Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Sochi Autodrom, 2020

Hamilton beats Verstappen to pole after Q2 drama – but faces investigation

2020 Russian Grand Prix qualifying

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Lewis Hamilton came close to being eliminated in Q2 but bounced back to claim pole position for the Russian Grand Prix.

However the Mercedes driver is under investigation for a possible infringement during the qualifying session.

Max Verstappen sprang a surprise in Q3, splitting Hamilton and the other the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas to claim a place on the front row of the grid.


Within moments of joining the track at the start of Q1, George Russell headed back into the pits to exchange the set of medium tyres he’d started on. “The track is very different,” he remarked as he came in.

The track surface improved quickly through the start of the session, making the final laps critical. Almost every driver lowered their times with their last laps. The track was in such better shape that home favourite Daniil Kvyat leapt to third place in his AlphaTauri behind – who else? – the two Mercedes.

Kimi Raikkonen took too much kerb at turn two, which tipped his Alfa Romeo into a spin. The 321-race veteran quickly pulled his car out of the way, ensuring the following drivers – including his team mate – were not delayed.

It briefly looked as though Antonio Giovinazzi’s 1’34.594 would be enough to gain him a place in Q2 for the first time this year. But Romain Grosjean – happier with his car following a fraught final hour of practice, pegged him back by just two-thousandths of a second.

Both had Russell to worry about, however. The Williams driver set a rapid first sector time, which proved the opener to an excellent lap. He crossed the line over a second faster than team mate Nicholas Latifi, securing his place in Q2. Once again, it was Latifi and the four Ferrari customer drivers who dropped out in the first round.

Drivers eliminated in Q1

16Romain GrosjeanHaas-Ferrari1’34.592
17Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’34.594
18Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’34.681
19Nicholas LatifiWilliams-Mercedes1’35.066
20Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’35.267

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The second part of qualifying brought a surprise to begin with: Neither of the Mercedes drivers were on top of the times. Hamilton easily set the quickest time, but ran too wide at the exit of the final corner, and it was deleted for a track limits infringement.

Meanwhile a scruffy lap left Bottas behind Daniel Ricciardo, Carlos Sainz Jnr and Sergio Perez. Unusually, the Mercedes drivers had to run again to secure their places in Q3.

Bottas improved to the second-fastest time. Hamilton was on course to do the same – but as he rounded the final sector the red flags appeared, forcing him to back off.

At turn four, Sebastian Vettel had taken took much of the kerb on the inside, which spat his Ferrari into a barrier. Charles Leclerc, following close behind, had to take evasive action not to hit his team mate.

The session still had two minutes and 15 second left to run, meaning it would be restarted, leaving Hamilton and his rivals sufficient time to get one lap in. However several of Hamilton’s rivals queued up at the pit lane exit before him, and with an out-lap taking well over one-and-a-half minutes, it was clear he would have to make rapid progress to start his final flying lap in time.

Having used medium tyres for his first two runs, Mercedes decided to minimise the risk of not getting into Q3 by putting Hamilton on a set of soft tyres – the less favourable strategic choice for the start of the race. It paid off – just.

Hamilton followed the queue of cars out of the pits, then went off at turn two, losing more time. Race engineer Peter Bonnington warned him he was “currently behind schedule” as he neared the end of the lap. He dived past Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz Jnr and made it to the line just in time. He delivered a clean lap for fourth, securing his place in the final 10.

A frustrated Leclerc was unable to make the final 10, and was eliminated along with his team mate. Russell also went no further and Daniil Kvyat was eliminated too, frustrated by poor tyre preparation ahead of his last run.

Lance Stroll’s hopes of reaching the final 10 ended when he suffered a problem while queuing to leave the pits. The team initially told him to pull his car out of the fast lane, where they are not allowed to touch it, but Stroll said he didn’t have enough space. He was eventually pushed clear.

Drivers eliminated in Q2

11Charles LeclercFerrari1’33.239
12Daniil KvyatAlphaTauri-Honda1’33.249
13Lance StrollRacing Point-Mercedes1’33.364
14George RussellWilliams-Mercedes1’33.583
15Sebastian VettelFerrari1’33.609

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Hamilton was immediately on it in Q3, putting over half a second on Bottas as he provisionally claimed pole position. Bottas wasn’t able to better him with his second effort, and initially looked set to start from the front row alongside his team mate.

