Britain’s brightest young stars shone through the rain and darkness of qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix. With McLaren’s Lando Norris winning his first pole and George Russell third for Williams, it was a definite opinion that the future of Formula 1 is in bad shape. Their role model and inspiration, Lewis Hamilton, was in their wake, however, disappointed and sorry after a very unusual mistake left him in fourth place.
Hamilton raised his hands after cutting through the wall at the entrance to the pit lane. “It was a mistake. I’m incredibly disappointed in myself,” he said. “Until then I was in the groove, I was in the zone. you expect from a champion.
Norris and McLaren were rightly thrilled after taking first place. After his first win in nine years in the final round at Monza, Norris has now won his first pole since 2012. He delivered with timing and precision to master tough, wet and dry conditions with an ease and confidence Hamilton would recognize. , finishing a full half a second ahead of the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz, second.
” It was hard. I’m going to make myself look good, but it was tricky, ”Norris said. “The previous lap I was two seconds ahead and I wasn’t sure we were going to improve. I kept the tires warm, I risked a lot, but it paid off. This is my first pole position and hopefully the first in a long series.
For Russell, who will join Hamilton at Mercedes next season, he once again outclassed his car to complete a superb final lap. He was the first rider to try slick tires on the last few laps and his choice was the right one because he had the grip on him so he rose to the challenge.
Norris is still only 21 and is now the youngest British driver to win pole, while Russell is 23. Both are in their third season in F1 and their performances confirm that they are two. of the sport’s most promising young drivers.
Behind them Hamilton, with seven titles and at 36 so often the master of changing conditions, floundered just as the best opportunity arose to put pressure on title rival Max Verstappen. The Dutchman has a five-point lead in the championship but will start from the back of the grid due to penalties for taking his fourth power unit. It was an opportunity for Hamilton to regain the lead with a big score.
He can still win, but a pole would have made things a lot easier. In the closing minutes of Q3, Hamilton hit the wall on his way back to the pits and sustained damage to his left front wing, which had to be replaced. Mercedes pulled it out but only with enough time to take a quick lap.
A drying line gave the teams a chance to try their luck on slick tires and Norris and Russell came by early to do several laps on the new rubber to warm them up before their final laps. After adjusting a new nose, Hamilton only had one lap to go and, lacking in temperature, sped on his last lap.
Team principal Toto Wolff said Mercedes was committed to following their plan for opening laps in Q3 on the intermediate tires and therefore would not have had time to complete more than one lap on slicks, suggesting that regardless of Hamilton’s crash, he still didn’t have time to warm up his tires. Given the conditions, having a banker’s time in the intersections made sense, but it was the opposition’s bet that paid off.
Persistent heavy rain all morning threatened qualifying as final practice was abandoned due to the conditions, but it took place on a difficult and wet track where Mercedes seemed to have the boost until the last moments.
On his hot first lap in Q3 and with the teams still riding on the intermediate tires, Hamilton had the advantage, fastest at seven tenths over teammate Valtteri Bottas before the final drama unfolded and Norris achieves a magnificent race of 1 min 41.993 sec. .
Hamilton remained optimistic: overtaking is possible in Sochi and dry weather is expected on Sunday. With Mercedes clearly having the fastest car here this weekend, he may come back, but the next generation of F1 will have no fear of facing the champion and certainly won’t be inclined to make things easy.
Daniel Ricciardo was fifth for McLaren. Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon were sixth and 10th for Alpine, with Bottas seventh. Lance Stroll was eighth for Aston Martin and Sergio Pérez ninth for Red Bull.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was 15th but, after taking a fourth new power unit, will start from 19th. Williams’ Nicholas Latifi also took on new powertrain components and was in 14th place but will start from 18th.
Sebastian Vettel was 11th for Aston Martin with the AlphaTauris of Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda 12th and 13th.
Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi from Alfa Romeo were 16th and 18th, with Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin 17th and 19th for Haas.