Russian Formula 1 Grand Prix 2015: Results, Times for Practice and Qualifying
After returning to the Formula One calendar for the first time in a century in 2014, the Russian Grand Prix is back again in 2015, with the Sochi Autodrom circuit set to play a critical role in determining this year’s world champion.
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton remains the big favourite to secure his third title, taking a 48-point lead into the weekend over team-mate Nico Rosberg. With just five rounds of racing to go and no double points on offer at the season finale, it’s imperative the latter makes up some ground this weekend at an intriguing venue.
With this track still unfamiliar to a lot of the drivers, getting some quality practice sessions and a strong grid position will be absolutely vital to success in Sunday's race.
Read on for all the latest updates from the preliminary stints in Sochi, as Hamilton bids to take another big step toward glory.
Qualifying: Rosberg to Start on Pole in Sochi
Nico Rosberg beat team-mate Lewis Hamilton in qualifying for just the third time in 2015 as he secured pole position at the Russian Grand Prix.
The German recorded a time of one minute, 37.113 seconds—0.320 seconds ahead of Hamilton—as he topped the Englishman in every round of the qualification.
Valtteri Bottas rounded out the top three as the drivers were finally able to enjoy an uninterrupted session at Sochi after the weather and a crash by Carlos Sainz caused huge disruption to the practice sessions.
Here's a look at the full qualifying leaderboard:
|6||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||1:39.250||1:38.727||1:38.659|
|7||Sergio Perez||Force India||1:39.617||1:38.914||1:38.691|
|10||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||1:39.574||1:39.005||1:39.728|
|11||Daniil Kvyat||Red Bull||1:39.580||1:39.214|
|20||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso||DNR|
Rosberg and Hamilton were among the early pace-setters in Q1, and a late effort from Bottas saw him once again divide the pair as he did in FP3.
Sebastian Vettel trailed them in fourth with a 1:38.598, while Fernando Alonso was the high-profile victim as he failed to make the cut at 1.801 seconds behind Rosberg.
The Mercedes pair exchanged the lead in Q2, while the Ferraris failed to emerge until the latter half of the session, but both comfortably qualified in the top five.
Local favourite Daniil Kvyat just missed out on a place in Q3, trailing Max Verstappen in Q2 by less than one-hundredth of a second.
Rosberg continued his excellent showing by wrapping up pole position with another improved time in Q3, as Hamilton again struggled to get near him.
Hamilton began behind Rosberg in Japan last time out and was still able to win comfortably.
If the German can avoid conceding the lead to Hamilton early on as he did from a poor start in Suzuka, Sunday's race could be a thrilling encounter. If Hamilton takes the lead in a similar fashion, though, expect him to cruise to victory and take another step closer to the drivers' championship.
Elsewhere, Carlos Sainz has recovered from his earlier crash and is fit enough to take part in the race proper, according to BBC 5 Live's Jennie Gow. The Toro Rosso driver had to be airlifted to hospital after a "heavy crash" during practice, as noted by BBC Sport's Andrew Benson.
FP3: Nico Rosberg Leads as Carlos Sainz's Crash Ends Session
Nico Rosberg topped the practice leaderboards in a restricted FP3 with a time of one minute, 38.561 seconds while Lewis Hamilton finished third.
The conditions were much better at Sochi on Saturday following a wet, frustrating FP2 session on Friday, and so the times were naturally much improved, but a red flag cut short the session when Carlos Sainz flew into the barriers.
Many of the drivers were unable to record representative fast runs as the session had to be cut short with Sainz's car firmly embedded in the barrier at Turn 13.
According to BBC Sport's Andrew Benson, the driver did not appear to be badly injured and was able to give a "thumbs up." Per Formula 1 on Twitter, Toro Rosso boss Franz Tost said: "Carlos is conscious, he's with the doctors now. They will see if he can continue the race weekend."
Valtteri Bottas separated the two Mercedes drivers prior to the crash, while Sergio Perez and Felipe Massa followed the Englishman in fourth and fifth, respectively.
McLaren's Jenson Button earned a surprise seventh-placed finish, though of course the standings may well have been very different had the drivers had a full session.
Here are the standings from the session, courtesy of the BBC's live broadcast of the event:
|4.||Sergio Perez||Force India||+1.055|
|6.||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||+1.356|
FP3 is the latest in a series of disjointed practice sessions in Russia, so if more problems should occur in Saturday's qualification, it could make Sunday a completely open contest.
