Hamilton endures eventful Q3 to eventually finish fourth, unable to fully capitalize on Verstappen’s penalty
By Yuri Coghe
Lando Norris set a 1:41.993 lap time in the Russian Grand Prix qualifying session on Saturday to earn his first career pole position and keep the McLaren momentum built with a 1-2 finish in Monza.
The 21-year-old Briton went half a second faster than Carlos Sainz Jr., who took his Ferrari to second to claim a first career front-row start.
Mr. Saturday’ George Russell, who enjoyed another fantastic qualifying, will start the race in the third position. The three front men took advantage of the slick tires to move ahead of Hamilton, fourth.
The seven-time world champion broke his front wing when pitting for the dry compound and spun during his attempt of improving his lap time set on intermediate tires. Hamilton, who led the Q1 and the Q2, showed concern about his car possibly having sustained damage in a post-session interview.
“It was just a mistake from myself. Ultimately, I’m incredibly disappointed in myself,” Hamilton told Sky Sports. “Up until then, I was in the groove, I was really in the zone. “I’m really sorry for all the team that is here, and back at the factory because obviously that’s not what you expect from a champion.”
The qualifying session took place under intermediate conditions hours after the FP3 was cancelled due to heavy rain.
“It feels amazing. I don’t know what to say,” said Norris after the session. “You never think you’re going to get a pole until you actually do it, but here we are. I have to thank the team so much. It’s not really what we expected but we made the most of the opportunity.”
It’s the first McLaren pole position since Hamilton started upfront at the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix.
“Right after Q2, I could see that the slicks (tires) could come into play,” said Sainz. “I put in a pretty strong lap. This weekend we’ve been looking a bit stronger. We will put on a fight (in the race) and try to have some fun.”
Sainz has two podiums to his name in the season, his first wearing Ferrari colours. The Spaniard finished the Monaco GP in second place and the Hungarian GP in third.
“It’s crazy,” said Russell about his P3 result. “The team have done a great job, getting the strategy right and putting the right tires on at the right time. “Congratulations to Lando and to Carlos. We’re really looking forward to tomorrow’s race. We have nothing to lose.”
Russell was the first driver to pit for slick tires, prompting the other nine Q3 contestants to do the same minutes after.
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Daniel Ricciardo took the other McLaren to fifth, ahead of Alpine’s Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard’s teammate, Esteban Ocon, finished Saturday actions in P10.
The two ‘B-drivers’ of the constructors’ championship contenders Mercedes and Red Bull, Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Perez, came in seventh and eighth, respectively.
Canadian Lance Stroll will start Sunday’s race in P8. His Aston Martin teammate Sebastian Vettel was knocked out in the Q2, making it to P11.
Three drivers affected by engine penalties
Championship leader Max Verstappen didn’t bother taking part in the track action as he’ll start in the back of the grid following change to components in his Red Bull’s power unit.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, also affected by engine-related grid penalties, opted out of the Q2 to finish the session in 15th.
Canadian Nicholas Latifi outqualified teammate Russell by finishing P10 in the Q1 but decided to sit out of the Q2 due to Williams finding a pneumatic issue in his car overnight.
The British team decided to add a fresh power unit to Latifi’s car, meaning the Montreal-born driver will move to P18, ahead of Leclerc, 18th, and Verstappen, 20th.
Both AlphaTauris were eliminated in the Q2, with Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda starting Sunday’s race in P12 and P13, respectively.
Kimi Raikkonen, returning from a two-race absence for contracting COVID-19, was knocked out in the Q1 and will start the race in P16. His Alfa Romeo teammate Antonio Giovinazzi is two places back in 18th. They moved to 14th and 16th due to Leclerc’s and Latifi’s penalties.
The Italian driver, who might lose his seat for the 2022 season, spun in the Q1.
The Haas duo of Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin makes up for the 15th and 17th positions of the grid, respectively, after Leclerc’s and Latifi’s penalties.
The Russian Grand Prix at the Sochi circuit is set for Sunday at 8 AM EST, 5 AM Pacific Time.
See the full qualifying results: