Saturday, April 30, 2016

Rosberg Rolls to Russian Grand Prix Pole Position

Photo Credit: Mercedes AMG

Moving from the latter half of the Formula 1 schedule to the fourth event on the race calender for 2016, the 5.853-kilometer circuit hosting the Russian Grand Prix during a budding 21-race season. The first pair of Formula 1 races held at the Sochi Autodrom, the Silver Arrows have struck a bullseye when it comes to finding victory. Lewis Hamilton took the Mercedes AMG team to the inaugural 2014 event and the race last year. Qualifying has also been an all-Mercedes AMG affair with Hamilton claiming the 2014 pole and Nico Rosberg claiming the top spot for 2015.

In qualifying for the 2016 Russian Grand Prix, the Silver Arrows duel again showed supremacy. Posting a track record-setting 1-minute, 35.417-second lap time, Nico Rosberg continued to demonstrate strong early season form that was first formulated late last year. The lap result on his first timed lap in Q3 was more than enough to resist competitors as well as a wheel lock-up on his second lap that resulted in an aborted run. Rosberg will start on pole in an attempt to maintain a perfect win record for 2016. The last driver to win the first four races at the start of a Formula 1 season was accomplished by Michael Schumacher in 2004 on route to his seventh and final World Drivers' Championship.

For the second race in a row, the outing was not a complete success for Mercedes AMG. Once again, defending World Driving Champion Lewis Hamilton has had a time trial cut short due to a power unit problem with his race car. However, compared to the Chinese Grand Prix qualifying, the damage was minimized as the issue only affected the Q3 session,. Second fastest in Q2, the Mercedes AMG of Lewis Hamilton was unable to set a time in the final timed grouping but will start 10th.

While Sebastian Vettel was able to post the second fastest time in Q3 (a time 0.706-second slower than Nico Rosberg), the German will be regulated to 7th place for the Sunday main event due to a gearbox change on Friday. Despite the transmission issue, Vettel and Ferrari appear to be showing some optimism in the early part of the 2016 season. The second Scuderia Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen will start in third place following the demotion of his teammate.

Photo Credit: Ferrari S.p.A.

The Sochi track has also proven to be a breath of fresh air for the Williams Martini Racing team. The Mercedes-Benz engine powered race cars driven by Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas have not been able to build on the team's 2014 effort. In fourth-place in the constructors' standings so far this season with 29 points, both Williams Martini Racing drivers will start close to the front Sunday. Bottas acquires the front row starting spot alongside Nico Rosberg while Massa is positioned directly behind his teammate in 4th place.

Daniel Ricciardo leads the Red Bull Racing squad with a 5th place starting spot. Daniil Kvyat in the second Red Bull-Tag Heuer machine will launch from 8th place tomorrow. Racing in his home country, the crowd gave a big cheer when the Russian Kvyat succeeded in a late charge to participate in the Q3 run.

The 53-lap Russian Grand Prix is set for 3:00 pm local time (8:00 am in the Eastern time zone). With a weather forecast calling for a dry, sunny and springtime warm Sunday event, Pirelli is anticipating the use of a single pit stop strategy.

2016 Formula 1
Russian Grand Prix
Starting Grid

Pos # Car # Driver Team Engine

1 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
2 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams F1 Mercedes-Benz
3 7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari
4 19 Felipe Massa Williams F1 Mercedes-Benz
5 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull TAG Heuer
6 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes-Benz
7 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Ferrari
8 26 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull TAG Heuer
9 33 Max Verstappen Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari
10 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
11 55 Carlos Sainz Jr Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari
12 22 Jenson Button McLaren Honda
13 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes-Benz
14 14 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda
15 8 Romain Grosjean Haas F1 Team Ferrari
16 9 Esteban Gutierrez Haas F1 Team Ferrari
17 20 Kevin Magnussen Renault Renault
18 30 Jolyon Palmer Renault Renault
19 12 Felipe Nasr Sauber Ferrari
20 28 Pascal Wehrlein Manor Mercedes-Benz
21 98 Rio Haryanto Manor Mercedes-Benz
22 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari

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