Lando Norris takes dramatic Russian GP pole as Lewis Hamilton crashes twice

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Formula One F1 - Russian Grand Prix - Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Russia - September 25, 2021 McLaren's Lando Norris celebrates pole position after qualifying  - Pool via REUTERS/Yuri Kochetkov
Formula One F1 - Russian Grand Prix - Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Russia - September 25, 2021 McLaren's Lando Norris celebrates pole position after qualifying - Pool via REUTERS/Yuri Kochetkov

Lando Norris claimed a scintillating pole position for the Russian Grand Prix.

The 21-year-old British driver took advantage of the wet-dry conditions at Sochi's rain-hit Olympic Park to put his McLaren at the front of the grid ahead of Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz.

George Russell took a brilliant third with Lewis Hamilton only fourth.

Hamilton appeared on course to cruise to his 101st pole but a late switch to dry rubber dramatically upset the odds with Norris finishing six tenths clear.

Hamilton was unable to get temperature into his slick tyres and spun in the closing stages of his final lap.

Max Verstappen, who holds a five-point championship lead over Hamilton, will start from the back of the grid after taking on his fourth engine - one more than is permitted for the season.

With his penalty in mind, and the risk of damage high given the slippery conditions, Verstappen completed a mandatory single lap before parking his Red Bull.

Pole position qualifier Lando Norris of Great Britain and McLaren F1 celebrates in parc ferme during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on September 25, 2021 in Sochi, Russia - Mark Thompson/Getty Images
Pole position qualifier Lando Norris of Great Britain and McLaren F1 celebrates in parc ferme during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on September 25, 2021 in Sochi, Russia - Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Norris's superb lap, which makes him the youngest British pole-sitter in the sport's history, comes off the back of McLaren's first victory in nine years at the Italian Grand Prix a fortnight ago.

"Oh boy," said Norris. "It feels amazing. I don't know what to say. It was a manic session. You never think you are going to get a pole but I have managed to do it.

"It was tough. I am going to make myself sound good. The lap before I was two seconds down and I wasn't confident I could improve but I kept the tyres warm. I risked quite a bit and it paid off so I am a happy boy.

"It is my first pole position, hopefully the first of many, and I don't know what to say. It is not something we expected but we took the opportunity."

Mercedes have won every grand prix staged on Sochi soil since the race was added to the calendar in 2014, but Hamilton will have his work cut out to not only retain his team's unbeaten record, but assume control of the championship in his bid for a record-breaking eighth crown.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Yuri Kochetkov/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (12465405bj) British Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton (L) of Mercedes-AMG Petronas steps out of his car after the qualifying session of the 2021 Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at the Sochi Autodrom race track in Sochi, Russia, 25 September 2021. The Formula One Grand Prix of Russia will take place on 26 September 2021 - Yuri Kochetkov/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock 
Mandatory Credit: Photo by Yuri Kochetkov/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (12465405bj) British Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton (L) of Mercedes-AMG Petronas steps out of his car after the qualifying session of the 2021 Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at the Sochi Autodrom race track in Sochi, Russia, 25 September 2021. The Formula One Grand Prix of Russia will take place on 26 September 2021 - Yuri Kochetkov/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Qualifying appeared in danger of being scrapped after final practice was cancelled following a deluge of rain, accompanied by thunder and lightning.

But the poor weather eased in time, and after finishing fastest in Q1 and Q2 Hamilton looked destined to take advantage of Verstappen's grid penalty.

However, the seven-time world champion hit the wall on his entry to the pits for dry rubber. He took on a new front wing, but failed to get his tyres up to temperature to challenge Norris at the top of the time charts.

Behind Norris, Russell delivered another fine effort to qualify third in his Williams after securing second at last month's rain-hit Belgian Grand Prix.

Norris's McLaren team-mate Daniel Ricciardo finished fifth ahead of double world champion Fernando Alonso. Valtteri Bottas qualified only seventh on a poor afternoon for Mercedes.

