Max Verstappen front row P2 after qualifying at Sochi: 'Not expected'

Published on 26 September 2020 by Mike Motilall

Max Verstappen qualified second fastest for the Russian Grand Prix. The Dutchman did a 1:31.867 on the 5,848 kilometer long Sochi Autodrom which puts him right between the two Mercedes at the end of Q3. As Max did his fastest time in the second part of qualifying on the medium tyre, Verstappen will start the race on the yellow walled tyre, just like Valtteri Bottas. Lewis Hamilton took his 96th pole by a great margin to the others while Sergio Pérez rounds out the second row in fourth.

After qualifying Max says they recovered well after yesterday’s problems: “We were struggling a bit to find the right balance with the car on this track. Even this morning I was not entirely happy. Through qualifying we were really working on trying to nail the balance. Step by step I think we are doing a better job. In Q3 run one was a bit better, in the second run we made a few changes and that just gave me a little more grip and on this track you really need a lot of entry grip.”

Asked whether it was one of his best laps ever, Verstappen says: “I think so, it felt really good. It’s not pole position but for me, to be on the first row, I definitely did not expect that going into qualifying.” All bets are off for tomorrow: “If we can have a decent start, the tow effect is very big around here, so if I can get a good draft who knows what is going to happen in Turn two. It’s going to be interesting with the tyres as well tomorrow”, concludes the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing-driver.

Despite an overcast, the temperature still reads 30 at the start of qualifying at the Sochi Autodrom. George Russell is on behalf of Williams the first driver to report on track. Max Verstappen leaves the pit lane some three minutes later on a set of softs. On his first run, the Dutchman does a 1:34.616 which briefly puts him third before he drops all the way back to sixth fastest. By that time there are still ten minutes left on the clock.

A new attempt sees Verstappen better his time to a 1:33.979 (P5). After a short stop at his team, the Dutchman heads back out again in the closing stages of the first part of qualifying but this time on a set of the yellow walled mediums. With a 1:33.630 Max retains his fifth place and makes it safely through to Q2. Romain Grosjean, Antonio Giovinazzi, Kevin Magnussen, Nicholas Latifi and Kimi Räikkönen don’t make the cut and are the first group of drop outs.

In the second part of qualifying we see Max leave the pitlane, just like both Mercedes, on a set of the mediums. Verstappen completes his first timed lap in a 1:33.157 which earns him P5 initially but then turns to P7. Lewis Hamilton shortly looks to have the upper hand regarding the fastest time but that is taken away due to track limits. As a result and after the first runs, Daniel Ricciardo is now at the top of the time sheet having done a 1:32.218 on the softs.

With still four minutes to go, Max re-emerges on track. On a set of the softs the Dutchman is preparing himself for a flying lap, till Sebastian Vettel loses control of his Ferrari and hits the wall exiting Turn four. The four-time world champion walks away unscathed but his car has suffered major damages to the front. The session is therefore red flagged with still two minutes remaining on the clock.

After a brief delay the track is cleared again. Immediately things get hectic as the drivers start pouring over the track in an effort to engage in a clean lap. For a brief moment things get even exciting for Lewis Hamilton as he has no time on the board, but the Briton barely makes it over the line when the lights turn red to signal the end of the session. At that moment the Mercedes-driver is on the soft compound tyre. With the race strategy for tomorrow in the back of his mind, Max crosses the line in ninth, waivering the effort to undertake a flying lap. This means he will now start the race tomorrow on the medium compound tyre, just like Valtteri Bottas. Charles Leclerc, Daniil Kvyat, Lance Stroll, George Russell and Sebastian Vettel fail to make it through to the third part of qualifying.

After the first runs in the third part of qualifying, Lewis Hamilton is leading the pack with a 1:31.391. Valtteri Bottas (+0.793), Max Verstappen (+0.969), Daniel Ricciardo (+0.973), Sergio Pérez (+1.019) and Carlos Sainz (+1.716) form the top six at that moment. The drivers head back to their teams to prepare themselves for a second and final run.

Valtteri Bottas is the first to cross the line when the flag drops, but the Finn is unable to better his time (1:31.956) sufficiently to keep team mate Lewis Hamilton from snatching pole once again. Max Verstappen manages to shave off a bit of his time to a 1:31.867 after an excellent lap. He grabs P2 and surprisingly keeps Bottas away from the second spot. Sergio Pérez, Daniel Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz round out the top six.

Russian GP contest: Win a signed Max Verstappen cap and a 1:43 RB12 scale model!

Results qualifying Russia:

1Lewis HamiltonHAMMercedes1:32.9831:32.8351:31.304
2Max VerstappenVERRed Bull Racing Honda1:33.6301:33.1571:31.867
3Valtteri BottasBOTMercedes1:32.6561:32.4051:31.956
4Sergio PerezPERRacing Point BWT Mercedes1:33.7041:33.0381:32.317
5Daniel RicciardoRICRenault1:33.6501:32.2181:32.364
6Carlos SainzSAIMcLaren Renault1:33.9671:32.7571:32.550
7Esteban OconOCORenault1:33.5571:33.1961:32.624
8Lando NorrisNORMcLaren Renault1:33.8041:33.0811:32.847
9Pierre GaslyGASAlphaTauri Honda1:33.7341:33.1391:33.000
10Alexander AlbonALBRed Bull Racing Honda1:33.9191:33.1531:33.008
11Charles LeclercLECFerrari1:34.0711:33.239
12Daniil KvyatKVYAlphaTauri Honda1:33.5111:33.249
13Lance StrollSTRRacing Point BWT Mercedes1:33.8521:33.364
14George RussellRUSWilliams Mercedes1:34.0201:33.583
15Sebastian VettelVETFerrari1:34.1341:33.609
16Romain GrosjeanGROHaas Ferrari1:34.592
17Antonio GiovinazziGIOAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari1:34.594
18Kevin MagnussenMAGHaas Ferrari1:34.681
19Nicholas LatifiLATWilliams Mercedes1:35.066
20Kimi RäikkönenRAIAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari1:35.267