Vettel expects Mercedes will be “a lot closer” in race

2015 Russian Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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Qualifying at Sochi came to an unusual conclusion as both Mercedes drivers failed to improve their times on their final runs.

The team’s technical director Paddy Lowe explained this was because of the unconventional run plan the team had chosen to use because of the difficulty getting tyres up to temperature on the low-grip Sochi surface which had rubbered-in little due to the lack of dry-weather running before qualifying.

“The main difficulty was that there was not enough time to do two runs of two timed laps in Q3 with both cars, which looked like it would have been our preferred solution, without the performance penalty of fuelling for the whole session and carrying the additional weight on the first run,” Lowe explained.

Mercedes used an unusual qualifying strategy
“So we chose to do a single run with each car, setting times on laps two and four. This was sufficient to lock out the front row but neither driver improved on their second lap.”

Just as in Japan it was Nico Rosberg who took advantage. “I didn’t get a hooked-up lap together but Nico did, so well done to him,” admitted Lewis Hamilton.

Overtaking was an infrequent sight during Sochi’s first race last year, and Hamilton knows he must be ready to take advantage at the start. “There’s a long run down to turn two, so we’ll both be studying the line to take tonight.”

Rosberg is acutely aware that an indifferent start at Suzuka cost him his best chance of victory, and he performed several extra practice starts on Friday as he tried to sharpen his game.

Sochi has a very long, curved run to the first braking point – it lasts for almost a kilometre which the drivers take around 15 seconds to cover before stepping on the brakes. Last year Rosberg got away well enough from second place to challenge Hamilton for the lead at turn two but locked up and ran wide, losing his shot at victory.

This corner is an especially poor piece of track design which invites drivers to cut across it. For this year they have been instructed to follow a prescribed route through the run-off, but this did not work as planned during today’s GP2 race. Arten Markelov clipped a barrier as he rejoined, triggering an accident involving several other cars which led to the race being red-flagged.

While Mercedes enjoyed an advantage in the order of nine-tenths of a second in qualifying, Sebastian Vettel does not expect them to be as far ahead in the race.

“I’m actually very confident for tomorrow,” said the Ferrari driver, who starts fourth. “As for Mercedes, I think they have been more or less one second away but I also think tomorrow it will be a lot closer, I expect that the gap will be smaller, but we’ll see what we can do. If we have the chance, of course we must take it.”

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Qualifying times in full

Driver Car Q1

Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’38.343 1’37.500 (-0.843) 1’37.113 (-0.387)
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’38.558 1’37.672 (-0.886) 1’37.433 (-0.239)
3 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1’38.448 1’38.194 (-0.254) 1’37.912 (-0.282)
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1’38.598 1’38.402 (-0.196) 1’37.965 (-0.437)
5 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1’39.207 1’38.224 (-0.983) 1’38.348 (+0.124)
6 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1’39.250 1’38.727 (-0.523) 1’38.659 (-0.068)
7 Sergio Perez Force India 1’39.617 1’38.914 (-0.703) 1’38.691 (-0.223)
8 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1’39.056 1’38.754 (-0.302) 1’38.787 (+0.033)
9 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso 1’39.411 1’39.119 (-0.292) 1’38.924 (-0.195)
10 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1’39.574 1’39.005 (-0.569) 1’39.728 (+0.723)
11 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull 1’39.580 1’39.214 (-0.366)
12 Felipe Nasr Sauber 1’40.042 1’39.323 (-0.719)
13 Jenson Button McLaren 1’39.739 1’39.763 (+0.024)
14 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1’39.724 1’39.811 (+0.087)
15 Felipe Massa Williams 1’38.926 1’39.895 (+0.969)
16 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1’40.144
17 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1’40.660
18 Will Stevens Manor 1’43.693
19 Roberto Merhi Manor 1’43.804

