Russian Grand Prix 2017 - qualifying: Sebastian Vettel takes pole, while Lewis Hamilton starts in fourth

Natasha Henry
Sebastian Vettel (centre) celebrates his pole position in Russia with Valtteri Bottas (left) and Kimi Raikkonen (right) - REUTERS

Lewis Hamilton will have it all to do to win Sunday's Russian Grand Prix as he qualified only fourth while title rival Sebastian Vettel secured his first pole position in nearly two years.

Championship leader Vettel, who heads Hamilton by seven points in the title race, ended Mercedes' streak of 18 consecutive poles with a brilliant final lap following a nail-biting session here at the Sochi Autodrom.

Vettel heads an all-Ferrari front row with Kimi Raikkonen second on the grid and Valtteri Bottas third. Hamilton, mysteriously off-colour for much of the weekend here, was more than half a second behind Vettel, who celebrated his pole in raucous fashion over the team radio.

The last time Vettel started from pole was at the Singapore Grand Prix back in 2015, but his and Ferrari's pace in Russia so far this weekend would appear to point towards a changing of the guard, with Hamilton's Mercedes team having dominated the sport for the past three seasons.

Indeed Mercedes have a great record in these parts having won all of the three grands prix staged here while leading every lap. But they, and in particular Hamilton, have struggled for form, with Ferrari now only cementing their status as real challengers for both the drivers' and constructors' crown.

Hamilton was nearly six tenths of a second behind Vettel, and almost half-a-second down on Bottas. His sluggish pace was greeted by crossed arms from Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda in the Mercedes garage, with the latter puffing out his cheeks and shaking his head.

For Vettel he was jubilant to seal his 47th career pole.

"It is a very good result and I am sure everyone is happy and very proud," he said.

"The car was phenomenal this afternoon and it was a real pleasure to take the car around on low fuel and drive it to the limit."

British driver Jolyon Palmer is in desperate need of a strong weekend after a troubled start to the new season, but he had another day to forget here.

Palmer's Renault mechanics worked through the night to replace his chassis after an exhaust issue was detected in practice on Friday.

Can Lewis Hamilton win from fourth of the grid in Russia? Credit: ALEXANDER NEMENOV /AFP

He then completed just four laps this morning following an engine failure, before he crashed out of qualifying to complete a torrid 24 hours.

The 26-year-old from Horsham, bidding to haul his car into Q2, ran over the kerbs on the entry to turn four before he lost control of his car and thudded the tyre barrier on the opposing side of the circuit.

Palmer walked away from the incident and is set to start 16th, but his Renault team face yet another repair job following the damage sustained to the front of his car.

And to make matters worse for Palmer his team-mate Nico Hulkenberg, new to Renault this year, qualified an impressive eighth.

F1 race calendar: All the scheduled Grands Prix in the 2017 Formula One championship

Elsewhere, Daniel Ricciardo will line up in fifth for Red Bull, with Williams driver Felipe Massa sixth. Fernando Alonso, yet to make it to the end of a race this season, is only a lowly 15th, while his McLaren team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne is two spots further back on the grid.

Bernie Ecclestone, integral in bringing Formula One to Russia, was back in the paddock for the second race in succession in his so-called role as chairman emeritus.

The 86-year-old, here with his wife Fabiana, watched qualifying with Russian dignitaries. Ecclestone wore a white jacket with the Russian flag on one arm and his name embroided on the other.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will be a guest of honour for tomorrow's race.

Final positions after qualifying:

1. Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari

2. Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari

3. Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes

4. Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes

5. Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull - TAG Heuer

6. Felipe Massa (Bra) Williams-Mercedes

7. Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull - TAG Heuer

8. Nico Huelkenberg (Ger) Renault

9. Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India - Mercedes

10. Esteban Ocon (Fra) Force India - Mercedes

11. Lance Stroll (Can) Williams-Mercedes

12. Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Toro Rosso - Renault

13. Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas - Ferrari

14. Carlos Sainz Jr (Spa) Toro Rosso - Renault

15. Fernando Alonso (Spa) McLaren

16. Jolyon Palmer (Gbr) Renault

17. Pascal Wehrlein (Ger) Sauber - Ferrari

18. Marcus Ericsson (Swe) Sauber - Ferrari

19. Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas - Ferrari

20. Stoffel Vandoorne (Bel) McLaren

 

2:43PM

Predict the podium

I went for Raikkonen, Hamilton and Vettel as my top three. Pick yours here. 

