But heading into Qualifying, it would seem that Mercedes and Ferrari are looking like the teams to beat heading into the session that look set to gain Pole Position ahead of the race on Sunday. But McLaren, Toro Rosso or Force India may spring a surprise and throw a spanner into the works based on their early pace and promise within the Practice sessions.
Also it has been announced that Sebastian Vettel will take a five place grid penalty into the race on Sunday due to gearbox issues. To read further about this, please read my article here:- https://jonesonf1.wordpress.com/2016/05/01/vettel-to-receive-a-five-place-grid-penalty-for-the-russian-gp/.
Let the battle for Pole Position begin…
In Q1, Lewis Hamilton tops the timesheets with a time of 1.36.006, Nico Rosberg was second, Sebastian Vettel was third, Kimi Raikkonen was fourth and Valtteri Bottas was fifth. Felipe Massa, Carlos Sainz Jr, Fernando Alonso, Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo managed to get 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th places for their teams. At the end of Q1, we lose Kevin Magnussen, Jolyon Palmer, Felipe Nasr, Pascal Wehrlein, Rio Haryanto and Marcus Ericsson.
During Q1, we saw Lewis Hamilton under investigations by the stewards for failing to follow Race Director Charlie Whiting’s instructions going into Turn 2 where he took too much speed into the corner and didn’t rejoin the track where he should have.
In Q2, Rosberg tops the timesheets with a lap time of 1.35.337, Hamilton was second, Vettel was third, Raikkonen was fourth and Bottas was fifth. Massa, Perez, Verstappen, Ricciardo and Sainz Jr finish off the top ten finishers. At the end of Q2 we lost Sainz Jr, Button, Hulkenberg, Alonso, Grosjean and Gutierrez.
The battle for Pole Position is on…
With Hamilton looking very strong within Q1 and Q2, things then started to get worse for Hamilton. Before the start of Q3, it was announced by the Mercedes team that Hamilton would not take part in the session due to engine problems which turned out to be an MGU-UK problem that was the same problem that happened in Shanghai two weeks previously.
In Q3, Rosberg tops the timesheets and claims Pole Position for the Russian GP with a time of 1.35.417, Vettel was second and was 0.706 seconds behind Rosberg, Bottas was third and was 1.119 seconds behind Rosberg. Raikkonen was fourth 1.246 seconds behind, Massa was fifth 1.599 seconds behind, Ricciardo was sixth 1.708 seconds behind, Perez was seventh 1.795 seconds behind, Kvyat was in eighth 2.042 seconds behind, Verstappen was in ninth 2.166seconds behind and Hamilton rounded off the top ten finishers of the session.
It would seem that Mercedes genuinely has the pace to challenge for the race win again this weekend despite their form in Qualifying. Both of the Mercedes drivers seem to have the cars underneath them to do this and have been consistent and fast throughout every session so far this weekend; even if Hamilton has a challenge on his hands to get a result this weekend.
Let’s not forget that Vettel does have a five place grid penalty for changing his gearbox after problems in FP2 in Friday.
You cannot discount Raikkonen, Vettel or Bottas even to be challenging also for the race win and could also be the dark horses to take the win away from Mercedes (and also Ferrari in Mercedes’ case) that could see gaining some points on their rivals to kick start their Constructors Championship.
Ricciardo, Verstappen, Perez and Kvyat could also have a decent race tomorrow and pick up some much needed points for their respective teams. Will it rain today? I do not know. Who will win the Grand Prix on Sunday? I really don’t know.
Let’s see what happens tomorrow on the Shanghai circuit on race day today…