Russian Grand Prix qualifying, classification

  1. Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren 1min 41.993secs

  2. Carlos Sainz Jr (Spa) Ferrari 1:42.510

  3. George Russell (Gbr) Williams 1:42.983

  4. Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1:44.050

  5. Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) McLaren 1:44.156

  6. Fernando Alonso (Spa) Alpine 1:44.204

  7. Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes GP 1:44.710

  8. Lance Stroll (Can) Aston Martin 1:44.956

  9. Sergio Perez (Mex) Red Bull 1:45.337

  10. Esteban Ocon (Fra) Alpine 1:45.865

  11. Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Aston Martin 1:46.573

  12. Pierre Gasly (Fra) Scuderia AlphaTauri 1:46.641

  13. Yuki Tsunoda (Jpn) Scuderia AlphaTauri 1:46.751

  14. Nicholas Latifi (Can) Williams No Time Set

  15. Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari No Time Set

  16. Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:49.586

  17. Mick Schumacher (Ger) Haas F1 1:49.830

  18. Antonio Giovinazzi (Ita) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:51.023

  19. Nikita Mazepin (Raf) Haas F1 1:53.764

  20. Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull No Time Set

Russian Grand Prix qualifying, as it happened

01:46 PM

Thanks for joining me today

Despite the horrendous and torrential rain earlier in the day, qualifying was not delayed and took place without any major issues. A couple of yellow flags but no red flags or serious crashes. In fact, only two small crashes and both of them were from Lewis Hamilton.

Hamilton is still in prime position to take advantage of Verstappen starting from the back tomorrow but it was looking like it would have been a front row start and plain sailing for him tomorrow. Perhaps not so much now. Still, the second row is not such a terrible place to start at this track and a victory is well within his capabilities.

The forecast is fairly dry tomorrow. I'll be back from around 11.30am tomorrow morning with our live coverage foe the Russian Grand Prix. Should be an interesting one with Verstappen (and Leclerc) fighting their way through the field from the back and, not forgetting a front four of Norris, Sainz, Russell and Hamilton.

01:30 PM

Lewis Hamilton also speaking to Sky Sports

"It's just a mistake from myself. Incredibly disappointed in myself. Up until then I was in the groove. I'm really sorry for all the team that are here. Yeah, it is what it is. I will do my best tomorrow to try and rectify it."

"It was horrible at the end. I had very poor grip... I was losing temperature and even twice in the wall. That's very unusual from me. The guys at the front have got good pace and it definitely won't be easy. I am going to say my prayers and hope that the car can be fixed and hope that it's okay for tomorrow. "

"But you've got a Brit on pole which is great so congrats to Lando. "

01:27 PM

Toto Wolff speaks to Sky Sports F1

"It's not even that we made a mistake or that the drivers contributed to it. We were the first cars out and either we would have aborted the last runs on the intermediates to get two soft runs in or played it safe [as they did]. "

He says that even without Hamilton hitting the wall they would not have managed another lap on the soft tyres. So, he seems to think it's a bit of a case of bad timing rather than bad decision making.

"I'm sure we would have been fast enough for the front row," he says, but with just one lap Hamilton did not have the time to put heat into the tyres.

"I think with Lewis where he is we can win it and this should be the rain," he adds.

01:23 PM

I think Hamilton has to think about the positives from today

One error was probably being a bit slow to react to switching to slicks, but at the top of the timesheets then, they had the most to lose and were unlikely to be the first to react. Still, Hamilton continued on intermediates.

Then he clipped the wall on the way into the pits when he did pit for slicks, needing a front wing change, which cost him a couple of minutes (and maybe another lap) and then he dropped it into the barriers at slow speed on his final hot lap.

A bit of a mess but not a disaster, though it cost Bottas a lot of time. He starts seventh, also at a time when Mercedes could be making great ground on Red Bull in the constructors' championship and when Hamilton could do with a bit of help strategically.

01:16 PM

Russell reflects on his second top-three qualifying in three races

01:15 PM

Sainz speaks after securing a front row start

01:13 PM

Norris reacts to his first pole in F1

01:11 PM

Still, that's not really where Hamilton should be

It potentially makes his life a bit complicated tomorrow, when it should have been a fairly stress-free run to taking the championship lead. He should, really, have had only his team-mate ahead of him. But in the wet it doesn't always work like that and he only has himself to blame, ultimately.

01:09 PM

Could have been worse for Hamilton

Starting on the second row is not such a bad place here. Not sure how much damage there is to his car but it could be just quite superficial, if any. He didn't go into the wall backwards all that hard. And hitting the pit wall was a fair clunk but also at low speed.

