What the teams said – Qualifying in Russia
Norris excelled in the wet in qualifying back at Spa, so it was no surprise to see him on strong form here. He looked the most likely to push the Mercedes boys close, but when it came to it, Norris timed his swap to the soft tyres much better and laid it all on the line for his last flying lap. It was a high risk, high reward strategy that paid off, with the youngster grabbing a maiden pole position by a considerable margin. As for Ricciardo, he did well to make Q3 but might be left slightly disappointed to be so far off the pace of his team mate.
Daniel Ricciardo, 5th, 1:44.156
"I’m glad we got to get the session done – who would’ve thought we’d finish on slicks when there was a chance of not even doing qualifying today! So, it was fun. It was actually really fun! We enjoyed it. Congrats to Lando on his first pole, and to the team – to keep the momentum of Monza is really cool. So, everyone is really upbeat. From a position point of view, I’m okay with fifth. I think it obviously puts us in good shape for tomorrow. Those conditions today were so hit and miss, you could gain or lose time so easily. There were certainly a few corners that bit me, but it’s all good. We learn from it. I’m pretty pleased. Congrats to the whole team – it was exciting, it was fun and now let’s keep the train going!”
Lando Norris, 1st, 1:41.993
"Obviously I’m very happy – probably the happiest I’ve been in F1! My first pole position in Formula 1 and in some pretty tricky conditions. It was very tough out there, a lot of risks taken, a lot of times I thought I could've ended up in the wall – but it all paid-off and was worth it. Thanks to the whole team for giving me a great car today. It's an amazing feeling to get pole and something I’ve always dreamed of since I was a kid. So now I can finally tick that off, and hopefully tomorrow we can just go for another strong result."
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal
“Lando’s first pole position, our first pole position since 2012 and Daniel qualifying P5 make this an excellent Saturday for our team. Congratulations to everybody at the track, back at the factory and our colleagues at Mercedes HPP, because that was an exceptionally challenging qualifying session, executed very well. All through the sessions, it was important to have the right tyres on the car, and the car in the right position on track. We judged that perfectly today and had two drivers who pulled it off when it mattered.
“We’re dedicating pole position to Mansour Ojjeh – today would have been his birthday – and looking forward to what should be another exciting Formula 1 race tomorrow. We have a competitive car and are in a great position to score good points.”
Leclerc did enough to make Q2 but didn’t run again, so he is set to line up P19 tomorrow alongside Verstappen, and will have to put that new power unit to good use if he wants to make his way back through the field. All eyes were on Sainz as the only Ferrari in the top 10 shootout, then, and on the intermediate tyres he looked there or thereabouts. But as one of the first to gamble and switch to softs, the Spaniard managed to negate the slippery conditions and nailed his final flying run to take a brilliant second position – his best ever start in F1.
Charles Leclerc, 15th, No time set in Q2
"The conditions today were not ones we experience very often during a season, but they are those with which, recently, we have struggled the most. So, despite knowing that we would start from the back row tomorrow, we decided it was a good opportunity to get out, rack up some mileage and learn for the future. I think we achieved that goal today.
"I really enjoyed driving, as the track had very high grip in the rain and we were quite competitive right from the start. That was good to see. I’m happy for the team and Carlos for the good result today and we will both give it our all in the race."
Carlos Sainz, 2nd, 1:42.510
"It’s been a tough quali session but I’m proud how we managed the situation to end up putting a great lap together for P2. I like these tricky conditions and I really enjoyed that last attempt on the slicks. We were one of the first ones to cross the line and the wait until P2 was confirmed was tense, as the track was drying quickly! Front row for tomorrow is a good result, and I’m happy, but I would have preferred to keep pole!
"Tomorrow it’s very likely to be dry and we had a decent pace yesterday. Graining on the front tyres will be challenging but I will give it all from the very first lap until the end. Congrats to Lando on his first pole! It’s good to start beside him."
Laurent Mekies, Racing Director
"A very closely contested qualifying, run in very tricky track conditions, ended with one of our drivers on the front row of the grid. Carlos did a very good job on his final lap on dry tyres, as it really wasn’t easy to find the right feeling in these conditions. The team worked well with the driver, making the right choices at the right time.