Sector times

Driver Sector 1 Sector 2 Sector 3
Nico Rosberg 34.410 (1) 33.577 (1) 28.935 (1)
Lewis Hamilton 34.469 (2) 33.634 (2) 29.152 (2)
Valtteri Bottas 34.665 (4) 33.763 (3) 29.373 (8)
Sebastian Vettel 34.769 (6) 33.874 (4) 29.273 (3)
Kimi Raikkonen 34.724 (5) 34.133 (7) 29.312 (5)
Nico Hulkenberg 35.025 (9) 34.111 (6) 29.287 (4)
Sergio Perez 34.914 (8) 34.136 (8) 29.344 (6)
Romain Grosjean 34.650 (3) 34.106 (5) 29.531 (11)
Max Verstappen 35.042 (10) 34.374 (12) 29.486 (10)
Daniel Ricciardo 35.359 (13) 34.245 (10) 29.357 (7)
Daniil Kvyat 35.407 (14) 34.341 (11) 29.397 (9)
Felipe Nasr 35.296 (12) 34.387 (13) 29.633 (13)
Jenson Button 35.552 (16) 34.520 (15) 29.594 (12)
Pastor Maldonado 35.245 (11) 34.552 (16) 29.795 (15)
Felipe Massa 34.774 (7) 34.184 (9) 29.726 (14)
Fernando Alonso 35.514 (15) 34.498 (14) 29.930 (16)
Marcus Ericsson 35.659 (17) 34.913 (17) 30.088 (17)
Will Stevens 36.707 (19) 36.224 (19) 30.762 (18)
Roberto Merhi 36.635 (18) 35.953 (18) 31.216 (19)
Carlos Sainz Jnr

Speed trap

Pos Driver Car Engine Speed (kph/mph) Gap
1 Felipe Massa Williams Mercedes 334.4 (207.8)
2 Romain Grosjean Lotus Mercedes 332.8 (206.8) -1.6
3 Pastor Maldonado Lotus Mercedes 332.2 (206.4) -2.2
4 Valtteri Bottas Williams Mercedes 331.6 (206.0) -2.8
5 Nico Rosberg Mercedes Mercedes 329.8 (204.9) -4.6
6 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Mercedes 329.4 (204.7) -5.0
7 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 327.0 (203.2) -7.4
8 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari 326.7 (203.0) -7.7
9 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes 325.3 (202.1) -9.1
10 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Ferrari 325.0 (201.9) -9.4
11 Felipe Nasr Sauber Ferrari 324.2 (201.4) -10.2
12 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 324.0 (201.3) -10.4
13 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso Renault 323.3 (200.9) -11.1
14 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 318.7 (198.0) -15.7
15 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Renault 318.4 (197.8) -16.0
16 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull Renault 318.1 (197.7) -16.3
17 Jenson Button McLaren Honda 316.5 (196.7) -17.9
18 Will Stevens Manor Ferrari 314.1 (195.2) -20.3
19 Roberto Merhi Manor Ferrari 313.6 (194.9) -20.8

Over to you

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2015 Russian Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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11 comments on “Vettel expects Mercedes will be “a lot closer” in race”

  1. Predictions

    Hamilton will beat Rodberg off the line and win. Vettel 3rd, Bottas 4th, Raikkonen 5th, Perez 6th, Massa 7th, Hulkenberg 8th, Verstappen 9th and Maldonado 10th

    1. Rosberg-Hamilton crash out.

      1. Yeah I get this feeling too, Rosberg must be feeling he has to prove himself after getting bullied off in Suzuka, so I don’t expect him to back out into t2.

    2. Rosberg will win, Lewiz will battle Vettel for second and give us a proper show, williams and kimi will mix it up for crumps. Maldonado will crash, Verstapen n Seinz will be in the points.

  2. but this did not work as planned during today’s GP2 race. Arten Markelov clipped a barrier as he rejoined, triggering an accident involving several other cars which led to the race being red-flagged.

    OMG that crash was so stupid… It is the first time I watched a GP2 race this year (because I heard Vandoorne could clinch the title this weeknd) an it was utterly boring. It seems like the DRS doesn’t work at this track.

  3. I predict an incident between Rosberg and Lewis into the first corner. Rosberg has something to prove, and the media comments in the run up to this race are very reminiscent of Spa 2014.

    Sebastian will be there to capitalise, as i also predict he will beat Bottas off the line. If the Mercs collide, Ferrari will win, or beat one of them to the podium.

    1. Well, if Rosberg don’t avoid contact to prove a point (his manliness, i suppose, lol) then Vettel will capitalize, surpass him on the standings and Mercedes will be forced to use team orders, as there’s no point giving them the same treatment if one is so behind with so little races remaining.

      Rosberg has to defeat Hamilton on pace, being faster than him. He knows it will serve him nothing to cause a crash. It will only make his position within the team more fragile.

      1. Point is, Lewis will stand ground like he did in Suzuka, Senna style, you want to be on my road? Fine then crash.

        Lewis could afford a crash where both go out, Nico hardly. But Nico must reassert himself as the stronger racer or there is no hope for him this year or next or ever.

        1. Also, Hamilton has a huge point gap over Vettel. Team orders would not come into play until last 1-2 races if they have to.

    2. I get this crash out feeling too.

Comments are closed.