After Daniel Ricciardo winning and Lando Norris taking P2 at the Italian Grand Prix, McLaren are gaining momentum like no other team on the grid. In the mixed conditions around the Sochi Autodrome for the 2021 Russian Grand Prix, Norris has now taken his maiden career pole position in Formula One. Lewis Hamilton made a massive blunder, which allowed Carlos Sainz in the Ferrari and George Russel in the Williams to capitalise on that opportunity. Here is how Saturday’s qualifying played out.
Lewis Hamilton started the day by setting the fastest time of the session in the wet, but drying conditions. Down the order, the bottom five included Raikkonen, Schumacher, Giovinazzi, Mazepin and Verstappen who didn’t set a time. Verstappen is scheduled to take a 3-place grid penalty for the incident with Hamilton during the Italian Grand Prix. With the weather conditions being tricky, Red Bull has made a strategic decision to take the added penalty for an extra power unit for Verstappen. This would ultimately result in the Dutchman start from the back of the grid.
Q2 saw Sebastian Vettel in the Aston Martin miss out on his chance into the final session and will start from P11. The two Alpha Tauri cars of Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda will start behind him in that order. The Williams of Nicolas Latifi qualified 14th ahead of Charles Leclerc in 15th. However, like Verstappen, Latifi and Leclerc will also take extra engines which will drop them to the back of the grid as well.
All drivers came out on intermediate tyres. However, with the rain gods having mercy on Formula One fans around the world, and the two previous sessions allowing for the track to dry out, Russell was the first driver to take the gamble on slick tyres.
But drama for Mercedes when Hamilton clipped the barriers coming into the pits and broke his front wing. The Mercedes pit crew were then fumbling to get Hamilton’s wing attached while Bottas was lining up and being held up by Hamilton in the box. However, both cars eventually came out on a new set of soft tyres with enough time for just one hot lap.
As all the drivers came across the line, it was Lando Norris who set an astonishing lap to claim pole position for the race. Carlos Sainz in the Ferrari was second fastest with George Russel again pulling a fantastic lap out of the bag to put his Williams third on the grid for the race.
Hamilton struggled to get temperatures into his tyres and spun on his hot lap. The defending world champion will start from fourth on the grid for the race on Sunday. Behind him will be McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo and Fernando Alonso in the Alpine. The second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas will start from P7. Stroll, Perez and Ocon will line up eighth, ninth and 10th.
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