"Charles’ qualifying was obviously conditioned by the fact that, because of his penalty, he will start from the back of the grid. The choice we made comes at a heavy cost for now, but it will pay off in the coming races. We decided he should at least go out in Q1 so he could check the handling of his car in the wet and in fact Charles was very competitive. Tomorrow we will start from opposite ends of the grid with Carlos on the front row and Charles on the last one. As usual, our aim is to get the best possible result, trying to make the most of any opportunity that comes our way."
The wet conditions had Russell’s name written all over them with his exploits in Spa still fresh in the memory. He languished down the order in both Q1 and Q2, only making the top 10 shootout by the skin of his teeth. But once there, he gambled and switched to the soft tyres first without setting a banker time on the intermediate rubber. It was a gamble that paid off, with his tyres up to temperature quickest and able to be utilised for a brilliant third on the grid. As for Latifi, he made Q2 with ease but having taken on a new PU, is set to start from the back tomorrow.
George Russell, 3rd, 1:42.983
"P3 is an incredible result and the team did an amazing job once again. We’re riding a wave at the moment and it feels pretty great! It’s high risk and high reward in situations like these but I knew it would be slicks for the end of the session. I managed to get the tyres in a good window and was building up to the limit to give it everything I had on the last lap.
"Many people have said in the past that third is the best place to start in Sochi. I won’t be doing anything crazy but if there’s an opportunity there tomorrow I’ll go for it. It’s going to be a very tricky race but I’ll be defending hard and picking my battles. We’ve got to look forward but also be realistic as we’ve got some very fast cars behind us. It’s not going to be easy but I will be doing my best."
Nicholas Latifi, 14th, No time set in Q2
"The pace felt very strong today. You never know how well you’ll be able to switch on the tyres in the wet weather, but when I first hit the brakes I could tell the grip was there and it felt good, which clearly wasn’t the case for everyone. Even on a track that was constantly improving, the lap I set in the middle of Q1 was enough to get me through to Q2. Seeing what was possible in Q1 makes it more frustrating to be starting from the back of the grid due to the Power Unit change, but that’s racing sometimes. I’ll be pushing hard tomorrow to make up as many positions as I can in the race."
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance
"The weather dominated today as we had all expected. We were happy with what we had done yesterday so didn’t lose too much by FP3 being a washout.
"With qualifying taking place in damp conditions we were in a similar position to Spa with little to lose and a lot to gain. Both drivers were outstanding throughout, with Nicholas in particular excelling in the difficult conditions of Q1. He was quick throughout and did a great job. Unfortunately, we had to replace his Power Unit overnight and so he will now start the race from the back of the grid. We therefore opted to let him run in Q1 as it gains him valuable experience in these conditions and increased the pressure on our rivals, but in Q2 we decided not to risk the car further. It is a massive shame for Nicholas and his car crew that he couldn’t get the most out of his excellent pace today, but he still starts the race tomorrow with a decent car and an opportunity to make good progress. His excellent pace was good reward for the huge effort that his mechanics put in to rebuild his car with the new PU last night. They didn’t get the grid slot that they deserved, but the pace was there, and they can take great pride from that.
"George had a slightly more precarious transit to Q2, but once there he did an excellent job to make the most of the situation. The car was working well, and he bided his time and was cool throughout. Although we were confident that slicks were the right tyre for the closing stages of Q3, he was instrumental in supporting the decision and recognising that it was the last lap that would be the key lap. As in Spa, we were happy to put everything into one final lap in the best conditions and again it paid off. Tomorrow will be tough in the dry as we have many quicker cars starting behind. However, the car was working quite well at high fuel on Friday and we have a good opportunity to fight with the McLaren and Ferrari; holding on to a top three place will be very difficult, but we are going to give it a damn good go."
When qualifying began in wet conditions, it looked tailor-made for Hamilton to romp home with pole position. He looked comfortably quicker than the field on the intermediate tyres, and Bottas was doing a good job to stay in touch in second. But as the track dried, the team found themselves caught out and were the last to swap to soft tyres. Chaos ensued as Hamilton crashed on his way into the pit lane, and had to be wheeled out of the way to allow Bottas to be fitted with new tyres. Eventually the reigning world champion made it back out with a new front wing but was under pressure and spun off on his one flying lap. Bottas likewise struggled to warm up his tyres, which meant both tumbled down the timing sheets.
