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Qualifying analysis: Bottas the surprise package as Ferrari slip back

10 Oct 2015

Valtteri Bottas was at his superb best on Saturday in Sochi, wrestling his Williams onto the front of the second row, much to Ferrari's surprise. It wasn't all cheer for the team however, with Felipe Massa languishing down in 15th after a series of missteps. We take a team-by-team look at the formbook on Saturday in Russia...

Nico Rosberg, 1m 37.113s, P1
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 37.433s, P2

Despite Niki Lauda's concern that the return of Pirelli's supersoft tyre might upset Mercedes' equilibrium as it did in Singapore, Rosberg and Hamilton were once again in a class of their own in qualifying. The gap from Rosberg to Bottas and Vettel was eight-tenths of a second, and that said it all. This time the German was the one on form, as he had been in Suzuka, and he was happier with his car's balance than the Englishman was. Hamilton looked at one stage as if he was matching his team mate, but a mistake in Turn 13 put paid to that.

If Mercedes outscore Ferrari by three or more points tomorrow, they will secure a second consecutive constructors' crown.

Valtteri Bottas, 1m 37.912s, P3
Felipe Massa, 1m 39.895s, P15

Williams' form from Friday carried over as Bottas surprised Ferrari with his pace. The Finn was there all day, banging in consistent, fast laps on the track where he qualified third last year, and is feeling very confident ahead of Sunday's race. By contrast Massa had a lousy time. He made a mistake in Turn 8 on his first Q2 lap, then ran into traffic which sapped his rhythm. By the time he regained it, his tyres were past their best and he found himself trapped in P15. He too, however, believes he can recover a lot of ground in the race.

Sebastian Vettel, 1m 37.965s, P4
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 38.348s, P5

Qualifying was far from a disaster for Ferrari, but they had expected more. Vettel was one of the few to go quicker towards the end of their Q3 runs, albeit without improving his place, but there was a hint of desperation in Raikkonen's driving as his laps were untidy.

Force India
Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 38.659s, P6
Sergio Perez, 1m 38.691s, P7

This was a typically strong performance from Force India, with both Hulkenberg and Perez getting the job done with minimal fuss and setting themselves up for strong runs for points tomorrow.

Romain Grosjean, 1m 38.787s, P8
Pastor Maldonado, 1m 39.811s, P14

As usual, it was good and bad news for Lotus. The good news was yet another eye-catching qualifying performance from Grosjean which put them into Q3 and contention for points. The bad was that Maldonado spun in Turn 5 early in Q1, and then qualified only 14th after making it through to Q2.

Toro Rosso
Max Verstappen, 1m 38.924s, P9
Carlos Sainz, Did not participate

Sainz's accident inevitably coloured Toro Rosso's day, after the Spaniard lost control approaching Turn 13 in FP3 and crashed heavily. Mercifully he was unharmed, and is absolutely set on racing tomorrow if the medics and officials both consent. Verstappen carried the torch alone in qualifying, and fought his way through to ninth, Renault's leading runner.

Red Bull
Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 39.728s, P10
Daniil Kvyat, 1m 39.214s, P11

Both drivers felt that they did their best in trying circumstances on a circuit that doesn't particularly suit the RB11. Ricciardo felt he went in the wrong direction in Q3, while Kvyat said he only had time and tyres for one big push in Q2.

Felipe Nasr, 1m 39.323s, P12
Marcus Ericsson, 1m 40.660s, P17, will start P16

Nasr was happy with 12th place and believes he can fight for points in the race, but problems with the sensors on his second set of tyres in Q1 meant that Ericsson and his crew weren't sure of their temperatures. He struggled as a result, and failed to get out of Q1.

Jenson Button, 1m 39.763s, P13
Fernando Alonso, 1m 40.144s, P16, will start P19

Button said this was his best qualifying performance of the year. He was a tenth and a half off the top 10 in Q1, but when things cooled down he was three-tenths slower on fresher rubber. Nevertheless, the McLaren-Honda was a genuine 13th quickest on speed, without needing to benefit from the misfortune of others. Alonso's penalties for having a new engine and ancillaries were always going to put him to the back, so he restricted mileage deliberately. McLaren have several development parts on the car, which they will test in the race.

Will Stevens, 1m 43.693s, P18, will start P17
Roberto Merhi, 1m 43.804s, P19, will start P18

Both drivers made errors on their first Q1 laps, but Stevens got it all together nicely on his second. Having flat-spotted his first set of tyres, Merhi pushed hard on his second but said he thought a small mistake cost him three-tenths.