Monday, September 28, 2020

Lucky Lewis: Hamilton Barely Escapes Q2 to Take Russian Grand Prix Pole

Photo Credit: Mark Sutton/LAT Images/Pirelli

Understanding that the word ‘chaotic’ could be used to describe many aspects of the 2020 Formula 1 season, qualifying in the series in the first nine races had concluded in a generally humdrum manner due to the talent and execution of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team. As the series arrives in Sochi for this year’s Russian Grand Prix, there has not been a qualifying session in 2020 that did not result in an all-Mercedes front row on race day. 

One-half of the Mercedes-AMG F1 team’s routine of qualifying dominance came with Lewis Hamilton’s 96th Formula 1 pole position. Lapping the 5.848-kilometer race course in a time of 1-minute, 31.304 seconds in Q3 (a new track record in Russia), Hamilton is still seeking his 91st career victory in Formula 1 that will tie seven-time champion Michael Schumacher in the all-time ranking. 

Spoiling the Mercedes-AMG F1 team’s ownership of the front row for the first time in 2020, Max Verstappen posted a 1-minute, 31.867-second lap time in his Honda-powered Red Bull Racing car. Verstappen effectively split the two Mercedes drivers by being 0.089 seconds quicker than Valtteri Bottas who was able to mount a last-minute lap to better an earlier time. Starting alongside Bottas in Russia will be the Racing Point of Sergio Perez. Perez’s teammate Lance Stroll didn’t advance into Q3 due to concerns of power unit temperatures in Q2 settling for a 13th place starting spot.

Although the final Q3 session that locks in a race grid is often granted the most attention on Saturday, time trials for the Russian Grand Prix contained some of the highest suspense in the earlier sessions. Q1 and Q2 sessions of Saturday qualifying at Sochi involved several drivers having times disallowed for exceeding track limits including the eventual pole winner. With roughly two and a half minutes left in Q2, the attempts to secure a spot in the top-10 fastest cars were hindered when the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel crashed in turn 4 of the Sochi Autodrom. Vettel’s wrecked vehicle required the qualifying session to be red-flagged setting up a mad rush by many drivers and teams when Q2 would be restarted. The time remaining in the session was just enough for some drivers to complete a warm-up lap ahead of a timed lap. Lewis Hamilton lost his earlier Q2 lap time but was narrowly able to post a fourth fastest time before the session ended. In fact, Hamilton crossed the start/finish line with only seconds to spare in his Mercedes AMG F1 W11 EQ Performance race car. 

The seventh Russian Grand Prix in the modern Formula 1 era will be a 53-lap affair on Sunday.

2020 Formula 1
Russian Grand Prix
Starting Lineup

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