Nico Rosberg took his second consecutive pole position and his third of the season in Sochi, beating team-mate Lewis Hamilton to the front of the Russian Grand Prix grid by three tenths of a second. Third place in the session went to Williams’ Valtteri Bottas.
The first segment saw Mercedes Nico Rosberg go quickest with a lap of 1:38.343 that left him just over a tenth of a second ahead of Williams’ Valtteri Bottas. Hamilton was third fastest in the second Mercedes ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Felipe Massa in the second Williams. Sixth was Lotus’ Romain Grosjean ahead of the second Ferrari of Kimi Räikkönen, Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg, Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo. The Mercedes pair managed to get through Q1 using only the soft tyres.
Eliminated after the opening 18 minutes were McLaren’s Fernando Alonso in P16, followed by Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson, the Manors of Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi and Toro Rosso’s carlos Sainz, who did not take part in qualifying after a heavy crash in final practice saw him hospitalised but uninjured.
Alonso missed out on a Q2 berth by just a tenth of a second, with Sauber’s Felipe Nasr edging the Spaniard with a lap of 1:40.042. Jenson Button did make it through in the other McLaren, however, and the Briton ended the segment in 14th place behind Lotus’ Pastor Maldonado, Force India’s Sergio Perez and the Red Bull of Daniil Kvyat.
Mercedes again dominated in Q2 with Rosberg holding top spot with a lap of 1:37.500. Hamilton was again second, 0.172 behind the German, with Bottas third with a time of 1:38.194.
In the drop zone as the segment entered its final two minutes were Ricciardo in P10 followed by Nasr, Button, Maldonado and Massa who had run well wide on his previous flyer and was winding up for a final attempt at progress.
Ricciardo was the first to clamber to safety, the Australian posting a lap of 1:39.005 to eventually make it through to Q3 in ninth place.
His team-mate Daniil Kvyat was not so lucky, however. The Russian was in P9 as the final runs began and as the time began to alter around him he swiftly dropped to P12. He found more pace on his final run but a slow middle sector meant he didn’t find the necessary improvement and he was the first of the drivers eliminated at this stage, in P11.
Behind him Nasr was also ruled out of Q3, with Button 13th ahead of Maldonado. Massa, too, failed to find an improvement, with the Brazilian saying that traffic on his [previous] lap had cost him time and “then I lost the tyres completely at the rear on [the final] lap”. He qualified in P15.
With the drivers finding it difficult to get temperature into their supersoft tyres on the smooth surface it was the second flying lap of each run that provided the quicker lap and after the first runs of Q3 Rosberg again held sway, his time of 1:37.113 leaving him a significant three tenths of a second clear of second-placed Hamilton. Bottas was third, almost half a second adrift of Hamilton, while Vettel was fourth ahead of Räikkonen.
Grosjean, Verstappen and Ricciardo, meanwhile, had yet to run but as the frontrunner prepared for a final assault they took to the track to find the maximum space.
In the final runs Rosberg held onto top spot as neither Mercedes driver found an improvement. The German set quicker times through the first and last sectors but a slower middle sector left the second lap of his opening run as his best. Hamilton meanwhile Hamilton went wide at Turn 13 on his lap and returned to the pits. He waited momentarily at his pit box but then decided to concede victory to his team-mate, who took his second pole position in a row.
Behind them Bottas finished third, the Finn also failing to find an improvement, and fourth place in the session went to Vettel with team-mate Räikkönen fifth.
Hulkenberg and Perez took P6 and P7 respectively for Force India, while Grosjean was eighth ahead of Verstappen and Ricciardo.
2015 Russian Grand Prix – Qualifying
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:38.343 1:37.500 1:37.113 20
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:38.558 1:37.672 1:37.433 18
3 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:38.448 1:38.194 1:37.912 26
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:38.598 1:38.402 1:37.965 15
5 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:39.207 1:38.224 1:38.348 18
6 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:39.250 1:38.727 1:38.659 21
7 Sergio Perez Force India 1:39.617 1:38.914 1:38.691 19
8 Romain Grosjean Team Lotus 1:39.056 1:38.754 1:38.787 19
9 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:39.411 1:39.119 1:38.924 23
10 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:39.574 1:39.005 1:39.728 18
11 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull 1:39.580 1:39.214 18
12 Felipe Nasr Sauber 1:40.042 1:39.323 18
13 Jenson Button McLaren 1:39.739 1:39.763 15
14 Pastor Maldonado Team Lotus 1:39.724 1:39.811 15
15 Felipe Massa Williams 1:38.926 1:39.895 17
16 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:40.144 7
17 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:40.660 9
18 Will Stevens Manor 1:43.693 9
19 Roberto Merhi Manor 1:43.804 8