After a remarkable 1-2 at Monza, the McLaren garage had plenty more to celebrate after Norris’ heroics in Sochi qualifying.
It looked set to be a Mercedes front row lock out at Sochi, especially after Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas topped both practice sessions and the first two qualifying sessions.
The Silver Arrows are normally so dominant in Russia, but errors leave them further back. Hamilton starts 4th with Bottas in 7th. Hamilton’s pitlane crash cost the Mercs time, but they were unlikely to get that crucial second lap in on the slicks anyway. There’s plenty of work to be done tomorrow to capitalise on Max Verstappen starting from the back. Errors from the team’s strategy and then Hamilton meant they couldn’t fully capitalise on Max Verstappen’s penalty. Certainly a frustrating day for Toto Wolff and his team.
Qualifying was thrown into doubt, given the earlier downpour at Sochi, which saw Free Practice Three abandoned. Thankfully, the weather eased enough for qualifying to go ahead, with Q1 conditions forcing the drivers to use intermediate tyres.
Williams announced after Q2 that Nicholas Latifi would be taking a grid penalty for a fourth new power unit. They kept their cards close to their chest to give them an advantage over Chares Leclerc, as the Ferrari driver also has a fourth new power unit.
Max Verstappen Opts Against Completing Q1 Lap
Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen have both taken a fourth power unit of the season, along with Latifi, as all three will start from the back of the grid. Verstappen didn’t complete a lap in Q1 and Leclerc made it into Q2 so no time, and a three-place grid penalty will see Leclerc start just ahead of the Red Bull.
As per FP1/2, Mercedes continued the 1-2 pattern in Q1, with Lewis Hamilton finishing 0.404 seconds quicker than Valtteri Bottas, despite the Finn topping Friday’s practice sessions.
Sergio Perez had a scare at turn two, spinning and going over the kerb. Thankfully for the Mexican, he was able to avoid the wall and carry on in the session. He finished 3rd behind the Silver Arrows.
Kimi Raikkonen, Mick Schumacher, Antonio Giovinazzi, Nikita Mazepin and Max Verstappen didn’t make it out of Q1. The result means that Schumacher can’t be caught in the qualifying battle for the season against his teammate Mazepin.
Sebastian Vettel Misses Out On Top Ten Shootout
George Russell had looked good to make it into the top ten on previous laps, but the final sector was costing the Brit. On the final lap he managed to improve that final sector on a fresher set of tyres as he jumped into the top ten at the expense of Vettel. The Four-Time World Champion will have it all to do tomorrow. He was incredibly frustrated on his team radio afterwards!
Fernando Alonso managed to get up to third, ahead of Lando Norris and Sergio Perez. As per Q1, Hamilton took top spot ahead of Bottas.
Sebastian Vettel, Pierre Gasly, Yuki Tsunoda, Nicholas Latifi and Charles Leclerc didn’t make it into Q3. Latifi and Leclerc didn’t set a time.
Lando Norris Secures Maiden Pole After Lewis Hamilton Error
After initial banker laps on the intermediates, all ten drivers took to the pits to go for a run on the slicks. It all looked comfortable for Hamilton who had provisional pole. As he came into the pits for soft tyres, disaster struck. The Seven-Time World Champion hit the wall on the pit entry, breaking his front wing. It’s certainly an uncharacteristic error for a driver of his calibre. He had to move forward to allow Bottas to change onto slicks before a front wing change for car number 44.
There was still hope for Hamilton, as on the first laps on soft tyres, nobody could beat his time from the intermediates. However, as the drivers got heat into their tyres, the green sectors were coming. Carlos Sainz managed provisional pole before his former teammate Norris pipped him.
Only getting one lap on the soft tyres (while slowing to allow the flying lap drivers to pass) cost the Silver Arrows dearly. They couldn’t get the required heat into the tyres with just one lap, and ended up finishing 4th (Hamilton) and 7th (Bottas). Toto Wolff did confirm to Sky Sports F1 that even without Hamilton’s crash, they wouldn’t have had time for two laps anyway, given their track position after being first onto the track in Q3. He went on to say the aim for Hamilton is to win from 4th and Bottas to get onto the podium from 7th.
Lewis Hamilton took full responsibility in his Sky Sports interview. He claimed he felt ‘disappointed in himself’ and ‘terrible’ before congratulating Lando Norris on his maiden pole.
Special mention has to go to George Russell yet again! The Brit managed P3, an incredible achievement after he just scraped into Q3.
Lando Norris Maiden Pole Reaction
Speaking after the race, the McLaren driver was ecstatic: “It feels amazing. I don’t know what to say! You never think you’re going to get a pole until you actually do it, but here we are. I have to thank the team so much. It’s not really what we expected but we made the most of the opportunity.”
Carlos Sainz had the following to say: “Right after Q2 I could see that the slicks [tyres] could come into play. I put in a pretty strong lap. This weekend we’ve been looking a bit stronger. We will put on a fight [in the race] and try to have some fun.”
Completing the top three, George Russell was full of praise for his team: “It’s crazy [P3]. The team have done a great job, getting the strategy right and putting the right tyres on at the right time. Congratulations to Lando and to Carlos. We’re really looking forward to tomorrow’s race. We have nothing to lose.”
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 25, 2021
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