Vettel and Ferrari presented with chance to extend lead: Russian GP qualifying talking points

Following Saturday's qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix, Graham Caygill looks at the talking points that could play out during Sunday's race.
Sebastian Vettel on his way to pole position during qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix. Srdjan Suki / EPA
Sebastian Vettel on his way to pole position during qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix. Srdjan Suki / EPA

Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel are in the ascendancy after taking pole for the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi. But his teammate Kimi Raikkonen and Mercedes-GP rival Valtteri Bottas both have points to prove in Sunday’s race. Graham Caygill looks at the big talking points from qualifying.

Vettel’s ominous form

It’s worth remembering that the winner of each of the three previous stagings of the Russian Grand Prix has gone on to be world champion. Vettel and Ferrari have looked like they have had the edge all season on race pace over Mercedes-GP. The combination triumphed in Australia and Bahrain despite starting behind the Mercedes cars. So with track position at the start in Sochi, thanks to a first pole since Singapore 2015, the Italian team will be supremely confident that Vettel can win again and extend his seven-point lead at the top of the drivers’ standings.

Best yet for Raikkonen

Ferrari’s good day was arguably better represented by Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn almost took pole, and after an indifferent start to the season, qualifying second was exactly the showing he needed. What he requires is to back that up with a strong race performance by supporting Vettel to give Ferrari their first 1-2 finish in a grand prix since Germany in July 2010.

Chance for Bottas

For the second successive race Valtteri Bottas out-qualified his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton. He took pole in Bahrain but then struggled for speed in the race and was twice asked to allow Hamilton past him. If Bottas is to establish himself as a credible force in the Mercedes team, he must finish ahead of the three-time world champion to demonstrate he is not with the German marque simply to be a support player.

Grosjean’s struggles

Brake problems continue to plague Romain Grosjean and the Haas team, with the Frenchman the slowest of the 20 cars in qualifying. While there were mitigating reasons for the poor result, and given he has qualified sixth in Australia and ninth in Bahrain, it can be considered an aberration at this stage. Still, it is not what he needs in a year when he is out to impress with possible seats available at Ferrari and Mercedes for 2018. A good comeback drive through the field would be a step in the right direction.

gcaygill@thenational.ae

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Published: April 29, 2017 04:00 AM

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