Hamilton suffers a late pit lane crash to leave the champion starting P4.
Following their incredible win at Monza, McLaren carried on their strong run as Lando Norris clinched his first-ever career pole position in a thrilling qualifying session in Sochi. Joining Norris on the front row will be his old teammate Carlos Sainz, who also starts a career best P2 ahead of George Russell, again impressing in the Williams.
Neither of these results would have been possible, though, had Lewis Hamilton not crashed into the pit wall entry in the final moments of Q3; that ate up precious time of the seven time world champion and denied him the chance to warm up his new tyres for his final lap. Hamilton starts P4 ahead of the other McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo. Fernando Alonso starts sixth in front of Valtteri Bottas, with Lance Stroll, Sergio Pérez, and Esteban Ocon rounding up the top 10.
Hamilton’s woes will be eased a bit, though, given that his championship rival Max Verstappen starts at the back of the grid, serving grid and engine penalties. Given the twisty nature of the track, overtaking will be difficult, and even though Hamilton missed out on pole, he certainly has the advantage going into Sunday. The Mercedes have been top of the timing charts throughout both the practice sessions and should be in the mix for the win or podium at least.
Thunderstorms and heavy rain washed out the final practice session, and the rain persisted throughout Q1, although it did dry up during the final two sessions. Bottas and Hamilton topped the timing charts in the first two qualifying sessions, but when it mattered most, Norris stepped up and showcased why he is a highly regarded driver on the grid.
Qualifying Session 1 – Eliminated – Kimi Räikkönen, Mick Schumacher, Antonio Giovinazzi, Nikita Mazepin and Max Verstappen
AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly got qualifying underway on a wet track on the Inters, and all the other drivers came out on the same tyre choice as well, except Fernando Alonso, who was on the Wets. Gasly went P1 with a 1:51.519s but was quickly displaced by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who went even quicker 1:50.292s. Gasly though, retook the top spot with a 1:49.219s.
Normal proceedings resumed once Lewis Hamilton got his first proper lap in and went to the top of the table with a 1:46.917s. He was comfortably a second quicker than his teammate Valtteri Bottas, who slotted in behind him at P2. As the drivers started their final flying laps, the Alfa Romeo pair and Haas pair in the bottom five with Max Verstappen, who decided not to put in any more laps as he will be starting from the back of the grid due to his grid and engine penalty. At the drop of the chequered flag, Kimi Räikkönen, Mick Schumacher, Antonio Giovinazzi, and Nikita Mazepin failed to make it into Q2.
Qualifying Session 2 – Eliminated – Sebastian Vettel, Pierre Gasly, Yuki Tsunoda, Nicholas Latifi, and Charles Leclerc
Pierre Gasly once again was the first on the track to get the second qualifying underway. He went top of the table with a 1:46.671s, although he thought he could’ve gone faster as the Frenchman complained to his team over the radio about minimal grip on a wet track.
It was Lewis Hamilton though who went P1 once he got his lap in, with a 1:46.096s but was quickly displaced by his teammate, who was flying through the sectors and put in an impressive 1:45.506s. With just under two minutes to go, it was the George Russell, Carlos Sainz and Yuki Tsunoda in the bottom five with Nicholas Latifi and Charles Leclerc, who like Verstappen, didn’t set a timing in Q2, given their upcoming engine penalties. Russell, though, managed to put in a solid banker lap to see himself through to Q3, but that left the Aston Martin of Sebastian Vettel and the AlphaTauri pair of Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda joining Latifi and Leclerc, to be eliminated from the second qualifying session.
Qualifying 3 – McLaren continue their rise!
The two Mercedes got the session underway with Hamilton leading the timing charts by six hundredths of a second from his teammate Bottas. Lando Norris put in a smashing lap to see himself sandwiched between the two Mercedes, going three one-thousandths faster than Bottas!
As the track dried, it was George Russell who was the first to switch to the Slicks. The rest of the field also followed but as Hamilton was coming into the pits for a change of tyres, the Brit hit the wall on the pit entry and needed a front wing change and the incident also ate up his quali time. Lando Norris made the most Hamilton’s misfortunes, putting in an incredible final flying lap to take his first ever pole position. Norris was followed by his former teammate Carlos Sainz at P2, and Williams’ George Russell showcased just why Mercedes have signed him for the next season, to start on the second row from P3, alongside his future teammate Lewis Hamilton who could only make it P4 after spinning on his final lap.
The Final Starting Grid