Lewis Hamilton, 4th, 1:44.050
"I made a mistake in the pit lane and I'm incredibly disappointed with that. Up until then, I was in the groove, I was in the zone and I am really sorry for all the team that are here and back at the factory because obviously that's not what you expect from a champion. It is what it is, and I'll do my best tomorrow to try and rectify it. At the end, it was so slippery when you don't have any temperature and without the time for that second push lap, we couldn't set the time of the guys ahead.
"Those cars up front have got good pace and it definitely won't be easy tomorrow. I'm just going to say my prayers and hope that our car can be fixed to be okay for tomorrow. These things are sent to try us, and as much as I feel terrible right now, I'll turn it into a positive and try to do the best we can. But we've got a Brit on pole which is great, so congrats to Lando."
Valtteri Bottas, 7th, 1:44.710
"Q1 and Q2 were going well, we seemed to be strong in the Inter conditions but in the end when it started to dry, we came in and obviously we were hopeful to get two timed laps. In the end, we only got one and couldn't get the tyres to work in one lap, it was too difficult to get the temperature into them. All the cars ahead of us got at least two laps and that was the issue. It's not great but nowhere near over yet, we have a strong car and I've had strong pace all weekend. At least I'm not starting from the back like in Monza so hopefully we'll be better and I can push on from P7."
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"There are situations like today that are just really unfortunate. You can't point to a mistake today - we were the first cars out in the session and found ourselves in a sequence where either we would have aborted our last two runs on the Intermediate tyre to get two Soft runs in or play it safe by finishing the lap, which is what we did. If you could turn back time, you'd maybe not go out first and wait a minute later but then you're into crystal ball reading.
"Even without Lewis' kiss on the wall we wouldn't have been able to do two laps on the Soft and it was definitely a lap two tyre today. With the second lap, I'm sure we would have been fast enough for the front row but with one lap, you have no chance of heating the tyre enough. Now we need to turn it around tomorrow, these things sometimes go against you but the important thing is how you react. Lewis is still in the hunt for the win, that's the target and Valtteri can go on the attack from P7, he's looked very strong all weekend."
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
"A frustrating end to a qualifying session where we'd been looking very strong throughout. The conditions were quite unusual in that was taking a long time to transition to dry. The intermediate was holding on well and not degrading and our plan in the final session was to set a time on the intermediates before swapping to dry tyres. Unfortunately, a single lap on the dry tyres wasn't enough to get it working so we got jumped by a number of cars at the finish. It was encouraging to see the car working well in the wet but we've left ourselves with more work to do tomorrow than we hoped. However, our pace on Friday was strong so anything is possible."
It was a strong qualifying for Alpine, with both drivers making the top 10 shootout at the expense of their AlphaTauri rivals. Once there Alonso left it late to set a time on the soft tyre, but managed a brilliant sixth for his best qualifying of the season. Ocon might be somewhat disappointed with P10 considering how well he normally goes in the wet, the drying conditions not helping his cause in the last few moments.
Esteban Ocon, 10th, 1:45.865
“I’m a bit frustrated with today’s qualifying as we weren’t able to optimise Q3 in the changing conditions. Ultimately, we didn’t put the right tyres on at the right time in Q3 and we missed out on two attempts on softs at the end. There was definitely potential for more than tenth today as I like these sessions in challenging conditions. On a positive, we have both cars starting in the top 10 and it’s not a bad starting position to be in. Tomorrow looks dry, but whatever the conditions, we will be ready.”
Fernando Alonso, 6th, 1:44.204
“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.”
Davide Brivio, Racing Director
“At the end we have come out of a difficult qualifying with both cars in Q3 inside the top 10, which is a positive. We had the potential to be a little bit higher up as Fernando made a small mistake on the last lap, which cost him some time, and Esteban needed one more lap on the dry tyres right at the end of the session. All the same we are in good shape for tomorrow, when the conditions will be very different, hopefully dry, so we can consolidate our points-scoring run of 13 races.”