2:39PM

Tomorrow should be interesting

I have to admit I can't wait to see the race down to that second corner. 

Who will survive or who will, well, not?

Sochi Autodrom track in Russia Credit: Formula1.com/Formula1.com

2:24PM

Seb says...

Vettel: "If you look at the first three races, we had a good start to the season. It's  a great achievement, we managed to improve the car for this race.

"We're back, if you're talking about the front row. "

2:22PM

Ooohhhhh!

Mercedes have no intention of taking it laying down. I think a Sunday afternoon scrap could be quite fun, don't you?

It's just a weekend of scrapping; Old Firm derby, Joshua and Klitschko, North London derby...

Did I miss any?

2:14PM

Lewis speaks

Hamilton fairly calm despite starting in fourth: "I just wasn't quick enough today. We have to go back to the drawing board and find out why."

When asked about that final sector: "I don't know [why we're losing time], but that's where all the mistakes happened."

2:11PM

An Italian front row and a happy Seb

2:09PM

Wow!

I don't know about you but I could not call that until the last second and I suspect the race will be equally as thrilling. 

We all said we wanted a competitive Formula One, and it is definitely heading that way. 

Mercedes need to look at why they were losing so much time in that final sector.

2:06PM

The top ten for Russia

Sebastian Vettel starts on pole ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, Valtteri Bottas, Lewis Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo.

Making up the top ten are Felipe Massa, Max Verstappen, Nico Hulkenburg, Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon.

2:03PM

Horses are prancing in Russia

Vettel will start on the front row alongside his teammate Raikkonen who had been leading until that very last sector of their flying laps. 

With the Mercedes on the second row with Bottas starting third and Hamilton fourth. 

2:02PM

Mercedes in the last sector

Neither Bottas nor Hamilton can take pole and it's a Ferrari front row for the Russian GP. I told you it would be an interesting afternoon. 

2:01PM

Seb starts at the top

Vettel takes pole

2:01PM

Mercedes v Ferrari

Raikkonen still on provisional pole. 

2:00PM

Just over a minute left

All ten cars are out on the track and here's where they were....

Will they end like this?

Q3 with one minute left

1:57PM

Ham in the pits

The three-time World Champion has had a weird weekend so far and just can't seem to manage the car like he normally does. 

1:55PM

The Mercedes are there

Bottas goes second and I don't know what is going on with Hamilton but he goes fourth behind Raikkonen, his teammate and Vettel.

Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda did not look completely happy with that lap. 

We have just over five minutes to go... I don't think anyone can call it. 

Ricciardo, Verstappen, Massa, Perez, Hulkenburg and Ocon make up the final ten as it stands. 

1:52PM

We're in the 1:33's

Raikkonen goes fastest with a 1:33.253 and grab provisional pole. Vettel tries to get ahead of his but drops time in the second sector and is 0.173s behind. 

where are the Mercedes?

1:50PM

Neither do we Paul...

1:50PM

Excuse me...?

Hulkenburg has just overtaken Hamilton on their out lap. How bizarre!

And Hamilton tries to return the favour but the Briton is stuck behind him. Although Mercedes have been doing two warm-up laps ahead of their fast laps. 

1:48PM

It's down to the final ten

Mercedes have been fastest so far but after Ferrari's impressive practice it is hard to know who will end up on that front row. 

The Silver Arrows are already out and in just over 11 minutes we will know who our polesitter is. 

1:47PM

Q2 results

1:43PM

Q2 is over.

Both Force India's are in the top ten, with Massa sitting in a respectable fifth. Kvyat very unhappy with his 13th but he will start in 12th with Sainz having a grid penalty.

The day is over for Sainz, Stroll, Kvyat, Magnusson and Alonso. I just heard Fernando moaning over the radio, so normal service is resumed. 

1:40PM

Were the Mercedes "sandbagging"?

Judging by current lap times you have to wonder if Mercedes were just chilling a bit during the practice sessions. 

1:39PM

Poor Daniil

In his home race during his birthday week, Kvyat sits in 11th. Just 0.004s behind Stroll in tenth... 