But with his final lap of the session, Verstappen produced a superb lap to split the two Mercedes drivers. He took second on the grid, beating Bottas by less than a tenth of a second.

Encouragingly for Verstappen, during the session the stewards announced Hamilton was under investigation for failing to rejoin the track correctly at turn two when he ran wide during Q1. The Haas pair and Latifi are also under investigation for the same infringement.

Verstappen’s late effort relegated Perez to fourth. The four Renault-powered cars follow him, while Pierre Gasly beat Alexander Albon to ninth place.

Top ten in Q3

1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’31.304
2Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda1’31.867
3Valtteri BottasMercedes1’31.956
4Sergio PerezRacing Point-Mercedes1’32.317
5Daniel RicciardoRenault1’32.364
6Carlos Sainz JnrMcLaren-Renault1’32.550
7Esteban OconRenault1’32.624
8Lando NorrisMcLaren-Renault1’32.847
9Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri-Honda1’33.000
10Alexander AlbonRed Bull-Honda1’33.008

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2020 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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72 comments on “Hamilton beats Verstappen to pole after Q2 drama – but faces investigation”

  1. Just see what they are investigating Hamilton for.

    Raised an eyebrow to why they have left it so late to investigate.

    What do you guys think?

  2. Valterri Bottas – The living embodiment of Mediocrity.

    1. Jose Lopes da Silva
      26th September 2020, 14:29

      In 2021 we will see “The Return of Valtteri Bottas 4” in the movies.

    2. I’ll see your valterri bottas and raise you Alex albon. That is an astonishing gap to max.

    3. @knightameer in hindsight Bottas 2.0 turned out to be a very buggy version of Bottas 1.0. The Windows Vista to the original XP.

  3. For the sake of argument, if Hamilton keeps P1, I wonder if Mercedes instructed Bottas to keep P3. It is easier to get a tow from Hamilton in P1 since he is just behind him, rather than having one of them to move across to give the tow to each other. If Verstappen starts P3, then he could even have a better chance of getting the lead into turn 2. Hamilton starting on softs should get a better launch than Verstappen and Bottas, and I also wonder if this was factored into there as well. If Mercedes wanted them to start 1-2, I was surprised to see Bottas giving a tow to Max. I thought he was going to move over

    Bottas has a clear shot of victory tomorrow with Hamilton’s strategy, barring any safety cars. Make it count.

    1. No. Bottas finished before Verstappen, and was convinced he had P2. He even parked his car at the P2 sign, after which the stewards switched the 2 and 3 sign positions out.
      So no great masterplan, just mediocrity I’m afraid.

    2. Of course he wasn’t instructed to keep P3. He’s just not a very good driver on Hamilton or Verstappen’s level.

      Besides, Max was well behind him for this lap, so Bottas clearly thought he had P2, as did Merc. If that isn’t enough evidence for you, Bottas literally parked at the P2 sign. He and Merc assume they’ll default into the front row.

      1. @aiii Exactly, I mean, Verstappen had a tow from Bottas in S1, one of the reasons he got 2nd (and then he made maximum use of the opportunity with a great lap to make it work, of course) so there is very little manipulation Bottas could have been instructed to do after that. Bottas messed up having a wheely over that curb, that’s where the 1st row was lost to him, before S2 of that lap.

    3. How would be be able to do that without knowing the kind of time Verstappen would set? About as stupid as your suggestion that Vettel deliberately crashed to avoid Hamilton matching Michael’s record.

      1. I suggested it because of the amount conspiracies that could occur. Even more given that Vettel consistently spins that he could already know how to execute them. I already said that I did not believe it was deliberate. I just think of all possibilities occurring.

        PS: I am still thinking something could happen tomorrow. Something in me just tells me this race will not be a lights to flag easy race for Mercedes.

        1. Not everything is a conspiracy. There’s enough action without having to create false suggestions.

      2. Apart from Max and probably Dan, who wouldn’t be beaten by Lewis on the current grid? Charles maybe.

  4. Super qualifying session where they shoot themselves in the foot with the result in doubt again as viewers switch off.