01:07 PM

Q3 - Classification

  1. NOR 1:41.993

  2. SAI +0.517

  3. RUS +0.990

  4. HAM +2.057

  5. RIC +2.163

  6. ALO +2.211

  7. BOT +2.717

  8. STR +2.963

  9. PER +3.344

  10. OCO +3.872

01:05 PM

LANDO NORRIS TAKES POLE POSITION FOR THE 2021 RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX

Two weeks after McLaren's first win for nine years! And Lando Norris nails it!

Sainz second, Russell third and Hamilton fourth.

Hamilton went into the wall backwards at fairly low speed on his flying lap. Not too much damage but not sure if it needs to be a rear wing change. He and Mercedes made a real mess of that session. Bottas only seventh...

01:03 PM

Q3 - Norris now 1.3s up after two sectors

Sainz goes onto provisional pole!

Hamilton is not going to improve! Ricciardo goes third, Norris goes fastest! Can he cling onto pole position?!

What can Russell do? Third!

Hamilton is slipping down here and has spun on his final flying lap!

WOAAAAAAH! It's pole for Lando Norris!

01:01 PM

Q3 - Final runs under way

Russell's second lap was a 1:49.9... so that's five seconds off what he needs to be. Was it a flying lap or a charge lap?

Sainz looks to be going well... he goes 1.252s up on Hamilton after two sectors... can he hang on?! The final sector is tricky...

01:00 PM

Q3 - Russell's first lap on slicks was a 1:55

So 11 seconds off Hamilton's time. Are slicks the right tyres here? I am not so sure. It could come to him at the very end.

Hmmmmm. But we will see... the final sector is the tricky one.

12:58 PM

Q3 - Russell's first sector time is well off what it needs to be

Hamilton, in the pit box, has to get out of the way for Bottas who changed for slicks. Hamilton is eventually rolled out and he will only get one lap on slicks...

Will that be costly?

12:57 PM

Q3 - If this works for Russell, he could be on pole

But that might be dependent on the others not putting on slicks. Russell will have about 90 seconds and another lap on soft tyres to get used to them and get them up to temperature. It could happen right at the very end.

Let's keep a beady eye on Russell's sector times. It looks okay, if a bit squirrelly.

Hamilton has gone into the pits but has hit the wall on the way! It's a front wing change at the last minute!

12:55 PM

Q3 - Pérez moves up to fifth

1.287s off Hamilton. Russell puts on a fresh set of soft tyres, the first man to try slicks.

12:55 PM

Q3 - Current order after first runs

  1. HAM 1:44.050

  2. NOR +0.656

  3. BOT +0.660

  4. ALO +1.227

  5. STR +1.365

  6. OCO +1.815

  7. RIC +2.018

  8. SAI +2.359

  9. PER +8.107

  10. RUS (no time)

12:54 PM

Q3 - Bottas posts a 1:44.710

Hamilton beats that by 0.66s. Stroll third and then Ocon and then Pérez. Pérez was eight seconds down so either aborted his lap or made a mistake.

Norris up into second ahead of Bottas, by just 0.004s.

12:52 PM

Q3 - Hamilton quickest in the first sector

Well, he was until Stroll beat him by 0.002s. Hard to see anyone beating mercedes here. Right, Russell is coming in for the slicks. Good move, I think. Sensible.

12:52 PM

Q3 - Honestly, there is a dry line...

Someone get out there on slicks! Fernando! Please! Someone!

12:49 PM

Q3 begins - 12 minutes to go

Nobody gambles with slicks, which is a bit disappointing. This is a wet session, yes, but it has been far from dramatic.

12:47 PM

Wonder what chance of a Russell front row?

He managed it in the wet in Belgium... Gary Anderson, on Twitter, says that Williams should put him on slicks with five or six minutes to go... probably worth a gamble.

12:46 PM

Q2 - Top 10

All these drivers are through.

