Another race of damage limitation for Hamilton

2016 Russian Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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Will Lewis Hamilton really have as much trouble getting back to the front of the field in Russia as he says he expects to?

After all, just two years ago Nico Rosberg recovered to finish second despite being forced to pit on the first lap of the race.

As things stand, Hamilton will line up tenth on the grid for Sunday’s race. He is only on his second engine so he will not be penalised is he takes a third. But he is already locked in to starting the race on the super-soft tyres he used in Q2 just before the power unit failure which harpooned his chances of taking pole position.

The first job for Hamilton tomorrow is to stay out of trouble on the run through turn two. This has proced a trouble spot in the two years since the Sochi Autodrom opened. Starting on the outside, Hamilton will have to be prepared not only to take avoiding action if there is trouble around him.

And if he does, he must not make the mistake he did in qualifying of not following the correct route back onto the track. He’s only one reprimand away from a ten-place grid penalty – a threat which will hang over him for the rest of the season.

Assuming he makes it through the opening corners unscathed and doesn’t repeat his sluggish getaways of Australia and Bahrain, the potency of the Mercedes engine should help him make progress. Every single Mercedes-powered car was quicker than every single non-Mercedes powered car in the speed trap.

Even so overtaking will be tricky – the slowest car through the speed trap is only 7.2kph down on Hamilton (see below). And the strategy options look decidedly limited for Hamilton and his rivals.

The low-grip nature of the Sochi circuit means the tyres can easy last long enough for a single pit stop to be possible. Had Pirelli chosen to bring the new ultra-soft tyre here things might have been different, but as there wasn’t time to test it before teams had to make their tyre choices for this race, they chose to err on the side of caution.

A two-stop strategy would involve making an early first pit stop, coming in after around a dozen laps while the one-stoppers hang on until closer to lap 20. The risk element of this approach is fairly high if the driver gets stuck in traffic. But the performance advantage Mercedes enjoy anyway plus the fact Hamilton has more sets of new tyres available could make this an attractive choice, especially if he gets stuck in traffic early on. It would certainly play to Hamilton’s attacking style.

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Can Bottas stay in the top three?
One of the most interesting propositions for the race is Valtteri Bottas, who will make his third start from the front row. With Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel compromised on the grid he has a decent shot at taking the first podium finish of the year for Williams.

The team have sharpened up their act in the pits this year and with a diminished threat from Red Bull, Bottas is well-placed to avenge. He has good form at this track: he was on the podium in 2014 and would have been last year until Raikkonen took him off. The Ferrari driver lines up right behind him on the grid, so look out for a resumption of hostilities between the two.

Red Bull have had a quieter weekend so far at a circuit which hasn’t suited them very well. However their race pace should be strong. Daniel Ricciardo, who starts fifth, ran a long stint on softs on Friday which suggests the team may be considering an early pit stop and a long run to the end, playing to that strength.

Sergio Perez will occupt Force India’s highest starting position of the year, sixth, at a track where he excelled last season. This is a chance for the team to turn its sluggish start to the season around, although their tyre degradation so far this year hasn’t been as well-managed as it was last season.

Qualifying times in full


Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Nico RosbergMercedes1’36.1191’35.337 (-0.782)1’35.417 (+0.080)
2Sebastian VettelFerrari1’36.5551’36.623 (+0.068)1’36.123 (-0.500)
3Valtteri BottasWilliams1’37.7461’37.140 (-0.606)1’36.536 (-0.604)
4Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’36.9761’36.741 (-0.235)1’36.663 (-0.078)
5Felipe MassaWilliams1’37.7531’37.230 (-0.523)1’37.016 (-0.214)
6Daniel RicciardoRed Bull1’38.0911’37.569 (-0.522)1’37.125 (-0.444)
7Sergio PerezForce India1’38.0061’37.282 (-0.724)1’37.212 (-0.070)
8Daniil KvyatRed Bull1’38.2651’37.606 (-0.659)1’37.459 (-0.147)
9Max VerstappenToro Rosso1’38.1231’37.510 (-0.613)1’37.583 (+0.073)
10Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’36.0061’35.820 (-0.186)
11Carlos Sainz JnrToro Rosso1’37.7841’37.652 (-0.132)
12Jenson ButtonMcLaren1’38.3321’37.701 (-0.631)
13Nico HulkenbergForce India1’38.5621’37.771 (-0.791)
14Fernando AlonsoMcLaren1’37.9711’37.807 (-0.164)
15Romain GrosjeanHaas1’38.3831’38.055 (-0.328)
16Esteban GutierrezHaas1’38.6781’38.115 (-0.563)
17Kevin MagnussenRenault1’38.914
18Jolyon PalmerRenault1’39.009
19Felipe NasrSauber1’39.018
20Pascal WehrleinManor1’39.399
21Rio HaryantoManor1’39.463
22Marcus EricssonSauber1’39.519

Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Nico Rosberg34.056 (1)32.760 (1)28.367 (1)
Sebastian Vettel34.300 (3)32.964 (2)28.749 (3)
Valtteri Bottas34.360 (4)33.251 (5)28.877 (6)
Kimi Raikkonen34.371 (5)33.191 (4)28.849 (5)
Felipe Massa34.511 (7)33.433 (6)29.072 (9)
Daniel Ricciardo34.803 (13)33.442 (7)28.774 (4)
Sergio Perez34.419 (6)33.532 (8)29.105 (10)
Daniil Kvyat34.798 (12)33.657 (11)28.882 (7)
Max Verstappen34.694 (9)33.582 (9)29.111 (11)
Lewis Hamilton34.057 (2)33.079 (3)28.684 (2)
Carlos Sainz Jnr34.682 (8)33.637 (10)29.153 (12)
Jenson Button34.780 (11)33.682 (13)29.200 (13)
Nico Hulkenberg34.737 (10)33.753 (15)29.208 (14)
Fernando Alonso35.003 (18)33.673 (12)29.062 (8)
Romain Grosjean34.855 (15)33.797 (16)29.322 (16)
Esteban Gutierrez34.809 (14)33.737 (14)29.287 (15)
Kevin Magnussen35.115 (19)34.043 (17)29.450 (18)
Jolyon Palmer35.193 (22)34.230 (18)29.432 (17)
Felipe Nasr35.123 (21)34.324 (19)29.556 (19)
Pascal Wehrlein34.978 (17)34.366 (21)29.985 (22)
Rio Haryanto34.875 (16)34.442 (22)29.797 (20)
Marcus Ericsson35.118 (20)34.354 (20)29.981 (21)

Speed trap

PosDriverCarEngineSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Rio HaryantoManorMercedes333.0 (206.9)
2Nico RosbergMercedesMercedes331.6 (206.0)-1.4
3Sergio PerezForce IndiaMercedes330.7 (205.5)-2.3
4Felipe MassaWilliamsMercedes330.7 (205.5)-2.3
5Lewis HamiltonMercedesMercedes330.5 (205.4)-2.5
6Valtteri BottasWilliamsMercedes330.5 (205.4)-2.5
7Pascal WehrleinManorMercedes330.3 (205.2)-2.7
8Nico HulkenbergForce IndiaMercedes330.1 (205.1)-2.9
9Romain GrosjeanHaasFerrari329.2 (204.6)-3.8
10Esteban GutierrezHaasFerrari328.9 (204.4)-4.1
11Sebastian VettelFerrariFerrari328.2 (203.9)-4.8
12Kimi RaikkonenFerrariFerrari328.0 (203.8)-5.0
13Jenson ButtonMcLarenHonda327.0 (203.2)-6.0
14Carlos Sainz JnrToro RossoFerrari326.0 (202.6)-7.0
15Max VerstappenToro RossoFerrari325.6 (202.3)-7.4
16Marcus EricssonSauberFerrari325.4 (202.2)-7.6
17Jolyon PalmerRenaultRenault325.3 (202.1)-7.7
18Daniel RicciardoRed BullTAG Heuer325.1 (202.0)-7.9
19Kevin MagnussenRenaultRenault324.8 (201.8)-8.2
20Felipe NasrSauberFerrari324.2 (201.4)-8.8
21Fernando AlonsoMcLarenHonda324.1 (201.4)-8.9
22Daniil KvyatRed BullTAG Heuer323.3 (200.9)-9.7

Over to you

How high can Hamilton climb in Russia? Will this be another straightforward win for Rosberg? And can Bottas deliver a podium for Williams?

Share your views on the Russian Grand Prix in the comments.

2016 Russian Grand Prix

Browse all 2016 Russian Grand Prix articles

Author information

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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25 comments on “Another race of damage limitation for Hamilton”

  1. I’m hoping for ‘Championship’ drives from Vettel and Hamilton tomorrow. The entertainment depends on it!

    1. sunny stivala
      1st May 2016, 4:11

      As soon as car 44 went out the pits (starts qualifying) it is regarded as being under parc-frame rules, since car 44 is under those rules it means he will either start from 10th on the grid with a broken engine or if he needs to change engine, turbo or MGU-H, it will be a back of the grid start.
      The 10 grid place start was were he qualified at, and nothing to do with needing an engine change.

      1. Andy (@andybantam)
        1st May 2016, 21:04

        Ok. Thanks?

