F1: Norris wins pole in Sochi over Sainz Jr.

After Daniel Ricciardo won for McLaren the last time out at Monza, his teammate Lando Norris put the #4 McLaren on pole for the Russian GP at Sochi in drying track conditions with a sensational lap.

With the dry line forming all 10 drivers in Q3 bolted on red soft tires, and while Lewis Hamilton choked and crashed, Lando Norris put up a lap of 1m41.993s to win pole by 0.517s over the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz Jr.

Lando Norris puts McLaren on pole!

It was the first ever F1 pole for Norris. “It feels amazing, I don’t know what to say. it was a manic session. Extremely happy, thanks to the team as well, they’ve done an amazing job. That crossover session, the lap before I was two seconds down and wasn’t very confident we could improve. I risked quite a bit and it paid off. ”

“Right from the beginning, a very tricky qualifying,” said Sainz Jr.

“We did a very good strategy, a pretty strong lap. Unfortunately, I was one of the first to cross the line, so I wasn’t able to exploit the track [improvements]. We will put on a fight and try and have some fun. Starting P2, the dirty side, it’s really penalizing.”

George Russell was 3rd quick for Williams 0.990s behind while Lewis Hamilton was 4th 2.057s off the pace from his Intermediate tire run.  But Hamilton choked badly when it counted. First he hit the pit wall on his way in for slicks and the team had to change his broken front wing.  Then he went out of slicks, ran out of talent, spun and hit the barriers.

The Mercedes team has to replace Hamilton’s broken wing.

“I mean it’s crazy, second time in the top three, the team have done an amazing job,” said Russell.

“There was one dry line and if you were just a centimeter wide, you were on the wet stuff and off. Yesterday our high fuel pace was one of our best of the year, so I’ve got to go for the podium again, nothing to lose.”

Daniel Ricciardo will start 5th in the 2nd McLaren.

While intermediates were the obvious tire of choice in Q1 and Q2, Russell was the first to gamble with the soft rubber in Q3. While he perhaps bolted it on moments too early, what he did do was spark a rush to the pits from the others. More cars circulating on the softs led to the dry line appearing just in time for the checkered flag and for those on a lap to see big improvements.

And it was the early adopters, who had got those tires up to temperature, that made it count. The last team to swap to slicks were Mercedes – and they paid the price.

Select Quotes

Dave Robson, Williams Head of Vehicle Performance: The weather dominated today, as we had all expected. We were happy with what we had done yesterday, so didn’t lose too much by FP3 being a washout.

With qualifying taking place in damp conditions we were in a similar position to Spa with little to lose and a lot to gain. Both drivers were outstanding throughout, with Nicholas in particular excelling in the difficult conditions of Q1. He was quick throughout and did a great job. Unfortunately, we had to replace his Power Unit overnight, and so he will now start the race from the back of the grid. We therefore opted to let him run in Q1 as it gains him valuable experience in these conditions and increased the pressure on our rivals, but in Q2 we decided not to risk the car further. It is a massive shame for Nicholas and his car crew that he couldn’t get the most out of his excellent pace today, but he still starts the race tomorrow with a decent car and an opportunity to make good progress. His excellent pace was good reward for the huge effort that his mechanics put in to rebuild his car with the new PU last night. They didn’t get the grid slot that they deserved, but the pace was there, and they can take great pride from that.

George had a slightly more precarious transit to Q2, but once there he did an excellent job to make the most of the situation. The car was working well, and he bided his time and was cool throughout. Although we were confident that slicks were the right tire for the closing stages of Q3, he was instrumental in supporting the decision and recognizing that it was the last lap that would be the key lap. As in Spa, we were happy to put everything into one final lap in the best conditions and again it paid off. Tomorrow will be tough in the dry as we have many quicker cars starting behind. However, the car was working quite well at high fuel on Friday, and we have a good opportunity to fight with the McLaren and Ferrari; holding on to a top three place will be very difficult, but we are going to give it a damn good go.

George Russell: 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 tires 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: The pace felt very strong today. You never know how well you’ll be able to switch on the tires 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
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 OK 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
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 tires 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.