  1. HAM 1:45.129

  2. BOT +0.177

  3. ALO +0.385

  4. NOR +0.698

  5. PER +0.705

  6. OCO +0.941

  7. STR +1.231

  8. RIC +1.232

  9. RUS +1.306

  10. SAI +1.392

12:45 PM

Q2 ENDS: DRIVERS OUT

11. VET
12. GAS
13. TSU
14. LAT
15. LEC

Latifi and Leclerc do not set a time. Not sure what happened with Latifi.

12:44 PM

Q2 - Final runs under way

Hamilton improves again... by nearly three tenths. Sainz trying to get himself through, currently in 12th. Ricciardo improves to seventh, Russell improving again.

Sainz goes ninth but will he be able to cling onto the top 10 spot? Russell could knock him down...

Gasly can't improve and is out. Russell does improve to ninth and puts Vettel out!

Is Sainz going through, or out? Vettel can't knock him out, he's on his in lap. "No way! No f------ way.... Argggghhhh!" is the German's message when he is told he is out. His team-mate Stroll is through.

Sainz is through by a narrow margin...

12:40 PM

Q2 - Pérez improves to fourth

0.428s off Hamilton. Doesn't look like Latifi is going to set a time at all, which is a little odd. He did an out and in lap in one.

12:39 PM

Q2 - Two minutes to go

Here's the top 10 and gaps:

  1. HAM

  2. BOT +0.100

  3. NOR +0.421

  4. STR +0.954

  5. ALO +1.015

  6. PER +1.118

  7. VET +1.167

  8. OCO +1.262

  9. GAS +1.265

  10. RIC +1.570

Drop zone: RUS, SAI, TSU, LAT, LEC

12:38 PM

Q2 - Russell on a fresh set of inters

He improves his best time after one sector and is a second off Hamilton after two sectors. He is currently 13th and might get into the top 10 here but he might not be able to stay there with this time.

Maybe ninth or 10th with this... Nope, 11th.

12:36 PM

Q2 - Hamilton goes quickest again

Just a tenth quicker than Bottas.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain steers his car during the qualifying session at the Sochi Autodrom circuit, in Sochi, Russia, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021. The Russian Formula One Grand Prix will be held on Sunday - AP Photo/Sergei Grits
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain steers his car during the qualifying session at the Sochi Autodrom circuit, in Sochi, Russia, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021. The Russian Formula One Grand Prix will be held on Sunday - AP Photo/Sergei Grits

Nobody brave enough to go onto slicks as Pérez improves to go sixth. Not world-beating by any means. Doesn't make too much sense for Leclerc to go out given he starts from 19th tomorrow but why is Latifi still in the pits? He has not set a time yet.

12:34 PM

Q2 - Current order

  1. BOT

  2. HAM

  3. NOR

  4. GAS

  5. VET

  6. STR

  7. PER

  8. OCO

  9. SAI

  10. RIC
    DROP ZONE:

  11. ALO

  12. RUS

  13. TSU

  14. LAT (no time)

  15. LEC (no time)

12:33 PM

Q2 - Bottas made a mess of turn two

And his lap is aborted. He posts the fastest first sector of anyone on his next attempt, though... and is 1.6s up from where he needs to be after two sectors. Mega.

He ends up 0.590s quicker than Hamilton at the end of his lap.

12:32 PM

Q2 - Lando Norris going very well in the first two sectors

He goes quickest by four-tenths.

Lando Norris of Great Britain driving the (4) McLaren F1 Team MCL35M Mercedes during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on September 25, 2021 in Sochi, Russi - Lars Baron - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
Lando Norris of Great Britain driving the (4) McLaren F1 Team MCL35M Mercedes during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on September 25, 2021 in Sochi, Russi - Lars Baron - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

Ricciardo only fifth, 1.3s off his team-mate.

Hamilton then pips Norris by a tenth and a half go go fastest of all.

12:31 PM

Q2 - Gasly posts a 1:46.671

How long will that keep him top? Russell is seven seconds off that, Tsunoda is 1.8s off it and Ocon is 0.5s off it.

Stroll was going well earlier, what can he do? Only second, 0.443s off Gasly. Hamilton and Bottas about to post their first times of the session...

12:29 PM

Q2 - 12 mins remain

Gasly will be the first man to set a lap time, but Russell has a tenth on him in the first sector. He's still half a second quicker than his team-mate Tsunoda, though.

