Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Sochi Autodrom, 2018

Bottas leads Mercedes front row lock-out in Russia

2018 Russian Grand Prix qualifying

Posted on

| Written by

Valtteri Bottas denied Lewis Hamilton pole position for the Russian Grand Prix and led a Mercedes sweep of the front row of the grid.

The silver cars bumped the Ferrari pair back to the second row of the grid, over a half a second behind them.


Mercedes issued notice of their intentions in Q1 and Hamilton lowered the track record to 1’32.410 after a series of laps on his hyper-softs. Bottas backed him up at the top of the times sheet with the Red Bull pair separating them from the Ferraris.

Vettel was over a second slower, as Hamilton exploited the improving track conditions to press home his advantage. But despite this, none of the five drivers who were in the drop zone before the final runs began were able to escape it.

The Williams and McLaren drivers never looked in contention for a place in Q2 and so it proved. Fernando Alonso’s chances ended with a slow run through the first sector and Stoffel Vandoorne was unable to capitalise on the opportunity, taking 19th.

Sergey Sirotkin spun his Williams at the exit of turn eight which wrecked his hopes of progressing beyond the first stage in his home race.

The final driver to drop out in Q1 was Brendon Hartley, who had been consistently slower than his team mate by more than half a second.

Drivers eliminated in Q1

16Brendon HartleyToro Rosso-Honda1’35.037
17Fernando AlonsoMcLaren-Renault1’35.504
18Sergey SirotkinWilliams-Mercedes1’35.612
19Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren-Renault1’35.977
20Lance StrollWilliams-Mercedes1’36.437


The shoot-out for the 10 places in Q3 was non-existent. With the Red Bull drivers and Pierre Gasly doomed to start from the back of the grid anyway, only 12 of the 15 drivers had any reason to try to set a lap time. But Renault, who hadn’t looked like Q3 contenders anyway, decided not to run to assure themselves of a sixth-row start on fresh tyres.

While one-third of the field stayed in the pits, the rest of the drivers began their runs on the tyres they would start the race on. The Mercedes and Ferrari pairs opted for ultra-softs, allowing them to start the race on more favourable rubber.

The Sauber, Force India and Haas drivers joined them, all choosing the hyper-soft rubber. The second part of qualifying, however, was a damp squib.

Drivers eliminated in Q2

11Max VerstappenRed Bull-TAG Heuer
12Daniel RicciardoRed Bull-TAG Heuer
13Pierre GaslyToro Rosso-Honda
14Carlos Sainz JnrRenault
15Nico HulkenbergRenault

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free


The Mercedes drivers were strong in different parts of the lap at Sochi. Hamilton had the edge through the first sector on both of his runs in Q3, Bottas unable to get within two-tenths of him. But in the middle part of the lap number 77 was conclusively quicker.

Their first runs left Bottas ahead by a mere four-thousandths of a second. Ferrari weren’t in the hunt, the red cars still over half a second behind. As the final runs began it was between the Mercedes drivers.

Hamilton was quicker again in the first sector but at turn seven he caught a snap of oversteer and ran wide. With that his shot at pole position was gone, but Bottas pressed on regardless, extending his advantage to over a tenth of a second at the chequered flag.

Vettel reckoned he had no more than 15 hundredths of a second in his car after a mistake on his final run. It was still enough to out-qualify Raikkonen for third place.

Esteban Ocon and Charles Leclerc began their last efforts separated by six thousandths of a second in their fight to lead the third row of the grid. They didn’t improve with their last runs but a superb effort from Kevin Magnussen, who had been unhappy with his car yesterday, propelled him past both into fifth.

Top ten in Q3

1Valtteri BottasMercedes1’31.387
2Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’31.532
3Sebastian VettelFerrari1’31.943
4Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’32.237
5Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’33.181
6Esteban OconForce India-Mercedes1’33.413
7Charles LeclercSauber-Ferrari1’33.419
8Sergio PerezForce India-Mercedes1’33.563
9Romain GrosjeanHaas-Ferrari1’33.704
10Marcus EricssonSauber-Ferrari

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2018 Russian Grand Prix

Browse all 2018 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...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

47 comments on “Bottas leads Mercedes front row lock-out in Russia”

  1. If one day you wake up feeling useless, don’t despair, remember, the 2018 Russian GP had a Q2 session.

    But these tyres and tyre rules are fine…

    1. @johnmilk
      Methinks it had nothing to do with the tyres (this time). The Red Bull trio had no reason to run because of their engine penalties, and Renault had no reason to run as they too far off the pace to stand any chance of reaching Q3. I don’t think there’s any tyre regulation from the past 30 years or so that would’ve lured them out on the track again.