Toto Wolff
There are situations like today that are just really unfortunate. You can’t point to a mistake today – we were the first cars out in the session and found ourselves in a sequence where either we would have aborted our last two runs on the Intermediate tire to get two Soft runs in or play it safe by finishing the lap, which is what we did. If you could turn back time, you’d maybe not go out first and wait a minute later, but then you’re into crystal ball reading.

Even without Lewis’ kiss on the wall we wouldn’t have been able to do two laps on the Soft, and it was definitely a lap two tire today. With the second lap, I’m sure we would have been fast enough for the front row but with one lap, you have no chance of heating the tire enough. Now we need to turn it around tomorrow, these things sometimes go against you, but the important thing is how you react. Lewis is still in the hunt for the win, that’s the target and Valtteri can go on the attack from P7, he’s looked very strong all weekend.

Andrew Shovlin
A frustrating end to a qualifying session where we’d been looking very strong throughout. The conditions were quite unusual in that was taking a long time to transition to dry. The intermediate was holding on well and not degrading and our plan in the final session was to set a time on the intermediates before swapping to dry tires. Unfortunately, a single lap on the dry tires wasn’t enough to get it working so we got jumped by a number of cars at the finish. It was encouraging to see the car working well in the wet, but we’ve left ourselves with more work to do tomorrow than we hoped. However, our pace on Friday was strong, so anything is possible.

Lance Stroll
“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.”

Sebastian Vettel
“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.”

Otmar Szafnauer, CEO & Team Principal
“Lance did a superb job to qualify eighth but, had he not lost a significant amount of time behind Checo [Perez] in sector three on his fastest Q3 lap, he would have qualified fourth. That is frustrating, but it shows the pace of our car and the brilliance of Lance in changeable weather conditions. He will be aiming to bag a lot of points tomorrow. In Q2, Sebastian, too, was hindered by traffic – [Yuki] Tsunoda this time – and the result was that he failed to get through to Q3 by the tiny margin of just 0.05sec. But he will start the race from the clean side of the track and, like Lance, he will be aiming to score points tomorrow.”

Pierre Gasly
“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 tires, 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
“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.”

Sergio Perez
“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 tires 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.”

Max Verstappen
“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!”
*Required to start tomorrow’s race from 20th following a power unit grid penalty

Christian Horner
“Obviously, we knew Max was going to be starting from the back of the grid and with today’s tricky qualifying conditions, the reward wasn’t worth the risk. So it was just about making sure everything was ready for him tomorrow. Checo will be disappointed to be starting from 9th position, a small mistake on his warm up lap on the slicks in Q3 meant he struggled to generate heat in the tires and unfortunately missed out on being further up the field. The grid isn’t one anyone would have predicted coming into this weekend, and with dry weather forecast for tomorrow on a track where you can overtake, we could see even more overtaking and a very interesting race.”

Qualifying Results

1 4 Lando Norris McLaren Mercedes 1:47.238 1:45.827 1:41.993 23
2 55 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:47.924 1:46.521 1:42.510 25
3 63 George Russell Williams Mercedes 1:48.303 1:46.435 1:42.983 26
4 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:45.992 1:45.129 1:44.050 24
5 3 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren Mercedes 1:48.345 1:46.361 1:44.156 23
6 14 Fernando Alonso Alpine Renault 1:47.877 1:45.514 1:44.204 25
7 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:46.396 1:45.306 1:44.710 24
8 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin Mercedes 1:48.322 1:46.360 1:44.956 23
9 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing Honda 1:46.455 1:45.834 1:45.337 24
10 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine Renault 1:48.099 1:46.070 1:45.865 25
11 5 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin Mercedes 1:47.205 1:46.573 18
12 10 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri Honda 1:47.828 1:46.641 18
13 22 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri Honda 1:48.854 1:46.751 20
14 6 Nicholas Latifi Williams Mercedes 1:48.252 12
15 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:48.470 10
16 7 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari 1:49.586 10
17 47 Mick Schumacher Haas Ferrari 1:49.830 10
18 99 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari 1:51.023 9
19 9 Nikita Mazepin Haas Ferrari 1:53.764 10
20 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing Honda 2


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