"I have no f------ grip," Gasly says on the radio. Stroll sets a fine time in the first sector, well up on everyone else.

12:27 PM

GREEN LIGHT: Q2 BEGINS

No more significant rain falling. Everyone stays on the intermediates. How far away are we from slicks? Someone might try it at the end of the session, I guess.

12:26 PM

Verstappen out in Q1

But he made no serious attempt to get through as he starts from the back tomorrow due to a grid penalty. His work begins tomorrow.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Yuri Kochetkov/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (12465405r) Dutch Formula One driver Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing in action during the qualifying session of the 2021 Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at the Sochi Autodrom race track in Sochi, Russia, 25 September 2021. The Formula One Grand Prix of Russia will take place on 26 September 2021. Formula One Grand Prix of Russia - Yuri Kochetkov/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock 
Mandatory Credit: Photo by Yuri Kochetkov/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (12465405r) Dutch Formula One driver Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing in action during the qualifying session of the 2021 Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at the Sochi Autodrom race track in Sochi, Russia, 25 September 2021. The Formula One Grand Prix of Russia will take place on 26 September 2021. Formula One Grand Prix of Russia - Yuri Kochetkov/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

12:24 PM

Q1 - Top 15: Hamilton quickest

All these drivers are through to Q2.

  1. HAM

  2. BOT +0.404

  3. PER +0.463

  4. VET +1.213

  5. NOR +1.246

  6. GAS +1.836

  7. ALO +1.885

  8. SAI +1.932

  9. OCO +2.107

  10. LAT +2.260

  11. RUS +2.311

  12. STR +2.330

  13. RIC +2.353

  14. LEC +2.478

  15. TSU +2.862

A fairly big gap of more than seven-tenths between Tsunoda and Raikkonen in 16th.

12:22 PM

Q1 ENDS: DRIVERS OUT

16. RAI 17. MSC 18. GIO 19. MAZ 20. VER (no time)

12:21 PM

Q1 - Mazepin doesn't improve

And he's also out...

12:20 PM

Q1 - Drivers in the drop zone

RAI, MSC, GIO, MAZ, VER

Almost everyone has one more lap to go. The order could yet be shaken up again. Norris goes fourth and is now safely through.

Raikkonen does not improve and is knocked out. Can Mick Schumacher do the business? It does not look likely. Vettl into fourth. Russell improves to 11th, Schumacher stays 17th and is out...

Hamilton tops the time sheets by 0.404s from Bottas...

12:18 PM

Q1 - Daniel Ricciardo improves to ninth

But can he get another lap in? That might not be quite enough. Raikkinen gets himself out of the drop zone but only just... he's in 15th now and only a tenth ahead of Russell, who is improving massively.

Russell sets his fastest time but only goes 15th... he might be out of this one... track conditions are improving but it's not that simple...

12:17 PM

Q1 - Yellow flags

Think it was a Pérez-caused incident... not sure what as we haven't seen the replays. Likely a spin but not a crash.

Bottas knocks him off top spot by 0.059s. Ricciardo and Russell hovering just above the drop zone.

12:16 PM

Q1 - That's a good lap from Latifi in sixth

Russell is a long way off it. Bottas improves but stays third. Alonso now into fourth with a time 1.535s off Pérez's quickest. I wonder how far we are away from slicks? Not too far, I reckon. Not much margin for error off line, however.

12:14 PM

Q1 - Full order with five mins to go

Pérez completes a good lap to beat Hamilton by 0.482s.

  1. PER

  2. HAM

  3. BOT

  4. GAS

  5. LAT

  6. VET

  7. LEC

  8. NOR

  9. STR

  10. SAI

  11. OCO

  12. RIC

  13. ALO

  14. TSU

  15. RUS
    DROP ZONE:

  16. RAI

  17. MAZ

  18. GIO

  19. MSC

  20. VET

12:13 PM

Q1 - Bottas runs deep into turn two

No big drama, though. Pérez has just set the fastest first sector of anyone. And the middle sector.

12:12 PM

Q1 - Seven minutes remain

Alonso's attempt to do laps on the wets did not work out... he is down in 18th and has put on a set of intermediates. Latifi finds some time in the Williams five laps into his run. He's now fourth. Pérez slots in just behind him. Red Bull's sole remaining hope in this session.