    2. It has nothing to do with the tyres. This is all about stupid engine penalties

  2. Well that was… a qualifying session.

    1. Did that qualifies as a session?

    2. Well that’s the first part of my prediction done. Bottas , Hamilton, Vettel.

      The question now is can Hamilton keep Vettel behind him for the duration? Or more importantly, can Bottas drive fast enough for Hamilton to stay ahead of Vettel, to gift Bottas the win.

      I figured from the start, a Bottas win would favour Mercedes marketing in that area, politics etc not withstanding.
      It just as well Red bull wont be starting near the front, it means the top four should have a cushion over the rest of the field.

      Now let’s see Bottas can complete my predictions ;)

  3. Nice to see Bottas get pole, though if Ferrari really are half a second slower than the Mercedes it’s going to be a super dull race. Kinda worrying for the championship too – seems Ferrari are going backwards looking at Red Bull’s pace in Q1.

    1. Ferrari are favourites for tomorrow

      1. They are?! I think I’ll die of shock if Ferrari win the race.

        1. Wink wink

          1. Up until the last 2 races Ferrari WERE the fastest car. Since Singapore Mercs upgrades have seen them take up that mantle. Ferrari and VET should be the team sitting on a 40 point Lead but alas… that italian mind set has seen them come up short AGAIN. The only time Ferrari have had sustained success in the modern era is with non italian personnel leading the team. Will they see the blindingly obvious? I doubt it.
            Great couple of laps from BOT today. Lewis coming up a little short but in the grand scheme of things… not a bad place for Lewis to be tomorrow.

          2. Dean, it does seem strange that we always hear the refrain “the team needs to be run by foreigners” given that there have also been periods of time when the team was run by non-Italians and also had extended downturns in performance. Equally, those same minds were seemingly rather adequate for the job earlier in the season when Vettel was leading the championship – funny how nobody complained that non-Italians were needed to manage the team then.

            It feels like a rather cheap and lazy attempt to pin everything on a single factor, and one that does have a slight Anglocentric undertone to it (it seems to be mostly British journalists, particularly the older ones, who use that stereotype – French or German publications, for example, never seem to make those same sorts of remarks).

          3. I Take your point anon. I do have a penchant for seeing Ferrari fall on their faces but i think my point is still quite valid. Ferrari have not had a sustained perriod of success in the modern era under Italian stewardship (i class modern era as circa 1980).
            Its probably not the only factor but the italian economy and politics certainly point to a failure to adopt successful methods of working. That is slightly off topic but also a valid point to back up my statement.
            I am english but its not an anglocentric view that im coming from its an observation made through many pleasurable years of seeing Ferrari fail. I say keep doing what youre doing Ferrari 😄

  4. Vettel has the fastest car.
    Hamilton delivers when under pressure.

    1. Hahaha…you take your crumbs of comfort where you can I guess. Enjoy the rest of the season 😉

  5. Bottas doing his yearly ‘WDC material impression’ at Russia.
    Barring any lap 1 incidents or retirements it’s a Merc 1-2.

  6. the most difficult qualifying session for me trying to stay awake and i thought staying awake at 3 am for US GP was hard

  7. Told you the champs are over…. 1st because Ferrari doesn’t have the car to really fight for it.

    Still, let it pour with comments how Ferrari has the best car, yet the team and/or the drivers failed to come on top……

    1. @mg1982 I would say that for a while Ferrari did indeed have the fastest car, though not by a big margin. And clearly they did not capitalize while it lasted. Now their window seems to be closed/closing, though perhaps Suzuka might still be different.

      1. Dunno, but 1-hot then 3-cold doesn’t really look like the best car, even with team+drivers mistakes. 0.55sec slower is too much for the best car title. And it’s not the 1st track – dry conditions – where the fastest Ferrari is slower than Mercedes by that kind of margin. So, the Mercedes seems better because is more consistent performance-wise no matter the track.

      2. I kind of agree, Ferrari may well have ‘had’ the faster car, but i think the FIA may has caught them on a few of their secrets forcing them to tone those mods down.

        Either that, or they’ve been forced to consider a more conservative engine setup in order to avoid the penalites of a new engine etc..

        I think engine penalties will be a key factor before the end of the championship.

    2. Boy, you lot love your excuses. Ferrari has had the most power and “best car” for the majority of the races, and they have not made the most of that, either due to team errors in strategy, or Vettel/Raikonnen mistakes. That is their problem. Meanwhile, Mercedes has simply put their head down and worked hard on improving the car, and Lewis is driving flawlessly this season, unlike his rivals. But keep making excuses for Ferrari team and drivers if it helps you sleep at night.

