Lewis Hamilton takes inaugural Russian GP pole

A bright sunny day greeted drivers at the qualifying session for the inaugural Russian Grand Prix.

21 drivers took to the track for Q1, with Marussia choosing not to run another driver in Jules Bianchi’s car. Instead they have set the car up in the garage with Graeme Lowdon explaining that they want to show that Bianchi’s car is ready and it is there waiting for him. All the drivers are also running with ‘tout avec Jules’ stickers on their helmets, showing their thoughts are very much with the French driver. Three drivers went into qualifying already knowing they would be taking five place grid drops. Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg will take grid drops for gearbox changes while Pastor Maldonado has carried over a grid drop from a new engine in Japan. McLaren were the only team to use the medium compound tyres at the start of the session. Jenson Button went third initially, dropping to fifth, while Magnussen went seventh before swapping to the soft tyres to jump to fourth. Felipe Massa reported a problem with his Williams as he lapped at the bottom of the times. He improved but only enough to get to 17th and remaining in the drop-zone. He crossed the line with enough time to lap again and come round for one final flying lap but it was not enough to progress. As 19 drivers continued to circulate only Mercedes remained in the garage, confident of their place in Q2.

Joining Massa in the drop-zone, and therefore failing to make it through to Q2, were Marcus Ericsson, Kamui Kobayashi, Maldonado, and Max Chilton. Hamilton topped the times with half of Q2 remaining, two tenths ahead of team-mate Nico Rosberg with Bottas once again in third. After a couple of slow laps, Fernando Alonso improved to go seventh getting into the pole position shoot-out. He was soon joined by team-mate Kimi Raikkonen who went eighth but both drivers were not far off the cut-off time, with cars behind them which could still improve. Sebastian Vettel was another driver struggling, lapping in the lower end of the drop-zone, only ahead of Romain Grosjean. In the closing stages of Q2 both Mercedes stayed in the garage along with both McLarens who felt confident enough that they were through. Out at the end of Q2 were Vettel, Hulkenberg, Sergio Perez, Esteban Gutierrez, Adrian Sutil and Grosjean.

Hamilton topped the times going into the pole position shoot out, ahead of Rosberg, Bottas, Magnussen, Daniil Kvyat,  Button, Daniel Ricciardo, Alonso, Raikkonen, and Jean-Eric Vergne. After the first runs Rosberg topped the times ahead of Bottas, Button, Alonso, Kvyat, Hamilton, Ricciardo, Vergne, Raikkonen and Magnussen. Hamilton made a mistake on his lap and he ended up a second off his team-mate. His second lap saw him go top of the times. Bottas looked like he could snatch pole position but mistakes at the end of the lap cost him dearly.

Hamilton secured pole position by two tenths, ahead of Bottas, Button, Kvyat, Magnussen, Ricciardo, Alonso, Raikkonen and Vergne.

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