12:09 PM

Q1 - Hamilton and Bottas getting into their groove

The Briton posts the fastest time of the day, a 1:46.937, 1.163s quicker than his Finnish team-mate. Verstappen has gone back into the garage and looks unlikely to do any more laps this session.

Drivers currently in the drop zone: GIO, ALO, MAZ, MSC, VER

12:08 PM

Q1 - 10 minutes remain

Here's the top 10:

  1. GAS

  2. SAI

  3. NOR

  4. LEC

  5. STR

  6. BOT

  7. HAM

  8. PER

  9. VET

  10. RAI

Everyone but Verstappen has set a time. The two Haas cars are 10 and 11 seconds off the pace, mind you.

12:08 PM

Q1 - Giovinazzi spins

And he is nearly collected by Charles Leclerc behind him...

Yellow flags but I think the Italian will be able to get his Alfa Romeo going again. He does.

12:07 PM

Q1 - Gasly improving again

Pérez only fifth, 3.4s off Leclerc. Norris goes quickest of all, Bottas and Hamilton also going around.

Only fourth for Bottas and fifth for Hamilton, both two seconds off Gasly's new quickest time of 1:49.218.

12:06 PM

Q1 - Carlos Sainz takes turn three flat out

Or at least without any significant lift. Leclerc is a second quicker in S1 than his team-mate Sainz. Gasly posts the first lap of the day with a 1:51.519. His team-mate Tsunoda is some 3.5s off that...

Sainz can't beat it either, 0.5s down on the Frenchman but Leclerc could beat Gasly and indeed he does, by 1.227s.

12:04 PM

Q1 - Wonder if Alonso is banking on the rain coming back...

...and thus wets being the best tyres to be on at the end of the session... and being used to them. Everyone out now, including Verstappen. Will we get to the end of the session without a car in the barrier?

"No significant rain expected for the rest of quali one," Ocon is told on the radio.

12:02 PM

Q1 - Conditions look far from horrific

Everyone but Alonso who is out there is on the intermediate tyres.

12:00 PM

GREEN LIGHT: Q1 BEGINS

18 minutes to go. Five drivers eliminated and 15 through at the end of the session.

12:00 PM

A bit more for Hamilton to lose today

He is usually fantastic in the wet but red flags can come at a bad time and no driver is ever exempt from an error in the wet. I wonder if Verstappen will even bother running... probably. He's in the car and is ready to go.

11:58 AM

Looks like we are going to start on time

Think the best tactic would be go on intermediates, plenty of fuel and just get used to the conditions.

11:56 AM

Intermediates or full wets as it stands?

I think it is probably intermediates. The Aston Martin Safety Car is going around and there's not too much spray behind it. Will still be quite tricky and going off-line is likely to cause big problems.

11:48 AM

Chance of a bit more rain just as qualifying is due to start

Will that delay the start of the session? Possibly – who knows? It should pass relatively quickly, however, but could delay running.

11:47 AM

Christian Horner speaks to Sky Sports F1

On the weather:

"It's clearing up really well... who knows, it could even be dry by Q3."

On the Monza incident:

"My opinion is still very much that it is a racing incident. We're now focused on the next eight races. Max isn't going to change the way he drives... that's part of who he is as a driver. He is going to have to use all of those skills to come from the back of the grid here.

On Verstappen adapting his approach and taking the engine penalty:

"I think he's just got to keep doing what he's doing. I think that he's had some bad luck, you think back to Azerbaijan. There's eight races to go and we've elected to take the penalty here. This is a stronghold for Mercedes. Hopefully there's circuits coming up that play to our strengths."

11:41 AM

The track at the start/finish straight doesn't look too bad for standing water

Contrary to previous reports, I can't see it not starting on time if it looks like this. Obviously I can't see what the conditions are like on other parts of the circuit, but I can't see how F1 cars would not run if the pit straight is representative... and we do not have any more heavy rain.

11:31 AM

Current constructor standings

Red Bull really need Sergio Pérez to start putting it all together at each weekend. He has failed to do that for a little while now after a good run of form earlier in the season.

11:26 AM

Well! That looks a bit better

Might be able to start on time after all... just over 30 minutes to go until Q1 is scheduled to begin.