1:38PM

Whose day will be over?

As it stands; Alonso, Perez, Magnusson, Sainz and Kvyat will be out after Q2 but with just under three minutes left there is still time to get that lap that will take them into Q3.

1:33PM

Q2 - Seven minutes to go

Here's where they are as we get to the halfway point of Q2

Seven minutes left of Q

1:32PM

Bottas is back

The Mercedes goes fastest with a time of 1:33.264 which is the sort of time we are expecting for pole. Hamilton is behind him with a difference of 0.496.

1:31PM

Raikkonen takes the lead

The Ferrari is now on the ultra soft tyres and goes fast with a 1:34.053. 

Behind him are Hulkenburg, Massa, Kvyat, Sainz and Magnusson.

1:29PM

Finally getting some times on the boards

Massa and Stroll of Williams set the first times with the veteran coming in at 1:35.677.

1:28PM

I know how you feel mate

1:27PM

Q2 underway...

We are all systems go but the marshals are still cleaning up the Renault of Jolyon Palmer. 

1:25PM

Everyone on those ultra's

Here's how they ended Q1.

Ocon the biggest surprise and as you know I am a fan of the teenager. 

1:24PM

Alonso not complaining for a change

Fernando is positive news shocker, he tells garage: "Car felt really good. Well balanced, lots of grip. The lap was nearly perfect."

1:23PM

Everyone is a comedian

1:22PM

Q1 is over

The Ferrari's couldn't continue their lead from the front, and end the session behind the Mercedes. 

Out in Q1 are; Palmer, Vandoorne, Wehrlein, Ericsson and Grosjean. Alonso makes it through to Q2 in 14th. I guess it's better than nothing.  

 

1:19PM

Yes Esteban!

Ocon has moved up to sixth. That is a brilliant Q1 from the teenager. 

We have the double yellow and it's Jolyon Palmer in the wall after spinning off the track, who will owe his mechanics a drink as they look to repair his car for the SECOND time today. Thankfully, he is fine.

1:18PM

Woah Carlo

Sainz has just taken his Toro Rosso from 15th to eighth and he'll expect to go through to Q2 now. 

The top seven of Bottas, Hamilton, Vettel, Raikkonen, Verstappen, Hulkenburg and Ricciardo are all in the pits. 

1:17PM

Q1 - Two minutes to go

With the driver's getting in their last couple of laps, here is how they stand. Have the Mercedes got their groove back?

Two minutes of Q1 left Credit: Formula1.com

1:15PM

Mid-table

Massa is in sixth and his teammate, Stroll sits in 14th. Once again the Force India's of Perez and Ocon are in the top ten, sitting ninth and tenth, respectively. 

1:14PM

Q1 - Five minutes to go...

At the moment; Ericsson, Grosjean, Wehrlein, Vandoorne and Alonso will be leaving us at the end of Q1. It could be another disappointing weekend for McLaren if things carry on. 

1:12PM

Hammer Time getting nearer

Hamilton goes second fastest but he's 0.368s behind his teammate who finished fourth here last year. 

1:11PM

Mercedes back in contention

Bottas goes fastest, with Vettel, Verstappen, Raikkonen and Hulkenburg making up the top five. 

1:10PM

So far...

Here's how the times look so far, with Ferrari continuing their impressive practice sessions. 

Q1 after ten minutes Credit: Formula1.com

1:09PM

Q1 - 10 minutes to go

Bottas leads from Vettel, Raikkonen, Verstappen and Hulkenburg. Hamilton appears to be struggling to complete a lap and hasn't yet registered a time. 

 

1:08PM

Typical Kimi

Raikkonen and Vettel are out on the Super Softs, with the rest on Ultras on a weekend when we expect a one-stop strategy. 

1:07PM

Pole time

We are expecting the pole time to be in the region of 1:33s with Nico Rosberg currently holding the lap record of  1:39.094, which he achieved last year. 

1:05PM

13 mins of Q1 left

Nearly half the cars are out on the track. As always it is the slower teams coming out early with Sainz currently leading from Magnusson, Kvyat, Stroll and Palmer. Kudos to Palmer's mechanics to get his car sorted for qualy. 

1:01PM

And we are off

We have cars out on the track with Carlos Sainz leading the way.