      1. Yeah a flawless 2nd position to the also ran Bottas :)

  8. Move your fingers Sabastian, Hamilton is nailing that corner of your coffin now.

    1. Hahahahahah. Good one.

    2. This is always assume Vettel doesn’t take himself and Hamilton out on the second corner….

      1. That just plays into Hamilton’s hands though

        1. At this point tbh the title is hamilton’s to lose, there’s no realistic chance for vettel, so he might also want a contact hoping hamilton gets the worst of it, that’s the only way to recover big points from hamilton now.

  9. After watching that qualifying session, and the Man Utd vs West Ham game, I have officially gone into full depression purely from boredom.

    1. Then the Liverpool game should definitely lift them as they continue their unbeaten record in the league 😉

  10. On the west coast of the States here. Sure glad I didn’t get up at 5:00 am to watch this; sleeping in was the right choice. Doubt if I’ll watch the undoubted snooze fest of a race tomorrow.

  11. Cheer up people!

    A good deal of you commenting here may as well have done something else and not bothered wasting even more time moaning about being board about watching qualifying… Enough complain about Russia being dull. You could have avoided seeing it :)

    1. Aye. Which I watched the more exiting football instead. I see I missed nothing here.

    2. Yes, we could have avoided seeing it. If Liberty had came to its sense and dropped this awful track from the calendar after the last two years’ borefests. Rubbish of a track on a a rubbish of a man’s personal playground.

    3. I’ll bet a ‘good deal of us’ got up at 5am to watch…
      The most exciting thing I saw were some cool Finnish fans in the stands waving blue and white flags.

  12. I wouldn’t be surprised if Vettel were to do the same Bottas did to him into T2 a year and five months ago.

    1. I think that will be more likely than Hamilton getting Bottas in turn 1 anyway. Starting on the dirty site can effect you. But I think Bottas has a lot of confidence here and will hopefully be able to get a good start and stay ahead. Rosberg managed to stay in 1st on the first lap both times he got pole here in 2015 and 2016.

  13. Pathetic Q2, I say go to single car format for 3 full out laps with the average times over those 3 laps setting the grid.

    1. @canadianjosh Singe lap qualifying was tried in the past & every format they tried (Which included a 2 lap aggregate system for a few races in 2005) was not only dull to watch but also massively unpopular among just about everybody.

      What we saw in Q2 today wasn’t ideal (Also not as if it’s something we see every weekend) but it was still way better overall than single car qualifying ever was.

  14. First Corner Bets:
    1) Raikkonen
    2) Vettel
    3) Hamilton
    4) Bottas


    1. This depends on whether they will be affected by the crashes behind them.

    2. Raikkonen will lock-up as usual into the 1st corner

  15. Mercedes has had the clear fastest car since Monza.

    It was really only Hockenheim and Spa where Ferrari were quicker.

  16. Immense pace from mercs here. ‘Scuderia sometimes fast but confused ferrari’ paying the price for their (driver + team) mistakes during their ‘fastest car’ phase.

  17. Hamilton isn’t sulking after losing because it seems to him that his car is back to being the faster so he doesn’t mind losing to bottas anyway

  18. Strange to see Ferrari has no answer to Mercedes pace throughout the practice and qualifying, for the first time this year! Did Ferrari arguably turn down their extra 40hp to save for longer term reliability?

    1. papaya, the photographs of the rear wing from the practise and qualifying sessions indicate that Ferrari have been running a noticeably higher downforce set up – the plan area of the rear wing is larger than that of Red Bull or Mercedes, and the wing angle is also steeper too.

      Now, it was noted that both of Ferrari’s drivers had been complaining in practise that they were struggling with heavier than expected rear tyre wear and rear end instability, especially in the final sector – the mechanics were still making adjustments to the rear suspension quite late in the final practise session.

      Basically, it sounds as if Ferrari were not able to solve the problem with mechanical set up changes alone, so they’ve had to try and smother the problem with additional downforce. It’s partially solved their problem – although the onboards did suggest Vettel was still having a few problems with the rear end sliding around a bit in Sector 3 – but it’s done so at the expense of added drag.

      They’re still pretty competitive in the speed traps – in fact, the two Ferrari’s were faster than the two Mercedes drivers through the second intermediate timing beam – but they’re not quite as strong in a straight line as you would normally expect.

      Furthermore, any potential power advantage is useless if you do not have the rear traction to take advantage of it, and their rear tyre wear problems are hurting them in that regard – even if their top end speed is competitive, they’re not able to accelerate quite as quickly up to that speed as possible as they’d like because of their poor rear traction.

Comments are closed.