Mercedes will have a fire burning under their seats going into the Russian Grand Prix tomorrow. Ferrari, after running relatively well and better than Mercedes during practices this weekend followed through into qualifying to dominate the front row for tomorrow’s race.
Will Buxton asked Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen earlier this weekend if he felt like he was being treated as the “number 2” driver for the Ferrari team, considering teammate’s Sebastian Vettel’s success already in the first part of this season. Clearly this isn’t the case, as Raikkonen held the pole in the third round of qualifying this morning, until Vettel’s last lap bumped him.
Ferrari is certainly celebrating today as the now Ferrari front row is a first for the team field since the French Grand Prix in 2008. Nearly a decade….
Mercedes is feeling the heat though. We’re all glad for the competition between the two teams (it was getting dry there the last few years). But by the reaction of the Mercedes team during a cut to their garage during the last round of qualifying, they didn’t look like they expected this much of a fight. Mercedes will start in the second row, and shockingly Valtteri Bottas out-qualified Lewis Hamilton.
It was a little weird to see the press conference with the top-3 qualifying drivers and no Hamilton. Yet it was amusing to see a grinning Vettel with two, relatively non-emotive drivers (Raikkonen and Bottas) on either side of him.
Anyways, little to worry though–Mercedes will put up a good fight tomorrow, as they always do. Starting in the second row won’t be what stops them.
For the rest of the top 10 for tomorrow’s start, once again, the two Sahara Force India drivers qualify in the top 10 (9 and 10 respectively). Not sure what the change was that has been making this difference, but it’s been great seeing a smaller team doing so well. (Also, the pink cars are just fun to see running around the track.)
Team Haas Romain Grosjean was enduring brake problems during qualifying, which left him with 20th on the grid (or 19th after Vandoorne’s penalty). A brake change earlier in the weekend was not fixing or really improving the problems Haas was having with brakes this year. They went back to the original Brembo brakes, but Grosjean still had major difficulties. Ironically, teammate Kevin Magnussen did not appear to have as much of a problem, but he still qualified further down the grid than the previous weekends, with fourteenth.
This might not be worth mentioning, because we’ve heard and expected the problems at this rate, but Fernando Alonso qualified 15th for tomorrow. At least this time he actually had the chance to run his car in the second session. McLaren teammate Stoffel Vandoorne qualified 17th, but will start last due to yet another change to his car that landed him a 15 spot grid penalty.
On a lighter note, at least he only lost 4 positions…and he seems relatively positive about it, considering the circumstances. There is potential that both McLaren cars can move up the grid come tomorrow–but with how the performance has been on the two cars, it’s hard to say what will happen or even be that optimistic for improvement. Hoping both the cars even finish would be a good start.
But it will be yet another painful race to endure for not only the McLaren-Honda team, but for fans as well.