Daniil Kvyat has just been reminded that they have new brakes on the car. It must have been his birthday present. 

1:00PM

Are you okay up there?

I guess this is one way to watch qualifying...

Russian skiers Credit: Sky Sports F1

12:59PM

Just moments to go

The sun is shining, the drivers' are getting comfortable - or as comfy as you can in an F1 car - and the pit lane is getting ready to open. 

Stay tuned!

12:48PM

The clock is ticking...

Qualifying will start in just over ten minutes so get those snacks, do what you need to, and get comfortable before we find out who will be where on the grid at the Sochi Autodrom. 

12:45PM

Mercedes' new boy

Valtteri Bottas' Granddad told him to eat porridge every day in order to become a racer driver. Not a bad idea, that.  

There is something about the Finn, he just seems like a really decent guy. 

12:39PM

Who do you think will win the Russian GP?

There's still time to vote...

12:37PM

Q1 getting closer

Based on the practice sessions, it is looking like a straight shootout between Ferrari and Mercedes this weekend for pole. With that said, the Williams could be the dark horses this weekend. Massa ended P3 in sixth, with Lance Stroll 11th. While Nico Hulkenberg looked impressive again ending the session just 0.211s behind Massa in the Renault. 

I have a feeling we could have an exciting afternoon ahead. 

 

12:30PM

Will we see some Hammer Time this weekend?

12:23PM

The support for Billy Monger

In a world where sport stars are ridiculously wealthy and often unattainable, it has been beautiful to see the support from Formula One and worldwide for Billy. 

Wishing him all the best in his recovery. 

12:19PM

Predict the podium

There is still time to get your predictions in and pick your top three here.

12:18PM

Kimi in a tweet

I couldn't have described him better myself. 

12:13PM

Roll on Spain

Both Red Bull and McLaren will have the upgrades they so desperately need in Barcelona.

The Spanish Grand Prix is on May 14 so this may be another mediocre weekend for both teams. 

12:11PM

Times in the final practice session

 Is your favourite sitting pretty ahead of qualifying?

12:09PM

Red Bull stress, again

Daniel Ricciardo's reason for stalling on the track was a fuel pressure issue. A problem that Max Verstappen has already suffered with. Both driver's are once again aiming for fifth and sixth...

12:07PM

Here's how they stand in the title race 

12:06PM

Are Mercedes pulling a fast one?

Everyone, particularly Sebastian Vettel, seems to believe that Mercedes are sandbagging and that they'll be much improved in qualifying. This is a race where the British team have dominated, winning all three races since it was added to the calendar. 

12:04PM

Practice 3

In case you missed it, here's a little recap of the final free session this morning. 

The Ferrari’s of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel continued to set the pace in the final practice session at the Russian GP as the Mercedes struggled to match their pace.

Championship leader, Vettel, ended the hour-long session ahead of his teammate as he aims to achieve his third win of the season at a track where his best finish was second in 2015.

Valtteri Bottas, Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen completed the rest of the top five at the Sochi Autodrom on Saturday morning.

Renault’s British driver Jolyon Palmer will join the McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne in moving down the starting grid regardless of where they qualify, with both having to change power units, thus resulting in a grid penalty of 15 places.

There were more concerns for Red Bull Racing when Daniel Ricciardo’s car lost power on track before he ended the morning in eight.

It follows Sergey Sirotkin failing to complete Practice 1 after standing in for Nico Hulkenberg in the the Renault, and it raises more questions about their engine which also powers the cars of Red Bull and Toro Rosso.

Lance Stroll will be buoyed to get through a session without any problems and he ended the session in 11th, with his teammate, Felipe Massa, getting his Williams car into an impressive sixth.

Judging by the scenes in the garage; Mercedes principal Toto Wolff and non-executive Chairman Niki Lauda, both looking visibly concerned about the speed of the Ferrari’s.

The English team have won all three post-war races at the track and have led every one of the 159 laps completed, with Hamilton winning two and Nico Rosberg winning the other.  

But it looks like Ferrari’s improvements from last week have bedded in well and they are ready to take the challenge to their nearest rivals in Sochi.

12:00PM

Good afternoon.

Hello and welcome to the Russian GP.

My name is Natasha Henry and I'll be bringing you all the action from qualifying at the Sochi Autodrom in the fourth race of the season. 

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