Hamilton and Rosberg are, of course, likely to be the contenders thanks to their superior cars, but the rest of the field will be eagerly anticipating one of their best chances of the season to qualify significantly ahead of the pair.
FP2: Massa Fastest at Rainy Sochi
Heavy rain frustrated the top competitors in the second practice session in Sochi on Friday, as Felipe Massa topped the standings in his Williams.
After the morning session was disrupted by a diesel leak from a service vehicle, the teams would have been hoping to get some longer stints under their belt in the afternoon. But the heavens opened in Russia, meaning the track was desolate for the overwhelming majority of the 90-minute stint. Indeed, only eight drivers completed timed laps on a dreary Friday in Russia.
Some drivers did decide to get some laps in in the changeable conditions, most notably McLaren man Fernando Alonso, who was active in the morning, too.
Still, the conditions seemed treacherous and not worth the gamble. A lot of the tight corners seemed unconquerably slippery, especially in the latter stages of circuit.
Mercedes pair Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg did head out for a paddle later on, but neither set a timed lap, preferring not to take risks, instead deciding to tiptoe around the damp corners.
Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen set a time of 2:00.806 20 minutes from the end of the session, and with the rain getting heavier and heavier, it seemed as though that wouldn’t be topped. But some bold laps late on from Valtteri Bottas, Sebastian Vettel and Massa saw them take the top three spots.
Friday was essentially a write-off for a lot of drivers, with very few meaningful laps logged by any of the teams. Not only does this make Saturday’s final practice session vital but qualifying too, when those competitors unfamiliar with the circuit will be hopeful of giving themselves the best chance possible with a strong grid position.
Here are the standings from an underwhelming practice session, per the Sky Sports F1 broadcast:
|4.||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso||+0.348|
|6.||Daniil Kvyat||Red Bull||+0.960|
FP1: Hulkenberg on Top in Frustrating Session
Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg topped the time sheets at the end of first practice on Friday, as the opening session was disrupted by a diesel spillage and wet weather.
Poor fortune and conditions conspired against those teams who were hoping to get a clutch of laps under their belts ahead of Saturday’s crucial qualifying sessions, but they will have been happy to get some stints late on in a session that did seem set to be a write-off at one point.
The tempo was set for this frustrating session from the off, as the sweeper vehicle suffered a fuel leak, with diesel pouring out over the racing surface at Turn 8
It took around 30 minutes for the mess to be cleared up, but clearly wary of what was a now a slippery track, few decided to put the throttle down too hard.
Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg decided to practise his starts, while a lot of other drivers preferred to check their settings were up to scratch during installation laps. Sebastian Vettel was not happy with the conditions where the spillage had occurred; “what a mess” said the Ferrari man as he tiptoed around that particular part of the circuit, per BBC Sport.
The two McLarens were still keen on getting some laps in, and Fernando Alonso initially went quickest before shaving a little more off his time not long after. Team-mate Jenson Button then usurped the Spaniard, but Alonso was quick to move back to the summit of the standings.
Despite spots of rain falling on various parts of the track on the hour-mark, there was a late flurry of action as the drivers began to ride with a little more confidence in the track. It was then the big names started to take over.
Vettel moved to the summit for a spell before Rosberg seemed to have pipped him with his final lap of the session. But Hulkenberg turned in a great effort with the clock running down, giving Force India their first top spot of any practice session so far this season.
Lewis Hamilton’s effort didn’t end in the most graceful fashion as the world championship leader spun off on the penultimate corner, misjudging what had been changeable conditions throughout the 90 minutes.
Still, it’s difficult to gain much from this opening session. The drivers were unable to get into a rhythm due to the disruptions, and unfortunately for the teams, with rain forecast again for Friday afternoon’s practice, it’s unlikely we’ll get a much clearer picture of who is well set to triumph in Sunday’s race.
Here are the standings at the end of FP1, per the Sky Sports F1 broadcast:
|1.||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||1:44.355|
|4.||Sergio Perez||Force India||+0.791|
|5.||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||+0.878|
|6.||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso||+1.133|
|9.||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso||+1.848|
|16.||Daniil Kvyat||Red Bull||+3.741|