IN PICS: Vettel secures pole at Russian GP

Sport360 staff 29/04/2017
Ferrari on pole.

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. 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.

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 Sunday’s race.

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IN PICS: Ferrari fastest in FP2 as Vettel leads Raikkonen

F1i 28/04/2017

Ferrari were in sparkling form on Friday afternoon, with Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen comfortably fastest in FP2 ahead of the strangely subdued Mercedes drivers.

Top honours went to Vettel, who ended the session fastest with a best lap time of 1:34.120s, over quarter of a second faster than his team-mate.

Having topped the morning times, it was Raikkonen who had been quickly up to speed in the afternoon practice.

The first driver to try ultrasofts, he displaced Lewis Hamilton from the top of the timesheets just before the half hour mark. His time of 1:34.721s was a second faster than Hamilton’s earlier effort, and already a new track record for Sochi Autodrom.

Both Raikkonen and Vettel further improved their times on subsequent laps, proving the ultrasoft’s durability in Russia. Vettel eventually came out of this private battle on top, and his flying lap was to remain the fastest of the day.

Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton did close the gap a little, but both Mercedes remained around seven tenths off Vettel’s benchmark.

The two Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo were almost a further second in arrears in fifth and sixth, with Williams’ Felipe Massa a distant seventh.

Attention subsequently turned to long-run simulations as teams concentrated on gathering further data on tyre durability.

The Sochi circuit continued to catch out several drivers, with both Mercedes drivers among those to run wide and off-track at turn two.

Verstappen had a scare at turn five midway through the 90-minute session, running very wide and lucky not to graze the wall.

There were plenty of further lock-ups resulting in flat-spotted tyres. Daniil Kvyat spun at turn 13 early in the session, with Romain Grosjean going likewise at the last corner in the final half hour. Both cars were able to recover and get going again.

Less fortunate was Verstappen, whose car lost power with 20 minutes remaining in the session. He came to a halt exiting turn 16 just before pit entry, resulting in local waved yellows while the marshalls recovered the RB13.

Stoffel Vandoorne also lost time at the start of FP2 while McLaren fitted another new Honda engine. He has a 15 place grid penalty for Sunday’s race as a result of taking his fifth MGU-H and turbocharger of 2017.

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Russian GP: Five talking points

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Lewis Hamilton heads into the Russian Grand Prix trailing Sebastian Vettel by seven points following the Ferrari driver’s victory last time out in Bahrain.

Vettel, the four-time world champion, has won two of the opening three rounds of this season’s Formula One World Championship to cement his status as the number one challenger to the Mercedes driver this season.

Here’s a look at the key talking points ahead of Sunday’s race at the Sochi Autodrom.

HAMILTON OUT FOR REVENGE

There was certainly an air of what could have been for Hamilton as he took stock of his defeat to Vettel in Bahrain. Hamilton had the quicker machinery than Vettel in both qualifying and the race, but a number of mistakes – by both team and driver – contributed to the Mercedes driver finishing behind his championship rival.

The 32-year-old Briton will be keen to make amends in Sochi as he attempts to level the score at 2-2 from the first four grands prix of a see-saw championship.

Hamilton has good form in Russia – having won two of the three races staged here – while this event was the scene of Vettel’s X-rated outburst last year in which he said the f-word on five occasions inside just 10 seconds after being punted out of the race by Daniil Kvyat.

HALO TAKES BACK SEAT

A meeting of F1’s top aficionados on Tuesday evening determined that the shield has now surpassed the halo as the FIA’s preferred choice for improved cockpit safety.

The sport’s governing body are keen to ramp up driver-head protection and had given the green light for the halo to be introduced next season.

But the device courted criticism for its ugly appearance – indeed Hamilton described it as the “worst-looking modification” in F1 history – and the shield, a see-through screen which was presented to the drivers in China earlier this month, is viewed as the more aesthetically pleasing option. Tests will be carried out on the concept throughout the season.

LIBERTY MEDIA SLOWLY SHOWING HAND

It has been three months since American giants Liberty Media acquired Formula One and their approach has so far been slowly, slowly, catchy monkey. Indeed, bar the relaxing of social media rules in the paddock, they have made very few tweaks to the sport which was governed by Bernie Ecclestone for four decades.

So, with that in mind it was interesting to note that one of the outcomes from the gathering of F1’s Strategy Group on Tuesday – where chairman Chase Carey made his debut – was to open future meetings to the sport’s lesser teams.

Under Ecclestone’s self-proclaimed dictatorship, the talks had been limited to the top teams. But the likes of Sauber, Haas, Toro Rosso and Renault will now be invited to attend. A step in the right direction.

WILL FERRARI SPEAK TO THE MEDIA IN RUSSIA?

Vettel may be leading the Formula One title, but neither he, nor his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen were made available to print or broadcast journalists on the so-called media day in Bahrain.

Hand Vettel a microphone and he will be prepared to speak for hours, but his decision not to in Bahrain came from above – with rumblings in the paddock suggesting it was Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene rather than the team’s overlord Sergio Marchionne – who made the call.

Let us hope the FIA, or indeed Liberty, who have promised more access to fans and media alike, take action should Ferrari close shop in Russia, too.

MOTOR RACING COMMUNITY SHOWS SUPPORT FOR MONGER

The strength of the motor racing community was there for all to see after more than £500,000 was raised in under 24 hours for Billy Monger, the British teenager who had both his legs amputated following a horrendous Formula Four crash at Donington Park on Easter Sunday.

Monger, 17, paid tribute to all those who contributed – with Jenson Button and Max Verstappen each donating £15,000 – in a heartfelt message via his social media channels on Tuesday. The current total on Monger’s Just Giving page stands just shy of £800,000. An incredible effort all round.


Provided by Press Association

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