    1. Stellar performances by Hamilton, Verstappen and Perez! In my opinion, they really outdrove their cars today and the margin to their team mates confirms it.

      1. @ Pieter…you can’t outdrive the car. Each and every car has a physical peak as determined by the laws of physics. Those three drivers were just able to get more of the possible peak performance available. Their team mates, for whatever reason, couldn’t extract that same level.

      2. I don’t think Hamilton outdrove his car like Perez and Max did, its just that Bottas underperformed massively that mercedes could do alot better then 5 tenth up on Redbull on this track

  5. BOOM. When chips are Down, Lewis always delivers! Not sure pole is the best place to be, especially on soft tyres, but… what a lap for pole…TWICE! Think BOT is a victim of trying to be clever. Think he wanted P2 so kept his powder dry… OOPS! Good lap from Max too. Well done young man.

    1. Good job he’s not starting from pole then! Although I think he’d prefer that to last place.

      1. Hehehehe bet you feel silly! 😀 Hahaha

    2. Settle down mate he beat Bottas who wasn’t that much better than a Massa 6-7 years past his best.

      1. Oh David… my dear David. If I need to explain to you how good Lewis is… There’s little hope for you. Still… I like you David. You seem like a nice, sensitive soul.

        1. Hamilton is a no talent hack. His not much better than any back marker driver. It’s his car that’s making him good. If he’s so dandy then put him in a Haas and see what he could do.

  6. Fia at it again with Ferari leadership now ruining f1

  7. Max very intelligent made use of the tow created by the passing Bottas.
    Excellent drive there.
    Ham in a unbelievable fast lap, compared to his teammate remarkable.

  8. So it’s a recovery drive from Hamilton tomorrow. At least he can choose his starting tyres now because those softs weren’t going to last long anyway. I still expect him to get back up to p5 at least and maybe grab a podium if there’s a safety car to help him out. Botttas has to take his chance to close the gap in the championship but being .7 off today doesn’t fill me with confidence.

    1. Even if he starts P20, Lewis will finish on the podium tomorrow easily. And if Max and Barrichello 2.0 fight a bit he even has a chance at the victory.

      1. It makes the race much more interesting. Just a shame to get disqualified for hitting a speed bump. I think the best he can do is p3 tomorrow anyway. Had he started from pole on the softs he’d be p3 by lap 2 and needing to pit much earlier than Bottas and Verstappen. He will have plenty of overtaking to do but I still expect an easy top 5 finish from him tomorrow and likely a podium.

        1. Are you the resident troll? There’s been no decision on Hamilton, never mind that if he gets a penalty, he’ll be at the back of the grid

        2. Oops! Hehe hehehehe. Lewis on pole. As you were Tom 😀

    2. I think the biggest deal here is the extra penalty on Hamilton’s license. Doesn’t this put him dangerously close to getting a race ban?

    3. Stand down Tom 😀

    4. This didn’t age well!

  9. I don’t understand how lucky that guy is. I very much doubt he’ll get a penalty.

    1. 100% agree. Bottas is so lucky to drive for Mercedes. You are right being 0.65secs slower Mercedes should fine Bottas.

    2. Hehehe LUCKY? Behave yourself young man! The man is genius. Whenever he is on the back foot he delivers…in style!

  10. wow so max is going to be on pole?

  11. Just wow what Max did there. Beating Bottas and destroying Albon. Unbelievable

    1. (@anunaki) indeed. And it’s looking embarrassing to Albon, with Gasly outperforming him again in a slower car.

    2. Verstappen is basically the copy of schumacher at benetton, beating his team mates (who were admittedly average) by seconds and being the only driver to be in contention for win, while his team mate languishes at the back.

  12. Impressive job by Perez all things considered.

    1. Perez is really performing well. He is faster than his team owner teammate and the guy who replaces him is crashing left and right. Considering all this, he is indeed performing impressively.

    2. yes, even tough Stroll had a technical issue in Q2 it looked the slower driver this weekend.

      Unlike Vettel, Perez seems to put the frustration and disappointment of latest events to good use.

    3. Indeed impressive considering he did not have the car upgrade for this race.

  13. When Hamilton wound up at the back of the queue after the red flag, I’d have bet money that he wouldn’t get his lap started in time. Good thing there was nobody else in the room to take me up on it.

