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Notebook – Russian Qualifying Review

Charles Leclerc took his fourth back to back pole position for Ferrari, you have to believe that he is very much the driver in control. Lewis Hamilton has described the Ferrari advantage as a “jet mode,” we have seen that advantage emerged in recent races.

For years Mercedes have pulled out that advantage over the rest of the field. Hamilton told Motorsport.com, “It was a tough qualifying session because these guys have some crazy speeds on the straight. They go to another level. That old party mode you talk about, they have something else beyond that – jet mode.”

However, pole position Ferrari believes may not be the best position to start the race because of the flat run to Turn Two. Leclerc said, “Yeah it felt amazing. It definitely feels great to back on pole, but I don’t know if it’s the best track to start on pole.”

“The straight is very long after the start, so tomorrow the start will be very important as always, but here probably even more because of the straight length.”

The thing to watch in the race is the strategy, Mercedes starting on the mediums and Ferrari and the rest of the midfield on softs. Like in Singapore, the two-stop strategy is slower. Pirelli predicts the “fastest way is to start on the soft for 15 to 19 laps and then go to the hard.”

“In practice, there might be an advantage to start on the medium instead for 14 to 22 laps and subsequently switch to the hard. This strategy also offers more flexibility.”

A slightly slower one-stopper is to start on the soft for 22 to 26 laps and then switch to the medium for the rest of the race: this would probably require some degree of pace management.”

Red Bull knew they would be out of position this weekend, Max Verstappen was six tenths off the pace. The Dutchman knew he would start in the lower end of the top ten, due to a five-place penalty for a power unit change.

Verstappen said, “Ferrari didn’t turn their engines up until today. It’s more than a second we lose on the straights combined – you can’t do anything about that.”

“There are corners on this circuit but a second? It’s till too much. To split to Mercedes cars was the best thing we could to today. I think realistically [I could finish] P5, maybe P4.”

Red Bull was hoping Alex Albon could have been in a position to get points, overtaking in Sochi isn’t that easy. However, he crashed out of the session after carrying to much speed at Turn Thirteen, while trying to get out of the Q1 drop zone.

He said, “I went in a bit hot. It’s frustrating. There’s a tailwind there and it caught me out. Race pace in P3 didn’t go too badly. Obviously we are giving our self a more difficult target, but we’ll see.”

McLaren announced today they are returning to Mercedes power in 2021. They will be hoping that allows them to join the top teams, today in qualifying they were sixth with Carlos Sainz and eighth with Lando Norris.

We are beginning to see McLaren become that best of the rest team, but I think it was too big a challenge for them to break firmly ahead of Renault. The gap between Sainz and Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg was six hundredths.

Sainz said “Good day today! Improving every time we went on track and adapting to the circumstances. I couldn’t have done that lap without the help of the whole team.”

“After our initial struggles from yesterday, we managed to adapt, progress and find a way to recover from that, which shows we’re also doing a great job this year in understanding the car.”

The midfield battle could be tight, Pierre Gasly missed out on Q3 by five hundredths. But an engine change will drop him to sixteenth. But that’s the type of result he needs if he is going to rebuild his Red Bull career.

News in brief

  • Mercedes have fired four employees and disciplined three others at its headquarters for islamophia to another employee. The incident happened last month, when according to The Sun bullying of a Muslim colleague over whether he would break his fast for Ramadan.
  • Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto says it would be a “shame” to have to use its right to veto changes to the championship’s rules in the 2021 discussions.
    Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull have been vocal over their concern for supposed restraints over aerodynamic freedom in the technical regulations. The deadline for an agreement is 31st of October.
  • Juan Manuel Correa, who was injured in the F2 crash which killed Anthoine Hubert, has opted for reconstructive surgery on his right leg rather than amputation.
    Correa has been transferred to a London hospital, his family say he has made a “fast-paced” recovery and faces a crucial surgery after opting against a reconstructive amputation of his right foot.
  • Toro Rosso will change its name to Alpha Tauri next season if rival teams approve a request to do so. Alpha Tauri is Red Bull’s fashion label, which was launched two years ago.

You can join us for the Russian Grand Prix, coverage starts 13:40 MST / 11:40BST race coverage 14:10 / 12:10

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Jack Fielding
Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.
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