Downbeat Hamilton expects tough time in Sochi
Starts behind both Ferraris and Bottas on grid for race
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
Mercedes-GP driver Lewis Hamilton wants to get back to the drawing board after qualifying fourth at Sochi.