Woking, for giving me a really good car today after yesterday’s frustrations.”
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal
“Congratulations to the entire team for another very well-executed qualifying session today. Great drives from Carlos and Lando – they confirmed today what really great qualifiers they are, going through the whole session ending up no more than a tenth apart.
“We really struggled for pace on Friday, but the team here at the track, together with support from the factory, did a thorough analysis overnight and drew the right conclusions to get us back into the right window today.
“Thanks to their hard work we start P5 and P7 tomorrow, with an excellent opportunity to score good points in our Constructors’ Championship battle. I’m looking forward to an exciting race.”
Kvyat had a Friday to forget and in truth Saturday didn't go any better. He pulled over with engine issues in FP2 and wasn't seen again, with the team opting to change his PU ahead of the race. He will start from the back at the stewards' discretion. Gasly, though, showed that the STR14 has some pace to burn and at one point was best of the rest before a late mistake in Q2 cost him the chance to progress.
Daniil Kvyat, NC
“It hasn’t been a very smooth weekend so far, but the most important day is tomorrow. We knew we were going to start from the back but it’s still a shame to miss qualifying in my home race. These things happen, we just need to accept it and try to do our best tomorrow for a strong race. I never give in, there’s still a chance to save this weekend. I’m a bit short on mileage because of the issues I’ve had, but I know the track, so I’ll try and find a good rhythm in the race.”
Pierre Gasly, 11th, 1:33.950
“It was so close today! I’m really happy with the lap I did, we knew it would be difficult to make it into the top 10 and we tried everything we could. I think it was one of my best laps for Toro Rosso in Q2 on my first run. I knew that on the second run I really needed to risk it if I wanted to improve, but I couldn’t manage to do it. Every weekend we’re making a step and I think it was a positive qualifying. We will line up P16 with the engine penalty, but we still have free tyre choice, so we will see what we can do with the strategy. We’ll push flat out and hopefully we can come back through the field.”
Claudio Balestri, Chief Engineer – Vehicle Performance
“Mixed feelings today. On Dany’s side of the garage, we had an issue on the PU at the start of FP3 and we were forced to change it. As the process requires quite a lot of time and having to start already from the back of the grid due to a previous engine change penalty, we decided not to rush the job and skip qualifying – it wouldn’t have worsened our grid situation for tomorrow. As for Pierre, we were able to produce a good level of performance both in FP3 and Qualifying, especially in the first run of Q2. Unfortunately, that was not enough to progress to Q3. Due to the grid penalties, the race will not be an easy one, but the car showed some good pace during the long runs on Friday, so we will still try to do our best to score points tomorrow.”
Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director
“Verstappen starts ninth tomorrow and our other three will be further down the back of the grid. However, we still feel they can move up the order and have a good race. Kvyat, suffered a PU failure in FP3, so that we have had to change his PU again and he took no part in qualifying. We will now carry out a full investigation as to the cause.”
Perez was confined to the garage for much of final practice, which wasn't the ideal preparation. Yesterday the RP19 had looked solidly quick but they lacked pace in qualifying, with both drivers progressing to Q2 but no further. The Mexican did have the honour of out-qualifying his team mate for the 15th time in 16 races though.
Sergio Perez, 12th, 1:33.958
“We all expected a bit more today, especially with how tight the margins are here. We should have been in Q3, but when going into Turn 7 I hit the kerb harder than I should and lost some time there. It was very, very close and it’s a shame, but I’m very optimistic for tomorrow. We have a quick car and I think we have a good opportunity to score points.”
Lance Stroll, 15th, 1:34.233
“It started off well: I had the balance I was looking for in the first sector, through the medium-speed corners, and it was looking quite promising. Then, when I got to the high-speed Turn 7, I just turned in and lost the rear, I ran wide and it was really just downhill from there. You have a bad corner and that leads to two or three bad corners. That’s where the lap time was lost. It’s a shame because I wanted more today – the whole team did. It is going to sting a little, but I think we can bounce back tomorrow and use the strategy to challenge for points.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO
“Ultimately a disappointing session where we didn’t deliver on the promise we have shown in the lead up to qualifying. Both drivers made small errors on their final Q2 laps and missed the cut for Q3 as a result. The margins were incredibly close today in the middle of the pack and dropping a tenth of a second here and there proved costly. It means we’ve got a bit more work to do tomorrow to score points. The car has solid race pace – we’ve seen that during the long runs yesterday – but at the same time it’s tough to overtake here. We will think through the strategy options tonight and fight hard tomorrow to score points”
Alfa had looked slightly off the pace of their rivals throughout practice, and wound up towards the back of the field in qualifying. Raikkonen ran wide through the final corner which cost him a place in Q2 and thus he exited at the first time of asking for only the second time this year. Giovinazzi progressed at the expense of his team mate but could go no further and wound up 13th.
