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Qualifying analysis - so near, yet so far for Bottas and Williams

11 Oct 2014

Yet again it was Valtteri Bottas in the Williams who represented Mercedes’ greatest challenge in qualifying in Sochi, where the track’s grip and smoothness ensured minimal tyre degradation.

As a result, one-stop strategies look like a distinct possibility for Sunday’s race, especially as the narrowness of the pit lane has led the FIA to reduce the speed limit there to 60km/h. We take a team-by-team look at Saturday’s form in Russia…

Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton, 1m 38.513s, P1

Nico Rosberg, 1m 38.713s, P2

No problems for either Mercedes driver today, as they wrapped up the front of the grid in style, but it might have been different if Bottas hadn’t gone off at the last corner on his final run. Hamilton was delighted with his seventh pole of the season; Rosberg was philosophical about being unable to make up the two-tenths of a second that he has needed all weekend to handle his team mate.

Williams

Valtteri Bottas, 1m 38.920s, P3

Felipe Massa, 1m 43.064s, P18

It was a bittersweet day for Williams, as Bottas battled the Mercedes for pole and might have dislodged at least one of them. He had set purple times in the first two sectors, but felt that he might have taken too much out of his tyres early in the lap, which would explain why he ran wide exiting the final corner. Poor Massa was doomed when a fuel pressure problem - and possibly an engine problem too - prevented his FW36 from running properly in Q1. He’ll start 18th and will need all the straight-line speed he can muster.

McLaren

Jenson Button, 1m 39.121s, P4

Kevin Magnussen, 1m 39.629s, P6, will start P11

After some serious talking McLaren reverted the MP4-29s to the new aero configuration with which they had impressed on Friday, after poor performances with the standard set-up in FP3. That paid off as Button and Magnussen qualified fourth and sixth, but the Dane drops to 11th after needing a gearbox change after a driveshaft problem caused his stalled car to bring out the red flag in final practice.

Toro Rosso

Daniil Kvyat, 1m 39.277s, P5

Jean-Eric Vergne, 1m 40.020s, P10, will start P9

Kvyat was delighted to please his enthusiastic countrymen with fifth place on the grid - the best qualifying performance of his 16-round F1 career. Vergne, however, was very unhappy with his car in Q3, when he was unable to beat his Q2 time, and investigations are underway into where that speed went.

Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 39.635s, P7, will start P6

Sebastian Vettel, 1m 40.052s, P11, will start P10

Vettel said yesterday that the Sochi track wasn’t built for Red Bull, and he and Ricciardo struggled all day to get the front end of the RB10s to work. The result was seventh and 11th best times, but each moved up a place thanks to Magnussen’s grid penalty.

Ferrari

Fernando Alonso, 1m 39.709s, P8, will start P7

Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 39.771s, P9, will start P8

Ferrari had only one problem: the F14 Ts just weren’t quick enough. Alonso said he couldn’t pinpoint one area in which there was something evident that could be fixed, while Raikkonen said that though set-up changes had improved his car a lot, he was still fighting the front end in the final sector.

Force India

Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 40.058s, P12, will start P17

Sergio Perez, 1m 40.163s, P13, will start P12

Hulkenberg and Perez pretty much qualified where they expected to, though the latter felt that a couple of mistakes on his final Q2 lap cost him his chance of making Q3. Hulkenberg’s gearbox change dropped him from 12th to 17th, but in a race where single stops are expected together with possible fuel consumption dramas, he’s hopeful of getting into the points.

Sauber

Esteban Gutierrez, 1m 40.536s, P14, will start P13

Adrian Sutil, 1m 40.984s, P15, will start P14

Gutierrez lost time in FP3 with a software problem but got the lap he needed in Q2. Sutil, however, made a mistake on his, which he felt cost him his chance to start ahead of his team mate.

Lotus

Romain Grosjean, 1m 41.397s, P16, will start P15

Pastor Maldonado, 1m 43.205s, P20

Grosjean struggled for grip all day, while Maldonado lost all of FP3 because of an energy storage problem, and then had a power failure and a related gearbox problem in the afternoon. He carried a five-place grid penalty over from Japan after using his sixth engine of the season there, but could only take a one-place drop here. As penalties can’t be extended over more than two races, the remaining four get written off.

Caterham

Marcus Ericsson, 1m 42.648s, P17, will start P16

Kamui Kobayashi, 1m 43.166s, P19

Ericsson was delighted that his recent upswing in performance is continuing, and was happy with the way his qualifying went. Kobayashi said he was still learning the circuit, after missing out on FP1.

Marussia

Max Chilton, 1m 43.649s, P21

Chilton flew the flag bravely in the sole Marussia, but the team’s difficult weekend continued when he lost a lot of time in FP3 with a driveshaft problem. He also admitted that he missed the input and presence of his team mate.