Race Weekend Central

Slipstream Saturday: Lewis Hamilton Thunders to Russian GP Pole

Lewis Hamilton has been on fire all season long.

Logging seven poles and another six grand prix victories, it is clear that Hamilton’s dominance in 2020 is here to stay. Following a hectic Q2 at the Sochi Autodrom, Hamilton was able to best Max Verstappen by 0.563 seconds to claim his eighth pole of 2020 and the 96th of his career.

Following Hamilton and Verstappen is Valtteri Bottas. The Finn scored his first win at the Russian GP back in 2017, but he’ll have to settle for a third place grid start on Sunday. Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo round out the top five for Racing Point and Renault, respectively.

Carlos Sainz and Esteban Ocon start sixth and seventh, followed by Lando Norris, Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon to complete the top 10.

Qualifying Recap

In Q1, it was all Mercedes. Bottas and Hamilton got off to rocket starts, leaving all their competitors in the dust.

In the end, however, Bottas edged Hamilton by the slimmest of margins. In a heartwarming scene, Williams’ George Russell advanced to Q2. The struggling team finished the Q1 session 13th, ahead of both Ferraris.

Both Haas cars, both Alfa Romeos and Nicholas Latifi were eliminated in the session.

Q2 saw some much needed drama. After Hamilton had his first lap attempt invalidated due to a track limit breach, he only had 2 minutes and 15 seconds to log a time. As he headed out, Sebastian Vettel‘s Ferrari crashed hard into the barrier and brought the session to a halt.

This left drivers like Verstappen, Albon and Stroll in a similar tight spot to Hamilton. Stroll had to be pushed back to the paddock with an engine issue, while Albon and Hamilton barely made it over the lines to start their flying laps.

Hamilton answered the call by going P4. Albon nailed a P8 with Daniil Kyvat and Charles Leclerc being ousted as a result.

Russell, Stroll, Kyvat, Vettel and Leclerc were sent packing after Q2.

In Q3, a strategy call by Mercedes gave Hamilton a chance to qualify on some better tires. Hamilton logged a brilliant time over two tenths quicker than last year’s pole, which was also five tenths faster than teammate Bottas.

As the session drew to a close, Bottas was jumped by the Red Bull of Max Verstappen for P2. For the first time since the Styrian Grand Prix, Mercedes failed to lock down the front row of the grid.

Looking ahead to the Russian Grand Prix on Sunday, Mercedes aims to score their convincing eighth victory of 2020. However, Hamilton will be forced to start the race on significantly more worn tires than the rest of field due to the debacle in Q2.

Should Hamilton claim victory, he will tie Michael Schumacher’s all time wins record at a once insurmountable 91.

Standout Qualifiers

  • George Russel’s P14 effort shows just how good the young Brit is. Despite driving for the slowest team on the grid, Russell beat out both Haas and Alfa Romeo as well as Vettel and teammate Latifi. Russell has been close to scoring both his and his team’s first points of the 2020 season, with both himself and Latifi scoring 11th place finishes. A P14 start means it will be a little easier to try for that coveted P10 finish.
  • Sergio Perez has had a rough 2020. After missing two races due to COVID-19 and finding out he would be getting replaced at Racing Point by Sebastian Vettel, the Mexican needed some good fortune in Russia. Perez was able to score a fantastic P4 effort in qualifying has he looks to score his first podium since 2018. Perez looks to close out 2020 and high note and try to score one of the coveted remaining drives for next season.

The lights go out for the Russian GP tomorrow at 14:10 local time, or 7:10 a.m. EST. Can Lewis Hamilton equal a record that has stood for nearly 15 years? Fans will be on the edge of their seats to find out.

About the author


Alex has been writing in the motorsport world since he was 19. Starting his career with the NASCAR Pinty's Series, Alex's work has been featured in Inside Track Magazine, TSN & NBC Sports as well as countless race programs.

Alex has also worked within the junior hockey world in Canada, appearing as a desk host for the OHL's Barrie Colts. He also got the opportunity to cover the 2018 Chevy Silverado 250 which appeared as the headlining article on NASCAR.com.

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