11:21 AM

Another weather update... it's not all bad

11:17 AM

Phil Duncan on the ground at Sochi

11:10 AM

Current driver standings: Top 10

Good chance that Hamilton will retake the championship lead this weekend, with Verstappen starting from the back. Verstappen might get a similar opportunity later in the season as it's likely Hamilton too will have to fit a new engine outside of the season's allocation.

10:52 AM

Lewis Hamilton does his 'Singing in the Rain' routine

10:49 AM

Qualifying is due to start in 70 minutes...

...I am extremely sceptical that will happen.

10:44 AM

Sky Sports F1's David Croft has just posted this video from the paddock

10:40 AM

Race cancellations in F2 and F3

F2's second sprint race and F3's race two cancelled due to the weather. There may be a slot for F2's first sprint race after qualifying (it is currently slated for 4.45pm local time), but depends when it all happens.

 Theo Pourchaire of France and ART Grand Prix (10) drives on his way to the grid during sprint race 1 of Round 6:Sochi of the Formula 2 Championship at Sochi Autodrom on September 25, 2021 in Sochi, Russia - Formula 1/Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images
Theo Pourchaire of France and ART Grand Prix (10) drives on his way to the grid during sprint race 1 of Round 6:Sochi of the Formula 2 Championship at Sochi Autodrom on September 25, 2021 in Sochi, Russia - Formula 1/Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images

10:37 AM

What happened in practice yesterday?

Here's a brief recap, in bullet point form

  • Valtteri Bottas was quickest in both sessions ahead of Lewis Hamilton

  • Max Verstappen will start from the back of the grid on Sunday after taking a new power unit, handing Hamilton a big advantage for the weekend

  • Charles Leclerc will do likewise

  • Pierre Gasly lost his front wing at the end of the second session after running over a sausage kerb at turn two

  • Kimi Raikkonen returned after his Covid-induced absence from the Dutch and Italian rounds

10:26 AM

Good morning F1 fans

And welcome once again to our F1 coverage, this time for qualifying for the 2021 Russian Grand Prix. Or so we hope. After a day of decent weather for first and second practice yesterday, unfortunately, the conditions have worsened significantly. There has already been plenty of rain falling at the Sochi Autodrom this morning and it is likely to continue to fall well into the afternoon. Final practice, which was due to start at 10am BST has been cancelled entirely and various other support series sessions have been affected, too.

We all remember how frustrating it was when the Belgian Grand Prix took place (well, it didn't really, did it?) at the end of August and nobody wants to see a day of waiting, waiting, and waiting with no action. What chance is there of qualifying actually taking place today? It is hard to say at this moment but there could be a window where the rain eases in the afternoon where, hopefully, the one-hour session can be accommodated. That is no guarantee, however, and even if it does stop it depends on the drainage on-track. And as Sochi is a very flat track, the drainage is not all that great.

Photo by Yuri Kochetkov/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (12465405g) General view of the Sochi Autodrom race track during heavy rain in Sochi, Russia, 25 September 2021. The third practice session of the 2021 Formula One Grand Prix of Russia was canceled due to heavy rainfal - Yuri Kochetkov/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock 
Photo by Yuri Kochetkov/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (12465405g) General view of the Sochi Autodrom race track during heavy rain in Sochi, Russia, 25 September 2021. The third practice session of the 2021 Formula One Grand Prix of Russia was canceled due to heavy rainfal - Yuri Kochetkov/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Qualifying is due to begin at 1pm and it may well begin at that time if the weather eases, but there could be a significant amount of waiting. That said, it is unlikely to extend much beyond 3pm BST as the sun sets at just after 4pm BST. F1 has stated that its main intention is to get qualifying done today, though, hence why practice was cancelled quite decisively. Again, making the decision to do something is only part of the equation today...

So, then, what if qualifying cannot be completed on Saturday? There should be a suitable – and dry – slot on Sunday morning where it can be run, as happened in the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix which had Saturday cancelled due to Typhoon Hagibis. Wet qualifying is usually a thrill, though, so it would be a shame to lose it.

In any case, whatever will happen will happen and we will be here to provide updates throughout. If that means merely FIA/F1 and weather news then so be it. But fingers crossed for some on-track action today.

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