Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel today claimed a dominant pole position for Ferrari in the qualifying for the Sochi Grand Prix, with teammate Kimi Raikkonen finishing second to return Ferrari’s first double in qualifying for the first time in almost nine years. Under perfect blue skies in Sochi, Vettel broke Mercedes’ streak of 18 straight pole positions with a late burst of pace, setting the tone for a Ferrari domination late in this season. For weeks, it has been a race between the two teams, with Mercedes’ pace in qualifying giving way to Ferrari’s strategic brilliance during the races. The German will be looking to claim his third win of the season on Sunday and extend his seven-point standings lead over Hamilton.
Vettel pounced with a last-gasp salvo, edging out team-mate Kimi Raikkonen by less than six hundredths of a second to secure his 46th pole and end a drought that stretched back to Singapore in 2015.“The car was phenomenal,” Vettel said. “It is really a pleasure to drive around with low fuel and try to push it to the limit. Everyone is very happy and very proud.”
Hamilton endured an average session, first finding himself blocked by Renault’s Nico Hulkenburg on a warm-up lap and then spoiling his effort by losing half a second on Vettel through the last two corners.
For the second grand prix in a row, Hamilton was also overtaken in qualifying by team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who has been able to deflect questions about his Mercedes credentials with spectacular one-lap pace.
The danger for Mercedes may be that Ferrari may be ahead of the pack too quickly for them to play catch-up, and if today’s show of pace is any indication, the Silver Arrows have their work cut out for them.
While the neutrals’ wish is for a duel between Mercedes and Ferrari, a sense is growing that Vettel could yet pull away from his pursuers. “I don’t like the word ‘dominant’,” he said. “You work hard, you race fast and you deserve to do well.” It is a simple enough equation, and one that a comeback Ferrari team is so far working out without much trouble.
Final positions after qualifying:
1. Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari
2. Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari
3. Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes
4. Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes
5. Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull – TAG Heuer
6. Felipe Massa (Bra) Williams-Mercedes
7. Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull – TAG Heuer
8. Nico Huelkenberg (Ger) Renault
9. Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India – Mercedes
10. Esteban Ocon (Fra) Force India – Mercedes
11. Lance Stroll (Can) Williams-Mercedes
12. Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Toro Rosso – Renault
13. Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas – Ferrari
14. Carlos Sainz Jr (Spa) Toro Rosso – Renault
15. Fernando Alonso (Spa) McLaren
16. Jolyon Palmer (Gbr) Renault
17. Pascal Wehrlein (Ger) Sauber – Ferrari
18. Marcus Ericsson (Swe) Sauber – Ferrari
19. Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas – Ferrari
20. Stoffel Vandoorne (Bel) McLaren