Lewis Hamilton Snatches Sochi Pole

Lewis Hamilton has snatched pole position in Sochi with his 96th pole position in Formula One – his eighth of the 2020 FORMULA 1 season and second at the Russian GP.

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After narrowly making it out of Q2, the Brit set a time of 1:31.304, a new lap record at the Sochi Autodrom, to finish ahead of Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas.

Listen: 2020 Russian Grand Prix Qualifying Analysis Podcast

Results: 2020 Russian Grand Prix Qualifying Results

Edge Of Your Seat Session For Lewis Hamilton

By narrowly avoiding elimination in Q2, Hamilton was able to find his calm and produce an exceptional lap to claim the 96th pole of his career.

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‘That was one of the toughest Qualifying sessions I can remember, proper heart in your mouth the whole way. But I feel super grateful for everyone keeping their cool as it could have been a lot, lot worse.

‘Q2 was hugely challenging, my first attempt was taken away for going over the track limits at the final corner. The team brought me in for refuelling and to fit new tyres but when I was on my second lap, the red flag came out.

‘After that, it was very close to still get that final lap in – I overtook a few cars in the last sector but then lost time behind a Renault. I just heard Bono say ‘go, go, go’, so I was gunning it to get across the line.

‘There was so much going on and I had to just calm down and find my centre. Valtteri had been strong all weekend, so I had no choice but to deliver with those final Q3 laps.

‘The first lap in the final session was really great, and I thought it would be difficult to improve, but I managed to find a tiny bit on the second lap. It’s nice to take pole position, but this track is probably the worst place to be on pole, due to the long run to the first braking zone.

‘So, I’m expecting a tough fight down to Turn 2 and a challenging race, especially as I’m starting on the Soft tyre, which is a good compound for the race start but is the worst tyre for the opening stint. We’ll sit down tonight and figure out the best approach to the race,’ said Hamilton.

2020 Russian Grand Prix, Saturday - Lewis Hamilton (image courtesy Mercedes AMG Petronas)
2020 Russian Grand Prix, Saturday – Lewis Hamilton (image courtesy Mercedes AMG Petronas)

Max Verstappen Sets Up Intriguing Start

By planting his Red Bul’ between the two Mercedes, Max Verstappen has set up an intriguing run to the first corner.

‘P2 was very unexpected and I don’t say this often but I think this was one of my best ever qualifying laps and it felt really good.

‘I was struggling a bit in Q1 and Q2 with the balance of the car and we made some small improvements to stabilise everything and in Q3, especially on the second run, they worked and the lap was good.

‘Of course we want to fight for pole and wins but this year it is not possible all the time, so then to be able to split the two Mercedes cars is very satisfying and I’m happy to be on the front row here.

‘I’m starting on the dirty side of the grid which does make a difference with the initial launch but I’m also on the medium tyre which is the best way for us.

‘If we can have a decent start, the tow effect is very big so who knows what can happen into Turn Two.

‘I think the Mercedes does still have more overall pace so they will be hard to beat but I’m happy with today and I think we really extracted more than we thought was possible and we can be very happy with that,’ said Verstappen.

2020 Russian Grand Prix, Saturday - Max Verstappen (image courtesy Pirelli)
2020 Russian Grand Prix, Saturday – Max Verstappen (image courtesy Pirelli)

Disappointment For Valtteri Bottas

After strong performances across free practice, qualifying was disappointing for Valtteri Bottas, who will start in third position.

‘It was looking pretty good for me, I felt like I had the pace through Q1 and Q2, and both of those sessions went nice and smoothly.

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‘But Q3 was a tricky one. I felt like I found some gains but clearly the others found more. On the first run in Q3 the tyres were a bit too cold, so out of the last corner I had a big snap and was already a few tenths down on the run to Turn 2.

‘I was waiting for the second run and that lap felt better, there weren’t really any mistakes so I’m not sure why I couldn’t get closer to pole.

‘There are some question marks there, which we’ll need to look into in the debrief and figure out why there was such a gap. But P3 is actually a pretty good place to start here and I think I’m on the right tyre as well.

‘I’ve started third here before and look what happened, so I’ll try and do the same. It’s still all to play for,’ concluded Bottas.

2020 Russian Grand Prix, Saturday - Valtteri Bottas (image courtesy Pirelli)
2020 Russian Grand Prix, Saturday – Valtteri Bottas (image courtesy Pirelli)