Lap 1/53: Vettel started well and got alongside Hamilton, but the British driver got away from him to challenge Bottas for the early lead but the man in pole was too good. A lively start but not too dramatic in the end.
Verstappen has already moved up six places, which is impressive from the birthday boy who began in 19th.
It’s lights out in Sochi and the cars are away!
The formation lap is taking place as everyone gets used to the surface etc ahead of today’s racing. It’s dramatic backdrop in Sochi, including mountains, ski slopes, winter sports arens and a ferris wheel.
Here’s the grid today:
Russian GP provisional grid
1) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes
2) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
3) Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari
4) Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
5) Kevin Magnussen, Haas
6) Esteban Ocon, Force India
7) Charles Leclerc, Saiber
8) Sergio Perez, Force India
9) Romain Grosjean, Haas
10) Marcus Ericsson, Sauber
11) Carlos Sainz, Renault
12) Nico Hulkenberg, Renault
13) Sergey Sirotkin, Williams
14) Lance Stroll, Williams
15) Stoffel Vandoorne, McLare
16) Fernando Alonso, McLaren
17) Pierre Gasly, Toro Rosso
18) Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull
19) Max Verstappen, Red Bull
20) Brendon Hartley, Toro Rosso
We’re less than five minutes away from lights out in Russia. The clouds are gathering and we could get rain, so it might making things a little trickier than expected but that will just ensure greater interest for all of us.
Does anyone really want rain?
Applause goes around after the singing finishes.
Vandoorne is discussing how he wants to enjoy the last few races and finish on a high. It’s always good to have goals.
Verstappen, who starts in 19th, is celebrating his 21st birthday but admits he has been unable to have any cake.
Here’s a little bit on Ocon from Mr Richards …
It’s pretty busy on the grid in Russia, looks like everyone from the garage has spilled out onto the track to soak up the atmosphere, as they all want a little bit of the action.
Sky are advertising their #PassOnPlastic, so you’ll all be pleased to know that I am drinking from an official Sky reusable cup.
A little weather update from Russia:
As Giles Richards points out, Vettel really needs the win today. Will he do it?
Here we are in Sochi.
Lewis Hamilton starts in second are a few mistakes in qualifying but he’s ahead of Sebastian Vettel on the grid, so he won’t be too concerned. The British driver is 40 points ahead of his German counterpart and looking in fine form.
Ferrari have a few issues, especially as they seem to be getting slower as the races pass and they don’t seem too sure how to change things.
Ahead of Hamilton on pole is Valterri Bottas and if he maintains the lead with his teammate behind him, then Mercedes might ask him to step aside so they can extend Hamilton’s lead in the drivers’ championship and break Vettel’s spirit. The German has it all to do.
Will will be here shortly. In the meantime, read Giles Richards’ report from qualifying on Saturday:
Perhaps it was inevitable that Lewis Hamilton would finally prove fallible at some point this season and in qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix the very tiniest chink in his armour was revealed. In the grand scheme of the championship battle, though, he goes into the race barely inconvenienced. He was second to the pole position of his Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, while, crucially, his title rival Sebastian Vettel was off the pace in third.
Bottas’s two hot runs in Q3 to claim pole were superlative. The Sochi Autodrom suits his driving style, especially on maximising the exit from the medium-speed corners that dominate here. He scored his debut F1 win last season in Russia, where he has never been out-qualified by a teammate.
With the Mercedes proving exceptionally strong, Bottas pulled it all together when it counted. His first quick run was four-thousandths faster than Hamilton, who knew he had to improve. It was Bottas however who upped the ante with a track record of 1min 31.387sec. Hamilton responded and was three-tenths up in the first sector when he went wide at turn seven and abandoned his lap, leaving the Finn triumphant.
“It’s a good feeling,” he said. “This has been a pretty good track for me and again I managed to get some good laps in qualifying and the car just felt really, really strong.”
Hamilton had been quickest in the first two sessions of qualifying but admitted he had been struggling all weekend with the middle sector. He had to find more there and was honest in conceding he had gone just over the edge.