Rosberg Claims Pole After Sainz's Scare

Mercedes F1 driver Nico Rosberg (centre) and third-fastest qualifier Valtteri Bottas (left) of Williams looking delighted while world champion Lewis Hamilton is subdued after being beaten to pole position in Sochi.
Mercedes F1 driver Nico Rosberg (centre) and third-fastest qualifier Valtteri Bottas (left) of Williams looking delighted while world champion Lewis Hamilton is subdued after being beaten to pole position in Sochi.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

He needs good start to fend off Hamilton, as Mercedes look set to retain constructors' title

SOCHI (Russia) • It is still a job only half done for Nico Rosberg. He has wrestled the initiative from Lewis Hamilton by taking pole position for the Russian Grand Prix, but there are no points for being the fastest man (1min 37.113sec) in Sochi on a Saturday.

Rosberg needs a victory today to stop the Hamilton bandwagon in its tracks with 48 points between the Mercedes team-mates in the Formula One world championship.

It is a familiar scene though: A fortnight ago, the German was a triumphant pole-sitter for the Japanese Grand Prix, but it was Hamilton who took home the spoils and maximum points.

A curiously lacklustre Hamilton never really challenged Rosberg during qualifying yesterday; his last attempt was abandoned after running substantially wide.

At the finish, there was 0.3sec between them on the timesheets with Valtteri Bottas putting in a smart lap in his Williams to take the third spot on the grid ahead of Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari.

  • RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX

  • Singtel TV Ch114 & StarHub Ch208, 6.30pm

  • RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX GRID

  • 1st row

    Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes

    Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes

    2nd row

    Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Williams

    Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari

    3rd row

    Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari

    Nico Huelkenberg (Ger) Force India

    4th row

    Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India

    Romain Grosjean (Fra) Lotus

    5th row

    Max Verstappen (Ned) Toro Rosso

    Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull

    Selected

    13 Jenson Button (Gbr) McLaren

    19 Fernando Alonso (Esp) McLaren

    AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

It was Rosberg's third pole of the season and the 18th of his career and came after a dramatic morning, during which Spaniard Carlos Sainz of Toro Rosso escaped injury when he crashed heavily at Turn 13 after careering out of control at more than 300kmh.

In this one-sided season, only the Mercedes cars turn up at full blast and this will be theirs to lose yet again.

The question is whether it will be Rosberg's to win or whether he will succumb to the raw racing power of his team-mate.

Hamilton, at least, was upbeat about starting from the second place on the grid.

"There is still all to play for, and it makes the races more exciting," the Briton said. "It's a long way to turn one, so it should create an opportunity for me."

However, Hamilton's bosses may have something to say about that rush to the first corner.

Mercedes can wrap up the constructors' world championship today, just as they did last season in Sochi.

They will not want a conflagration caused by their two drivers putting personal ambition before the team ethic.

Words may be wasted on Rosberg and Hamilton, though.

Rosberg knows his starts have been a weakness and will be on red alert when the lights go out. Hamilton tortured Rosberg in Suzuka, muscling into the lead and then going on to victory. Rosberg will not want a repeat.

"I have to work on the start tonight and tomorrow," the German said. "I will look at last year's start and make my plans from there."

When asked if he would be conservative for the sake of the constructors' championship, there was a simple reply: "Nothing changes. It's one way - and that's it."

Sainz escaped serious injury after crashing heavily.

The impact brought a halt to final practice and forced organisers to cancel a following GP3 race while extensive repairs were made to the barriers.

Television images showed the 21-year-old rookie driver, strapped to a stretcher, giving a thumbs-up sign after being extracted from the wrecked car and taken to a waiting ambulance.

He was then flown by helicopter to hospital and was kept overnight for observation, but made clear in his tweets that he hoped to recover and return to race.

His team chief Franz Tost said: "I think he is in good shape. He is fully conscious and still in hospital being checked by the doctors."

REUTERS, THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 11, 2015, with the headline 'ROSBERG CLAIMS POLE AFTER SAINZ'S SCARE'. Print Edition | Subscribe