Nico Rosberg overcomes the various disruptions ahead of qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix to dominate proceedings at the Sochi Autodrom. Nico Rosberg will start from pole position for the second race in succession after a dominant performance in qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix saw him comfortably out-perform title rival Lewis Hamilton.
Following various disruptions in each practice session ahead of qualifying, there was no obvious front runner to anticipate as the session got underway, though it soon become clear in Q1 and Q2 that Mercedes would once again prove the dominant force.
Within that though it was Rosberg that would have the measure over Hamilton throughout the session, topping both Q1 and Q2 before going on to prove similarly impressive in Q3.
Putting three tenths between himself and Hamilton with his first Q3 run, Rosberg’s pole position would be assured when the championship leader out-braked himself and ran wide at turn 13 on his final effort, forcing him to abort the lap.
As such, it is Rosberg that will get away from pole in Russia for the second consecutive year as he heads into the race looking to make in-roads into the 48 point margin between himself and Hamilton with just five races to go.
In a repeat of the top three from Japan, Valtteri Bottas will start third for Williams, getting the better of the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel – who also ran wide at turn 13 on his final lap – by less than a tenth, while Kimi Raikkonen rounds out the top five a further four tenths back.
A strong session for the Mercedes-powered contingent, Force India will get away from sixth and seventh, Nico Hulkenberg marginally getting the edge on Sergio Perez by four hundredths, while Romain Grosjean followed his ‘Mercedes family members’ in eighth for Lotus.
Completing the top ten, Max Verstappen flew the flag for Toro Rosso in Carlos Sainz’s absence, the Spaniard unhurt in his high-speed FP3 crash, but set to remain in hospital overnight as a precaution. In the meantime, Verstappen brought some smiles to the embattled team by not only cracking the top ten, but out-qualifying both Red Bulls.
Indeed, with Daniel Ricciardo in tenth, home hero Daniil Kvyat was a surprise absentee from Q3, the local hero – who put his Toro Rosso fifth on the grid in Sochi last year – getting crossed up on his final lap at turn 13 to leave him a tenth shy of Red Bull stablemate Verstappen and out of contention earlier than expected.
Behind him, Felipe Nasr produced a respectable qualifying performance to place his Sauber 12th, while Jenson Button was also a creditable 13th in the McLaren-Honda for his best qualifying effort since Monaco.
By contrast, Pastor Maldonado was out-qualified by his Lotus team-mate Grosjean for the 14th time in 15 races in 14th, while Felipe Massa blamed traffic for him also failing to make it through to Q3, the Brazilian left in a season-worst 15th.
Already destined to start his 250th grand prix from the back of the field after landing 35-positions worth of grid penalties for power unit changes, Fernando Alonso failed to make it past Q1 anyway after being squeezed out by a late improvement from Nasr.
The McLaren driver was joined in the drop zone by Marcus Ericsson in 17th, while Will Stevens out-qualified his returning Manor team-mate Roberto Merhi, who also has grid penalties for a power unit change. Following his earlier crash, Sainz will start 20th and last if he is permitted to compete.