  14. I’d be very surprised if he gets a penalty for that, he would have literally had to driven back over a sausage curb to get there. When he went wider the time before he did go around it. I expect it to be a reprimand, but F1 has had an air of artificial-ness recently so anything could happen.

    I’m pretty sure i saw others do the same thing during the session but aren’t under investigation? Latifi definitely being one of them.

  15. It looks like it is not the car alone. If it is, Max will not have beaten Botas to second place.

  16. I personally believe Bottas was doing the best he could but, considering his pace on the practice sessions and how it’s notoriously better to start from P2 than from P1 on this track (and how that P2 was so set in his mind when parking his car), I wonder if Bottas wasn’t actually intentionally aiming for P2 and misjudged his pace (or underestimated Verstappen’s).

    1. My thoughts exactly. He came undone though.

  17. What a very Hamilton sort of qualifying (including the investigation, whatever it ends up at), great lap to get pole on track. And Verstappen, getting maximum opportunity from Bottas’ tow and nailing the lap to get that 2nd place on the first row. Bottas, well, let’s see what he can deliver tomorrow. Perez great job, same for Ricciardo (so close between those two!) and Sainz.

    Not sure what happened with Stroll’s car, and Albon seems a bit lost again.

  18. Drive to Survive seems to have picked the right weekend to be a fly on the wall at Mercedes.

    1. Again, remember Germany last year..
      party time…. not.

  19. If the tow on the front straight is worth a tenth this is how Verstappen won P2. But it should not have been that close. It just seems like Bottas can’t finish off Lewis when he has him on the ropes in qualifying, just like last week.

    1. That’s not Bottas fault. He’s just coming up against a great a the top of his game. Bottas is a decent driver just not at Lewis level…but then no one of this generation is, so a bit harsh to bash Bottas. The only drivers that come close to Lewis during his time in F1 is Alonso and VER.

    2. Bottas gave Max 3 tens for sector 1 and Max won 1 ten for sector 2 and 3.

  20. Utterly incredible effort from Max.

    Seems like the Red Bull is the 5th best car on this track behind the Mercedes, Renault, Racing Point and McLaren. RBR could be slightly faster than the McLaren, but no better than 4th fastest.

    To stick it on the front row 1.2 seconds quicker than your teammate in the dry is one of the best qualifying performances you’ll ever see.

    Bottas bottled it again. The guy cracks anytime he’s under pressure.

    Well done to Hamilton for once again proving to us all that he’s quicker than Bottas.

  21. Well done to Max for proving, yet again, that he is quicker than Albon. Awwww…I like this interaction we are having David. It’s nice, isn’t it. 😉

  22. David Croft is an awful commentator. He does not understand F1. Hamilton was seven tenths up on P10 after sector 2 in Q2 and Croft says: “It does not look good for Hamilton”. What was he talking about? And it was just one of many.

    1. @f1mre Sky need an app that filters his remarks and translates them into comments that make sense in this universe, not whatever parallel one he’s always watching.

    2. (That was a particularly irritating example, it was obvious Hamilton was fine. So he either has no idea what he’s commentating on, or he’s whipping up fake drama. Or like I said, he’s watching something else entirely…)

    3. Croft is awful, he has a fantastic knowledge of F1 but is slow to understand events in real time and gets confused far too easily.

  23. Turn 2 is right handed, Hamilton et al, crossed the apex of a left hand turn


    1. Turn 2 leads into turn 3 interestingly enough! If you run deep/wide at turn two you end up on the inside of turn 3 which is simultaneously the outside of turn 2. But because turn 3 is sooooo looooong, really (if there is one) the apex is a fair way around the corner. So yep, it’s technically both but more like the outside of t2. Sort of.

  24. Has the outcome of the investigation been released yet?

    1. No penalty for Hamilton.

  25. Stephen C Porter Sr
    26th September 2020, 21:54

    They are going to keep Lewis from matching shumi tomorrow watch and when the new FIA guy starts he is going to favor ferri and invest other

  26. Why didn’t Max receive No Time for his Q2 lap? He was clearly outside the track limits on the exit of turn 5 on his last Q2 lap ( the one the advances him to Q3).

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