Russian F1 Grand Prix 2018 Qualifying: Valtteri Bottas on Pole for Mercedes

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistSeptember 29, 2018

SOCHI, RUSSIA - SEPTEMBER 29: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes WO9 on track during final practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on September 29, 2018 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Valtteri Bottas led home a Mercedes 1-2 in qualifying for the Formula One Russian Grand Prix on Saturday.

The Finn beat team-mate Lewis Hamilton to top spot in Q3 in a session that was dominated by the Silver Arrows. Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, who trails Hamilton by 40 points in the race for the world title, will begin in third.

Red Bull duo Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo will begin Sunday's race from the back of the grid after they were hit with penalties for fitting new Renault engines to their cars.

Earlier on Saturday it was Mercedes in charge in final practice, as Hamilton led home another Mercedes 1-2.

Read on for a recap of the day's action from Sochi, as Bottas continued an excellent Grand Prix for Mercedes.

Qualifying Recap

Here is a look at the standings and positions ahead of Sunday's showdown in Russia:

There were no shocks in the early stages, despite perhaps that both Red Bulls ended up in second qualifying despite being consigned to the back of the grid. Elsewhere, Vettel was struggling for pace and wasn't among the top five.

As relayed by Pirelli, so dominant were Mercedes in the buildup to qualifying, there opted to don the second-quickest compound:

Despite that the Silver Arrows were still ahead of Ferrari and once again it was Hamilton leading the way from Bottas.

There was a rare occurrence in Q2, as the five drivers eliminated were eliminated without setting a time.

They included the Red Bull duo, understandably, as well as Toro Rosso's Pierre Gasly—who also a grid penalty to serve for a change of engine—and the Renault duo of Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg. The Autosport Twitter account explained the strategy from these teams:

As noted by the F1 Word, while it was a smart decision from the Renault team given they'll start in 11th and 12th, it didn't make for a great spectacle:

At the start of third qualifying there was something of a surprise at the top, as it was Bottas who took provisional pole ahead of Hamilton with the rest trailing by a considerable margin.

And in the end, the Finn had enough to hold off his team-mate and ensure he will lead the Mercedes charge on Sunday. On this evidence, it's tough to see how anyone will get the better of them on race day.

   

FP3 Recap

These are the standings from final practice in Sochi:

With a penalty looming for tomorrow's race, Ricciardo took some time out before FP3 to watch the AFL Grand Final:

Having been dominated by Mercedes in the second session on Friday, it was little surprise to see the Ferrari drivers out early on and looking to post quick times ahead of qualifying, with Vettel eventually taking an early lead from team-mate Kimi Raikkonen.

At this juncture, the leading teams were on the quickest tyre, including Mercedes when they came out. Unsurprisingly, Hamilton moved to the top of the pile, with Bottas tucked in behind him in second spot.

Vettel, in his attempts to cut the gap down to the Silver Arrows, was beginning to get a little sloppy in his driving:

But in the end, there was a clear chasm between the two teams, and Mercedes were able to safely see out the final stages of the session with a massive six-tenths of a second between Hamilton and Vettel.

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