Motor racing: Vettel, Raikkonen lock out Sochi grid

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel on his way to taking pole position for today's Russian Formula One Grand Prix in Sochi. The last time Ferrari took the front row was at the 2008 French Grand Prix.
Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel on his way to taking pole position for today's Russian Formula One Grand Prix in Sochi. The last time Ferrari took the front row was at the 2008 French Grand Prix.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

SOCHI (Russia) • Sebastian Vettel ended Mercedes dominance in qualifying at the Russian Grand Prix, taking pole for Ferrari yesterday, the first time the Silver Arrows have not occupied the top spot since the race was first held in 2014.

The German's team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was in second place, 0.059 seconds behind, completing the first Ferrari front-row lockout since the French Grand Prix at Magny Cours in 2008.

Lewis Hamilton struggled, finishing fourth behind his team-mate Valtteri Bottas, half a second back from Vettel.

This is Vettel's first pole position in Russia, the 47th of his career and Ferrari's first pole position since the German secured the top spot at the Singapore Grand Prix in 2015, when the German driver converted it into victory.

It is also the first time Mercedes have not put a car on the front row in 31 races and highly significant in that Ferrari are now strongly on the front foot in their battle with Mercedes.

Vettel currently leads Hamilton in the drivers' championship by seven points after wins at Australia and Bahrain, to Hamilton's single victory in China, while Ferrari lead Mercedes in the constructors' battle by three points.

  • RUSSIAN GP GRID

  • 1ST ROW
    1 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari
    2 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari
  • 2ND ROW
    3 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes
    4 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes
  • 3RD ROW
    5 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull
    6 Felipe Massa (Bra) Williams
  • 4TH ROW
    7 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull
    8 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault
  • 5TH ROW
    9 Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India
    10 Esteban Ocon (France) Force India
  • SELECTED
    15 Fernando Alonso (Esp) McLaren

He and Ferrari will look to extend that from the front row today in a race at which Mercedes have been undefeated since the beginning of the turbo-hybrid engine formula in 2014.

The Ferrari showed superb balance, allowing their drivers to attack the corners, while the car has also been outstanding in optimising tyre temperatures.

Mercedes, on the other hand, struggled to put their tyres in the correct operating window, particularly on quick laps using the softest ultrasoft rubber.

THE GUARDIAN


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 30, 2017, with the headline 'Vettel, Raikkonen lock out Sochi grid'. Print Edition | Subscribe