Russian Grand Prix qualifying was held under identical conditions to Friday practice, offering continuity to the proceedings with a partly sunny sky. Unlike previous qualifying rounds, Haas F1 Team drivers Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutiérrez entered the opening 18-minute Q1 session armed with substantial mileage around the 5.484-kilometer (3.634-mile) Sochi Autodrom.
Friday’s combined tally of 88 practice laps was further bolstered by a solid final 60-minute practice session on Saturday. Thirty-three laps were recorded between the pairing, 18 laps credited to Gutiérrez and 15 laps for Grosjean. After running their installation round on the Pirelli P Zero White medium tires, both drivers quickly swapped to the P Zero Red supersoft compound for the remainder of the session. Gutiérrez’s fastest time (1:39.230) placed him 15th and Grosjean’s quickest lap (1:39.239) put him 17th.
The Red supersofts were the tire of choice throughout qualifying. Both Haas F1 Team drivers’ fastest times of the session came after a switch to a second set of fresh rubber with less than six minutes remaining. Grosjean and Gutiérrez advanced to Q2 for the first time since the Bahrain Grand Prix in April. Grosjean’s best lap (1:38.383) placed him 14th while Gutiérrez secured the 16th position with a time of 1:38.678.
The 15-minute Q2 session proved to be more challenging with only the top-10 progressing to contend for the pole. Grosjean and Gutiérrez set faster lap times than the Q1 session, but not quick enough to advance to Q2. Grosjean, participating in his third straight Q2 session, set a personal benchmark lap of 1:38.055 to qualify 15th for Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix. Gutiérrez will accompany his teammate on Row 8 in the 16th position after a fast lap of 1:38.115. Though the team hoped to advance to Q3, both drivers have the advantage of saving a set of tires for the 53-lap race.
Rosberg won the pole with a 1:35.417 lap time, his second consecutive pole for both the 2016 season and the Russian Grand Prix.
Romain Grosjean: “It’s been a complicated weekend so far for us. We’ve been struggling with the grip and the car. It’s difficult to get the tire to work on such a smooth asphalt. We’re progressing, we’re learning and doing the most we can do. I still don’t have the feeling I used to have earlier in the season with the car. We really need to analyze that. Then tomorrow’s going to be a long race with a lot of fuel saving. The tires are hard to keep in the window, so it’s going to be challenging for everyone. Maybe we can try to be a bit more clever. Let’s do our best, let’s analyse and let’s keep having some interesting data. We’ll see where we are after the race.”
Esteban Gutierrez: “Qualifying was pretty hard. It was difficult to get the tires to work here so it’s been a bit of a challenge. I was doing my best, with all the options we have available, to maximize everything but I’m not really satisfied with the result. However, we still have a race to do tomorrow. Hopefully a few surprises may come our way that will give us a chance to be up in the points. It’s probably not going to be very straightforward, as the pace is not as good as we want it to be, but we will definitely push hard and do our best to get there.”
Guenther Steiner: “We are very happy with where we qualified. We had a difficult weekend leading up to today, but we recovered, and ended up 15th and 16th which is very close to the two McLarens. To be in Q2 with both cars is great for us. We are usually stronger in the race than we are in qualifying. We’ll definitely be pushing with both cars to maximize our position and get into the points, so I’m looking forward to seeing what happens tomorrow.”