Russian Grand Prix Qualifying: Rosberg on pole as Hamilton hits problems

Nico Rosberg cruised to pole today in Russia as teammate Lewis Hamilton once again ran into reliability problems. Hamilton did not set a time in Q3 after the defending champion ran into engine problems for the second consecutive weekend.

The problem occurred on his out-lap in Q2. The same MGU-H failure that first appeared in China returned forcing Hamilton to sit out the rest of the session essentially handing pole position to Rosberg who equaled Niki Lauda’s number of pole positions. Hamilton had the upper hand going into the session after topping the times yesterday and again this morning in the final practice session.

Sebastian Vettel set the second fastest time albeit a long way off Rosberg’s pace. Valtteri Bottas qualified 3rd but will start tomorrow’s race on the front row alongside Rosberg after Vettel was hit with a five-place grid penalty after a gearbox after running into problems in FP2.

Hamilton had a brief run in with the race stewards after running wide at Turn 2 and failing to enter the penalty zone. Another penalty would have added to Hamilton’s misery however thankfully for him the Brit got away with just a warning.

Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer had a difficult day in the Renault as both drivers failed to make it out of Q1. Despite being more pleased with a new chasis, Felipe Nasr also failed to make the cut along with Pascal Wehrelin, Rio Haryanto with Marcus Ericsson bringing up the rear of the field. 

Some people believed that McLaren had a chance of making it into Q3 for the first time since getting back together with Honda in 2014. Both Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button were close to making into in the top-ten shootout but failed to make the cut after the home favorite Daniil Kvyat did just enough to make it into Q3. Button will start tomorrow’s race in 12th ahead of Alonso who will line up 14th one place behind Nico Hulkenberg in 13th.

The Williams duo on Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas took a risky approach to Q2 by setting just one timed lap in the last minute of the Q2. Both men easily secured their place in the final phase of qualifying.

Sergio Perez who finished on the podium in 3rd place at last year’s Russian Grand Prix will start in 6th place behind Daniel Ricciardo in 5th with Felipe Massa in 4th. 

Due to Hamilton’s reliabilty problems it certianly puts Rosberg in the prime seat to further extend is 36 point lead at the top of the driver standings. One stop looks the way to go tomorrow meaning it hinders Hamilton’s chances of being able to make his way through the pack and going on a different strategy to everyone else on the grid.

Will Rosberg be able to hold off the challenges on Kimi Raikkonen and Bottas at the start? How many points can Hamilton claw back at the start after running into first lap problems at the previous two races? Make sure you check back for the race report.