Down­beat Hamil­ton ex­pects tough time in Sochi

Starts be­hind both Fer­raris and Bot­tas on grid for race

The National - News - Sport - - PREMIER LEAGUE -

Lewis Hamil­ton said it was a case of hav­ing to re­turn to the “draw­ing board” after the MercedesGP driver could only qual­ify fourth for to­day’s Rus­sian Grand Prix.

The triple world cham­pion was out-paced by both Fer­raris of Se­bas­tian Vet­tel and Kimi Raikko­nen as well as team­mate Valt­teri Bot­tas dur­ing yes­ter­day’s qual­i­fy­ing ses­sion in Sochi.

It is the Bri­ton’s worst start­ing po­si­tion in a race where he has not had a grid penalty since the Sin­ga­pore Grand Prix in 2015, and he said: “I just wasn’t quick enough to­day, so I have to go back to the draw­ing board and try to fig­ure out why.

“It was all the last sec­tor [of the lap] – I’d lose half a sec­ond just in the last sec­tor. So there’s some work to do.

“But to­mor­row is still all to play for and at least I’m still up there in the mix.” Hamil­ton and Mercedes have been on the back­foot to Fer­rari so far this sea­son, with Vet­tel and the Ital­ian team win­ning in Aus­tralia and Bahrain. Hamil­ton’s lone suc­cess was in China. Hamil­ton has won two of the pre­vi­ous three stag­ings of the race in Sochi, and Mercedes have led ev­ery lap of the races at the track, with re­tired world cham­pion Nico Ros­berg pre­vail­ing 12 months ago.

How­ever, given Fer­rari’s form, Hamil­ton does not ex­pect that streak to con­tinue to­day.

“They are quick­est, ob­vi­ously to­day in quali and gen­er­ally dur­ing race trim, so it will be in­ter­est­ing to see where we stand to­mor­row,” he said.

“Of course my goal is to try to get for­wards [but] my long run yes­ter­day was pretty poor as well, so I’m hop­ing to­mor­row is bet­ter.”

It was Fer­rari and Vet­tel’s first pole since Sin­ga­pore in 2015, and the cham­pi­onship leader was buoy­ant over he and Raikko­nen giv­ing the Ital­ian team their first front row lock­out since the French Grand Prix in 2008.

“If you have a rhythm here it feels fan­tas­tic,” said the four­time world cham­pion, who has won the past nine races at which he started from pole po­si­tion.

“And I am glad I got it back. It is great to have both cars on the front row, but it is only part of the job done.

“I knew it would be tight, I knew I would be the first one crossing the line. I got Valt­teri’s time – and he did not man­age to im­prove – and when I got the mes­sage I had got it ... I was over the moon.

“In qual­i­fy­ing, Mercedes have been very, very strong. I am sure it will be very close to­mor­row, es­pe­cially over the long run. We will see, but for now we are full, of joy. We are back – at least if you talk about the front row.”

Vet­tel took pole from Raikko­nen with his last lap of the ses­sion, a time of 1 minute, 33.194 sec­onds, which was just 0.059 sec­onds quicker than his Fin­nish team­mate. The 2007 world cham­pion was up­beat de­spite miss­ing out on his first pole since June 2008.

“I was there or there­abouts and I tried to get it back in the last cor­ner, and it didn’t pay off,” he said.

“The feel­ing has been a lot bet­ter this week­end – ob­vi­ously a one-two for the team is not bad.”

Daniel Ric­cia­rdo was best of the rest be­hind the Fer­rari and Mercedes cars in fifth place in his Red Bull Racing car, ahead of the Wil­liams of Felipe Massa and the sec­ond Red Bull of Max Ver­stap­pen. Nico Hulken­berg was eighth for Re­nault, with the Force In­dia’s of Ser­gio Perez and Este­ban Ocon com­plet­ing the top 10.

Car­los Sainz was 11th quick­est in his Toro Rosso, but he will ac­tu­ally start 14th after tak­ing a three-place grid drop as a con­se­quence of be­ing blamed by the race stew­ards in Bahrain for col­lid­ing with Wil­liams driver Lance Stroll, an in­ci­dent that took both men out of the race. On beIN Sports from 4pm

Sergei Grits / AP Photo

Mercedes-GP driver Lewis Hamil­ton wants to get back to the draw­ing board after qual­i­fy­ing fourth at Sochi.

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