Kimi Raikkonen, 16th, 1:34.840
“It’s been a difficult weekend so far but I felt a lot better in qualifying. We made some big changes for this afternoon and improved the car quite a bit. I was improving my time, but unfortunately I made a small mistake, went wide in Turn 10 and lost all the speed on the back straight. That was it – I would have easily been in Q2 without that.”
Antonio Giovinazzi, 13th, 1:34.037
“I tried my best today but in the end we fell just a bit short of the top 10. Starting from P12 tomorrow [because of Gasly’s penalty] with the possibility to choose the tyres can be a small advantage. It’s hard to tell where we stand when it comes to race pace, but I hope we can be competitive tomorrow. Of course we wanted more coming into the session, but if we have a good start and a good strategy we can be in the fight for points. Nobody can predict what weather we’ll have tomorrow and if it starts to rain anything can happen. Having both cars in the top 10 is the objective but the key is to continue improving.”
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal
”It’s always a shame when you lose a car in Q1. It was a small mistake by Kimi, but that was enough to miss the cut, which shows how close the spread is in the midfield. In the end, we have to take the positives from the session: we were just 0.2s off P7 at the end of Q2, so we can expect a good battle in tomorrow’s race. Our long run pace looked ok in practice: if we keep our noses clean in the opening laps, we can be in the fight for points.“
Russell continued his qualifying dominance by beating his team mate once more. Kubica struggled, running wide and spin turning to rejoin the track. But with grid penalties looming, his lap time was largely redundant and he focussed more on race set-up today.
Robert Kubica, 18th, 1:36.474
"It’s always nice to drive new circuits. Most of the corners are quite similar to each other, they are very short so you must carry speed with good stability. Overall it is a challenging track, especially when you struggle with entry balance. It has been a difficult weekend so far, and I expect tomorrow to be the same."
George Russell, 17th, 1:35.356
"I think that was a good session. In Singapore we had a load of traffic on the out-lap. We planned to get out there ahead of the pack this time, but as soon as everyone else comes out of the pitlane it was a little bit too late for us, but it didn’t end up compromising us. It was just a bit frustrating, fighting guys ahead of us, fighting guys trying to overtake behind me. It was just a bit scrappy. Nevertheless, the lap was really good, and our pace was closer than we anticipated. We’re slowly making steps and we’re heading in the right direction."
Dave Robson, Senior Race Engineer
"By the start of FP3 the track had dried following overnight rain and the morning rain, which had been forecast earlier in the weekend, simply didn’t arrive. This allowed us to complete a normal FP3 programme during which we finalised our preparations for qualifying. The small changes to the car set-up and tyre preparation, which we implemented overnight, were effective and both drivers were happier than on Friday.
"Qualifying was slightly disrupted by a red flag, which caused us to alter our plans for the second runs. Robert was able to leave early when the session restarted and gave himself the chance to complete a run of three laps whilst George opted to wait in the garage and complete only a single lap. Both were able to set their best qualifying times on these runs.
"The starting grid will get a little reshuffled as grid penalties are applied but we are under no illusion that tomorrow will be difficult. However, it is a long race and it easy to make mistakes at this circuit and so we will look to have clean races, quick pitstops and a strong strategy."
Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing
"There's an intriguing strategic battle in store tomorrow, with Mercedes being the only team to select the medium tyre to set their fastest Q2 times. There was some overnight rain that reset the track for FP3 and qualifying, causing a bit of track evolution, but no further rain during the day. If the rain continues to hold off, we can expect a more stable track tomorrow, with a one-stopper being clearly the way forward. However, we're likely to see many different permutations of one-stopper, using all three available compounds. Sochi is not the easiest of circuits to overtake on, so we can expect a big tactical fight in the pits and on the track tomorrow."