The Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen took fourth and fifth, followed by the Force Indias of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez. Lotus’s Romain Grosjean, Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo completed the top ten.
Rosberg was in electric form from the off, heading the times in Q1 with 1m 38.343s on the soft tyres. Bottas jumped ahead of Hamilton right at the end of the opening segment, but the Finn was on supersofts; the Englishman on softs. On supersofts, Vettel was fourth, but further back, Fernando Alonso and McLaren opted to save his new Honda engine given his upcoming grid penalty, so his best lap of 1m 40.144s left him 16th.
Behind the Spaniard, Marcus Ericsson could only manage 1m 40.660s for Sauber, as Will Stevens narrowly beat Marussia team mate Roberto Merhi, 1m 43.693s to 1m 43.804s. Carlos Sainz, of course, did not participate for Toro Rosso following his crash in FP3, but it was confirmed during the session that he sustained no injuries and hopes to compete in Sunday’s race. Should he be allowed, he’ll have to start from the pit lane.
Hamilton’s car lost telemetry at the start of Q2, but Rosberg had to use a new set of supersofts to pip him to fastest time of 1m 37.500s, as Bottas headed the Ferraris in third place.
To the home crowd’s disappointment, Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat just failed to dislodge stablemate Verstappen from 10th place as his 1m 39.214s left him 11th ahead of Felipe Nasr’s Sauber on 1m 39.323s, Jenson Button’s McLaren on 1m 39.763s, Pastor Maldonado’s Lotus on 1m 39.811s, and Felipe Massa on 1m 39.895s. The session was a disaster for the Williams driver, who spoiled one lap with a mistake at Turn 8, then had another ruined by traffic. By the time he got back into his rhythm, his tyres were done.
Once Sergio Perez had set the initial pace for Force India on used supersofts in Q3 with 1m 38.691s, Raikkonen (1m 38.348s), Vettel (1m 38.160s) and Bottas (1m 37.912s) all had turns at the top on new rubber before Rosberg’s 1m 37.113s lap put him ahead. Hamilton’s response was 1m 37.433s, leaving him a relatively distant second.
With track temperatures dwindling, both Mercedes drivers opted to stay out rather than pitting for fresh rubber, but neither could improve, with Hamilton making a mistake in the middle sector before diving straight back into the pits. The battle for pole thus ended in something of an anti-climax.
A wild lap from Raikkonen failed to generate improvement, and Bottas couldn’t go quicker either, but Vettel did manage to trim his time to 1m 37.965s. That, however, kept him in fourth.
Behind the top five, Hulkenberg took sixth for Force India with 1m 38.659s ahead of team mate Perez on 1m 38.691s, Grosjean on 1m 38.7887s, Verstappen on 1m 38.924s and Ricciardo on 1m 39.728s.
With engine-change penalties for Alonso (35 grid places) and Merhi (20 places), the provisional grid will line up thus: Rosberg, Hamilton; Bottas, Vettel; Raikkonen, Hulkenberg; Perez, Grosjean; Verstappen, Ricciardo; Kvyat, Nasr; Button, Maldonado; Massa, Ericsson; Stevens, Merhi; Alonso. As mentioned, it remains to be seen whether Sainz is able to start.
Watch: Nico Rosberg's pole-position lap in Russia
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