  2. Bottas with a williams on the front row behind Rosberg… I do not want another Mercedes in trouble tomorrow at turn 1 even though I am thinking that Bottas could jump Nico at the start. It’s been a messy start during the first 3 races so I really want everyone getting out of the first couple of corners in one piece particularly Vettel and Hamilton.

    1. Hopefully vettel gets a clean start and puts some pressure on rosberg alternatively I’ll settle for the top 5 tangling at the start…

      I’m supporting rosberg really but I want him to fight for the win.

  3. Now I knew why Haryanto wins on GP2 always came from reversed grid race. He always on top speed trap record. He knew how to speedup his car on straight lane preventing all other drivers to easily pass him. But he really need to learn how to take corner faster too.

    1. Which is why “overtaking will be tricky – the slowest car through the speed trap is only 7.2kph down on Hamilton” has zero to do with anything. LH will easily pass anyone he likes on his way to 2nd. All this ‘it’s gonna be tough’ malarkey is laughable.

      1. SHOCKER

    2. sunny stivala
      1st May 2016, 6:46

      “Rio Haryanto is a guy who has measured himself against Vandoome and beaten him twice” Adrian Campos.

  4. Meh, championship is now a foregone conclusion. With further penalties in line later in the season for Hamilton, it will now take a couple DNF’s for Rosberg for anyone else to be in contention this year. In short, it’s already been handed to Rosberg by nothing more than sheer luck. I would like to see some race wins by honest effort and skill rather than being handed it on a plate.

    Even in 1988 with the ridiculously dominant McLaren MP4/4, the drivers swapped wins (excluding Italian GP) between them. This so far has been one of the worst starts to an F1 season I’ve ever seen unless you happen to be a fan of Rosberg.

    1. Luck is part of what makes a driver a champion ….

      Nevertheless people still forgot how rosberg was very eficcient in the last 6 races …. never commiting any mistake …. this is not luck ….

    2. Luck, as you call it, striked Hamilton only by China. The five races before, he had no troubles and finished behind Rosberg.

      1. What total rubbish. Dragging clutch on both Mercs at Australia. Slow get away led to getting clipped and a new front wing. Dragging clutch AGAIN in Bahrain and then speared by that idiot Bottas who came in too hot into turn one. ERS failure in China and again in Russia and you say no troubles?

        Oh and your false comparison with the last three races of the previous season with a different car? Why not go all the way and compare to the McLaren MP4/4 of 1988?

    3. The first 3 races have been brilliant, I have no idea how you can view the start of the season as bad. I reckon you’re a Hamilton fan and if he doesn’t win you think the race was rubbish, 2016 has been great so far and there is a longgg way to go, no one has ever wrapped up a championship in the first 3 races haha come on man

      1. And when he wins you label it boring. You see the double standards?

      2. The silly thing is we have so far to go. Hamilton, if his luck turns, is more than capable of taking the fight to Rosberg for the championship. I’m not a Lewis fan, but no doubt he is damn, damn fast.

        1. Lewis has to win the next six races to pass Nico’s points tally. Given use of extra engine components, he can expect further penalties this year too when (not if) he runs out. Given all that, you wonder why I’m a tad pessimistic?

          I’m more annoyed with the rules than anything else. This penalising the driver for things out of his/her control is an utter joke. I’d much rather see team penalties for such infractions. May spice up the constructors championship a bit.

        2. I’m afraid this is a cynical attempt by the Mercedes team to win back German fans.

      3. Because we’ve not seen racing? We’ve seen technical issues determine grid order and eventual finishing positions. We’ve also seen some F1 drivers think they’re in a demolition derby rather than a race. So no, I don’t know what races you were watching but it wasn’t what I saw. Every race this year has either been determined by the end of qualifying or the end of lap one.

  5. Are you crazy?

    Your own words – taking a third engine in four races..

    And starting at the back and then tenth..?

    No Keith – everything is just fine and nothing is making NR year look like a travesty championship win.

  6. Oh sorry – not your words given the vageries of engine bits but the reality is similar.

    One assumes..

  7. Do we know whether Hamilton can use the engine from qualifying? If not, can he change without penalty?

    1. @mike-dee He won’t be penalised, but changing an engine is a parc-ferme breach and Hamilton will either need to start from the back of the field or the pit lane.

  8. Isn’t the Sochi track very thirsty? Could Hamilton go for a flat out drive here, regardless of how many sets of new tyres he has? I think they will just play safe with a one stopper here…

  9. S (J.C) Etienne
    1st May 2016, 8:45

    Looks like a third easy win for Rosberg in 2016; I rather put a ferrari on the podium and P3 or P4 for Lewis with no incident, but will be difficult (the difference in performance with the other cars is not as in 2014 where they were almost 2 seconds faster per lap than everyone else).

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