Ferrari have broken Mercedes’ 18-race run of pole positions in Russia after making a substantial leap forward with their car’s performance at the Sochi Autodrom.
Sebastian Vettel qualified his SF70H with a time over three seconds faster than the team’s best from last year. Mercedes found an improvement of just two seconds, which wasn’t quite enough to keep their rivals from locking out the front row.
But there was one team which has improved by even more than Ferrari. Renault is once again the team which has made the most progress at this track year-on-year. Nico Hulkenberg duly took the RS17 into Q3.
Interestingly while Red Bull continue lag well off the pace of the top two teams, they have found more pace at this track than Mercedes have since F1’s last visit. But they expect much greater things from their upgrade at the next race in Spain.
That next race will be the big test of F1’s 2017 rules and tyres. The sport set itself a target of reducing lap times by five seconds compared to the pole position time at the 2015 Spanish Grand Prix.
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We’re yet to see a five-second lap time gain at any of the tracks on the calendar so far. The average has been around four seconds. However the Circuit de Catalunya is a highly aerodynamically sensitive track, and the performance gain could well be greater there.
Lap times have fallen every year since F1 first visited the Russian track at the beginning of the V6 hybrid turbo era. As a result the race lap record, Nico Rosberg’s 1’39.094 set last season, is likely to fall in tomorrow’s race.
2017 Russian Grand Prix
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- Honda unreliability “completely unacceptable” – Alonso
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- 2017 Russian Grand Prix team radio transcript
- Thanks for nothing: Sochi rated among worst ten races of last ten years