It was a mixed bag for Aston Martin, with Vettel looking the stronger of the two so far this weekend. But the German was left disappointed when he missed out on Q3 by a slender margin, leaving Stroll as their sole representative. The Canadian had been left frustrated by traffic on his earlier runs but in Q3 managed to get a cleaner run in, with eighth the best he could manage as the track dried.
Sebastian Vettel, 11th, 1:46.573
“We definitely had the potential to have a much better result today. I think we had the pace to easily progress to Q3, but I had traffic on my final run [from Yuki Tsunoda] and I just missed out. I am annoyed with myself because I should have put in a better time the lap before as well. It means we are starting on the edge of the top 10 and unfortunately overtaking is not so easy here.”
Lance Stroll, 8th, 1:44.956
“I am happy that we made it into Q3 and P8 is a good starting position to fight for points tomorrow. We made a decent step forward compared to yesterday and the team did a good job in challenging conditions. I do think there was more on the table on the last lap, though. What affected the lap most was traffic in the last sector [caused by Sergio Perez] and my lap time was hurt under braking into Turns 13, 14 and 15. I also had issues with Daniel [Ricciardo] getting in my way in Q1. It was a bit frustrating, but we will look ahead to tomorrow now. It is a long run to the first braking point here and there is a lot of slipstreaming, so let us see what happens on Sunday.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO
“Lance did a superb job to qualify eighth but, had he not lost a significant amount of time behind Checo [Perez] in sector three on his fastest Q3 lap, he would have qualified fourth. That is frustrating, but it shows the pace of our car and the brilliance of Lance in changeable weather conditions. He will be aiming to bag a lot of points tomorrow. In Q2, Sebastian, too, was hindered by traffic – [Yuki] Tsunoda this time – and the result was that he failed to get through to Q3 by the tiny margin of just 0.05sec. But he will start the race from the clean side of the track and, like Lance, he will be aiming to score points tomorrow.”
Verstappen was always unlikely to take much part in proceedings due to his grid penalties, and the Dutchman parked up after a couple of installation laps and so starts last. Perez therefore flew the flag for Red Bull, and made it into Q3. He looked more and more comfortable on the intermediate tyres but couldn’t adjust to the softs quickly at the end of the segment. Failing to improve his time, he starts ninth.
Max Verstappen, 20th, No time set in Q1
“We decided not to do too many laps in qualifying as the risk of having a moment or an accident would not be worth it, especially as I’m starting from the back of the grid tomorrow. The track conditions were fine and there was good grip, I think it will be similar conditions during the race. The Team did a great job and I’m confident that we made a good decision about how we set up the car. Looking ahead to tomorrow, it’s always tricky as naturally the midfield will be a bit closer but it will be important to go out there and score as many points as possible, we’ll do our very best. Hopefully we can have a fun race!”
Sergio Perez, 9th, 1:45.337
“Things were looking really promising and we had a strong Q1 and Q2. But in the changing weather and track conditions, timing is important and in hindsight we probably could have tried slick tyres one lap earlier. As we know anything can happen in the race and a positive to take from today is that the car was performing very well in the wet. We are going to move positively into Sunday and the main target will be to get a strong start and then put together the best possible race.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“Obviously we knew Max was going to be starting from the back of the grid and with today’s tricky qualifying conditions, the reward wasn’t worth the risk. So it was just about making sure everything was ready for him tomorrow. Checo will be disappointed to be starting from 9th position, a small mistake on his warmup lap on the slicks in Q3 meant he struggled to generate heat in the tyres and unfortunately missed out on being further up the field. The grid isn’t one anyone would have predicted coming into this weekend, and with dry weather forecast for tomorrow on a track where you can overtake, we could see even more overtaking and a very interesting race.”
Gasly had looked to be mixing it with the front of the field as he so often does in qualifying, running third for much of Q1. But as the track improved late on in Q2, he found himself short of rubber and tumbled out of contention, with his frustration evident as he left the AlphaTauri garage. As for Tsunoda, making it out of Q1 in tricky conditions was a good start, and he can’t be too upset with P13 and his best starting slot since Austria.
Pierre Gasly, 12th, 1:46.641
“I don’t have too much to say right now, I think we had the pace to easily make it through to Q3, so I’m obviously frustrated. In Q1 I was really fast in these conditions, I felt comfortable in the car and could push straight away. However, for Q2 I stayed out on just one set of tyres, that were completely used by the end of the session. I think this was a big mistake from our side, but I will have to speak to the team to understand more about what happened today. It’s a missed opportunity not making it through to Q3, but we now need to look forward to tomorrow and see what we can do to make up lost ground.”
