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Ferrari takes front row for F1 Russian Grand Prix

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Mercedes wanted some competition in Formula 1 in 2017, and it appears they have it. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel took his first pole of 2017 Saturday, edging out teammate Kimi Raikkonen who held the provisional pole until the final minutes of knockout qualifying, for Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix.  

It marks the first time since the French Grand Prix in 2008 that Ferrari has owned the front row, and the first time that a team other than Mercedes has won an F1 pole at the Sochi Autodrom.

Ferrari had led the practice sessions leading up to Saturday’s qualifying, but the opening round of qualifying belonged to Mercedes as Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton claimed the top two positions. In Q2, Bottas again led the way and it looked as though the day would belong to Mercedes.

It didn’t happen.  In Q3, first Raikkonen and then Vettel stepped up and grabbed the two top spots. After the first runs Raikkonen led with a lap of 1:33.253, three hundredths of a second ahead of Bottas. Vettel was third ahead.

The German corrected the errors in a final run, however. The four-time champion improved and jumped to P1. First across the line, he was then forced to wait as his rivals completed their laps.

“I knew it would be tight,” said Vettel of this 47th career pole position. “I immediately and asked about everybody else, ‘tell me about the others’. My race engineer Ricardo told me ‘they are closing the lap, they are closing the lap’. I said: ‘Yeah, let me know, let me know, how are the sectors, how are the split times?’ The first one I got was Valtteri who didn’t manage to improve and then when I got the message that we got it, I was over the moon.”

When the final runs were over and time had expired, Vettel was the only one of the top four to improve on his final run. Raikkonen finished second ahead of Bottas, while Lewis Hamilton had to settled for fourth, almost half a second behind his teammate.
 


Behind the Mercedes cars, Daniel Ricciardo was fifth for Red Bull Racing. As with the front four the Australian failed to improve on his opening Q3 run. His margin to rivals behind was good enough, however, to keep him at the front of row three. Teammate Max’s Verstappen’s opening-run time was not as secure, however, and in the last moments of the session, Williams’ Felipe Massa stole in with a lap of 1:35.110 to push the Dutchman to P7.

“I was actually very poor after Q2,” said Verstappen. “I had two sets [of tyres] in Q3, but I was already complaining in Q2 the last sector I was losing a lot of grip under braking into Turn 13, so I was losing the rear.

“And then you overheat the tires and everything gets worse and worse. And with the two sets in Q3 it got worse again.

“Normally with less fuel in the car you should do better, but I went slower so that’s not the way to go. And that results in this seventh on the grid.”

Verstappen will line up beside Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg on row four, while row five will feature the Force India’s of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon.

Eleventh place in the session went to Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz, with Williams Lance Stroll 13th ahead of the second Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat in P13. The three were separated by just two hundredths of a second. McLaren’s Fernando Alonso was the last man eliminated in Q2 in 15th.

Jolyon Palmer was 16th. The Renault driver crashed out at the end of Q1 when he caught too much of a kerb in Turn 4 and was pitched into the barriers on the opposite of the track. He was eliminated ahead of McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne, the Saubers of Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson and the second Haas of Romain Grosjean. Vandoore, though, will start from the back of the grid as he is due to take an engine-related grid penalty.
 

The pole for Vettel is his first since Singapore in 2015. Photo by LAT Photographic

2017 F1 Russian Grand Prix – Qualifying

1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:33.194s –

2 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:33.253s 0.059s

3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:33.289s 0.095s

4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:33.767s 0.573s

5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:34.905s 1.711s

6 Felipe Massa Williams 1:35.110s 1.916s

7 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:35.161s 1.967s

8 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:35.285s 2.091s

9 Sergio Perez Force India 1:35.337s 2.143s

10 Esteban Ocon Force India 1:35.430s 2.236s

11 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:35.948s –

12 Lance Stroll Williams 1:35.964s –

13 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:35.968s –

14 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:36.017s –

15 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:36.660s –

16 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:36.462s –

17 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber 1:37.332s –

18 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:37.507s –

19 Romain Grosjean Haas 1:37.620s –

20 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1:37.070s –

2017 F1 Russian Grand Prix – Official Qualifying Classification

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By Greg Engle

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