The Sochi Autodrom looks to be tailor-made for the Mercedes team’s hybrid cars with the team holding a one hundred percent record of race wins since the inaugural Russian Grand Prix back in 2014. Today was also expected to bring the very best out of their W12, but the tricky conditions and mistakes from Lewis Hamilton led to an unusual starting order.
The last-minute switch from intermediate to slick tyres was a hectic and difficult one as drivers were finding it hard to get their tyres up to temperatures. McLaren’s Lando Norris, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and Williams’ George Russell mastered this challenge in the best possible way, which saw the trio occupy the first three starting positions for tomorrow’s Russian Grand Prix in this order.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
We’ll fix her up, LH. 🔧⚙️ Don’t you worry. 💪 pic.twitter.com/oSPr0ZVVlc
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) September 25, 2021
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.”
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.”
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.”
Today didn’t go as planned for Seb, but he’ll be ready to fight for points tomorrow. 👊
Debrief qualifying with #SV5 below.
— Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team (@AstonMartinF1) September 25, 2021
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.”
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.”