Having opened a significant 1.3s gap to Sebastian Vettel in Q2, with the Ferrari driver third behind Hamilton in the segment, the Q3 field was left open to Rosberg and the German seized the opportunity with both hands. Vettel managed to close the gap to seven tenths of a second but Rosberg’s Q3 lap of 1:35.417 was good enough to secure a second consecutive pole position and to leave him perfectly positioned to tomorrow claim a fourth successive win this season.
“I was quite confident that the lap was good enough out there, because in quali two Ferrari was quite far away and I knew that Lewis was not able to participate in the last part of qualifying, so I was very sure that it was going to be enough,” said Rosberg afterwards.
“But you never know, your know, so there’s always still a remaining uncertainty and so I was glad eventually when Sebastian finally crossed the line that it was good enough.
“Starting from pole position will be great,” he added. “It’s never easy but the way the grid is it does help me out a lot for sure to try and get that win tomorrow.”
Although Vettel qualified in second position the Ferrari driver will start from P7 on the grid, having incurred a five-place penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change on Friday.
The four-time champion remains optimistic of a good result, however, especially in the light of Hamilton’s difficulties.
“Obviously we benefit from what happened to Lewis, which I’m not sure exactly what it was, but it allowed us to go P2, which helps for tomorrow with the penalty,” he said. “We are a bit closer, starting on the clean side of the track. I think we can have a good race from there. It should be quite exciting. The car feels good and I think all weekend it has been quite strong.
“Obviously we know that on Saturdays we are probably a little bit still further back than we want and a bit further back than on Sundays, so high hopes for tomorrow.”
Third place in the session went to Williams Valtteri Bottas, with the Finn repeating his qualifying efforts of last year and at the inaugural event in Russia. Due to Vettel’s penalty he will, however, start from the front row.
“I’m really pleased with how it all went. This weekend has been very positive,” he said. “We have some new bits on the car and the car has been feeling better. It’s also a good track for us. I’m glad we could maximise the qualifying today. Pleased with that but it’s tomorrow that counts. So far my Sundays haven’t been so great but I’m sure tomorrow we have a good chance to have a good one.”
Behind them Kimi Raikkonen qualified in fourth for Ferrari ahead of Felipe Massa in the second Williams. Daniel Ricciardo was sixth for Red Bull Racing ahead of Sergio Perez of Force India. Daniil Kvyat was eighth in the second Red Bull Racing and the final top 10 spots were taken by Toro Rosso’s and the unfortunate Hamilton, who was also summoned to the stewards office for “failing to follow the race director’s Turn 2 instructions”.
Kvyat’s eighth place was notable as the local hero narrowly escaped elimination after Q2.
The Russian was in P11 as the chequered flag was waved at the end of Q2 but he had just begun a final flying lap. To the delight of his home crowd the Red Bull driver was able to find enough pace to climb to P10, at the expense of Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz.
Behind the Spaniard, Jenson Button came close to taking McLaren into Q3 for the first time this season but ended up just under 0.1s shy in P12. Nico Hulkenberg was 12th to split the two McLarens, with Fernando Alonso in P14. Romain Grosjean was 15th for Haas ahead of team-mate Esteban Gutierrez.
Q1 saw the elimination of Renault’s Kevin Magnussen in P17, followed by team-mate Jolyon Palmer, Sauber’s Felipe Nasr, Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein, team-mate Rio Haryanto and the second Sauber of Marcus Ericsson.
RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX - QUALIFYING
P. DRIVER TEAM TIME GAP 1. Nico Rosberg Mercedes AMG 1:35.417 2. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari(*) 1:36.123 + 0.706 3. Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:36.536 + 1.119 4. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:36.663 + 1.246 5. Felipe Massa Williams 1:37.016 + 1.599 6. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:37.125 + 1.708 7. Sergio Perez Force India 1:37.212 + 1.795 8. Daniil Kvyat Red Bull 1:37.459 + 2.042 9. Max Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:37.583 + 2.166 10. Lewis Hamilton(**)Mercedes AMG NO TIME * +5 grid places penalty ** PU under investigation of team Q2 Fastest Time: Nico Rosberg 1:35.337 11. Carlos Sainz JR. Toro Rosso 1:37.652 + 2.315 12. Jenson Button McLaren 1:37.701 + 2.364 13. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:37.771 + 2.434 14. Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:37.807 + 2.470 15. Romain Grosjean Haas 1:38.055 + 2.718 16. Esteban Gutierrez Haas 1:38.115 + 2.778 Q1 Fastest Time: Lewis Hamilton 1:36.006 17. Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:38.914 + 2.908 18. Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:39.009 + 3.012 19. Felipe Nasr Sauber 1:39.018 + 3.193 20. Pascal Wehrlein Manor 1:39.399 + 3.393 21. Rio Haryanto Manor 1:39.463 + 3.519 22. Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:39.519 + 3.583 107% time: 1:42.723