Yuki Tsunoda, 13th, 1:46.751
“I’m fairly pleased with today, I made it through to Q2 which is a step-up for me, particularly after yesterday. My mechanics worked hard last night to get the car in a better position coming into qualifying today and I felt a bit more confident in the car. Obviously, the conditions were completely different to yesterday’s sessions, but we’ll hopefully see more improvements tomorrow, in dry conditions.”
Claudio Balestri, Chief Engineer - Vehicle Performance
“We knew today was going to be rainy, so we tried to prepare in the best way possible. The morning session was cancelled, which was not ideal, so our first time out in wet conditions was qualifying. In Q1 we decided to use the inters and stay out for the whole session with just one set. It was the right strategy, used by most of the teams, and we made it through to Q2 with both cars. The track was drying quickly, and the tyres suffered a bit more than the first quali session, so we decided to pit Yuki to fit a new set of inters. With Pierre we decided to stay out, unfortunately it didn’t pay off, and he couldn’t make it to Q3. We cannot be satisfied, as there was a good opportunity today to start from a good grid position, especially with Pierre. We can’t change today’s result, so we need to simply focus our attention on the race and move forward as much as we can.”
Giovinazzi was the first to have a moment in Q1, spinning and nearly collecting a startled Leclerc. The Italian was able to get going again having kept out of the barriers, but fell at the first time of asking. So did his team mate, Raikkonen unable to extract much pace from the C41 on his return to action. Both will move forward when grid penalties are applied though.
Kimi Raikkonen, 16th, 1:49.586
“The conditions weren’t too bad out there but we lacked a bit of grip. The balance of the car was okay, but we were just on the edge all the time – and when that goes over the limit, it goes quickly. The more lap we did the better it got, but in the end we just couldn’t get more out of it. We’ll try our best tomorrow and see where we can end up.”
Antonio Giovinazzi, 18th, 1:51.023
“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.”
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal
“We were very close to a place in Q2 with Kimi but unfortunately, we missed out. The cancellation of FP3 meant we went straight into qualifying. We were on intermediate tyres, like all our rivals, but in the end we missed just that little bit more to make it past the first segment of qualifying. We’ll see what the weather looks like tomorrow: we have a long race ahead of us and hopefully we can make up some ground towards the top ten.”
Schumacher had been playing bridesmaid to Mazepin all weekend, and looked well off the pace of his team mate in Q1. But on his last run, the German was able to take advantage of the evolving track to shave seconds off his best time and jump up to P17. The Russian couldn’t do likewise, and will race at the stewards’ discretion after just missing the 107% cut off time.
Mick Schumacher, 17th, 1:49.830
“I was hoping for maybe a secret Q2 appearance, that would’ve been great. The lap felt okay - I think there were maybe a few mistakes – maybe two or three tenths in it, but that wouldn’t have been enough to go to Q2, but at least we’re close. A bit frustrated but very happy on the other side and I think we as a team did a great job. I love it, they’re the best conditions honestly. You get thrown into the cold water and essentially if you’re the fastest to find your way around the track, you will be the fastest on track. I’ve always enjoyed it, even in the past and hopefully we’ll have some rain tomorrow.”
Nikita Mazepin, 19th, 1:53.764
“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.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“It’s actually good that in the end we got in qualifying today so we ran our program and tomorrow morning we can focus on the race. I think qualifying was quite – I wouldn’t say difficult – it was somehow straightforward. We went out on inters, we just tried to do the best we could and tried to get the best out of it.”
Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing
"Qualifying was tricky, with a low-grip surface that took a long time to dry and made it difficult to determine the crossover point, until right at the end of Q3 when it was finally dry enough for slicks. Tomorrow's conditions look set to be dry, meaning that teams will have to rely on the data accumulated on Friday, with one session less of running compared to usual. All drivers will have a free choice of tyres at the start, which means that they should be able to run the optimal one-stop strategy. With some fast drivers starting from the back, who might try something different, plus a slightly different top three on the grid, it should be a very intriguing race."