Russian GP

It's a lockout: Vettel claims pole in Russia

Ferrari have claimed their first front-row lock out since 2008 and look the business ahead of the Russian Grand Prix. 

Despite claims that Mercedes were "sandbagging" all weekend, Ferrari had an answer for everything that was thrown at them with Sebastian Vettel claiming pole with Kimi Raikkonen able to play the "rear-gunner" role in P2.

Valtteri Bottas continued his good form in Russia edging out the sister Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton. Behind them Felipe Massa split the Red Bulls to finish P6, ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in P5 who keeps delivering in qualifying over his teammate.

Force India managed to squeeze both of their cars in to the top 10 with Esteban Ocon proving he can match the pace of his more experienced teammate.

Earlier in qualifying both Jolyon Palmer and Pascal Wehrlein lost control of their vehicles in seperate incidents but the result was the same with both ending the session while watching from the sidelines. 

Vettel mugged in Russia as Hamilton recovers behind Mr 100

As many expected it was victory for Nico Rosberg in Sochi, with Hamilton recovering from tenth place to claim P2 and the always excitable Kimi Raikkonen rounding out the podium.

"I'm aware of the fact that my direct competitor had a couple of mishaps, but I'm enjoying the moment and loving winning races - now i'm looking forward to what's to come," said a surprisingly muted Rosberg.

"A straight fight with Lewis is what I'm here for, I'm looking forward to it happening again, and as always it'll be a tough battle," explained Nico. "The ecstatic feeling isn't there, it's there when I win a battle against Lewis."

The win gives Rosberg a perfect 100 points from the first four races ahead of Hamilton on only 57 and Kimi Raikkonen on 43. It was damage limitation for Lewis, who started from P10 after an engine issue in qualifying limited his running and it required flying old engine parts overnight to track help him avoid even further penalties.

"We were doing 800kms per day in testing, the car seemed bulletproof," said a bewildered Hamilton, who also put to bed the lingering rumours that the team might be somehow hampering his efforts and helping Nico, despite the team switching the drivers' engineers this year "for no apparent reason."

On the opening lap Vettel was mugged by Kvyat who locked up his brakes and shunted him from behind, then clipped his rear again sending Vettel into the wall and suffocating the German’s championship hopes.

"I don't feel great, but sometimes these things happen in F1," said Kvyat, "I'll of-course apologise to everyone involved and learn from it."

Vettel wasn’t sure whether he had picked up a puncture after the initial contact, and didn't attack the following corner with full throttle as expected. It didn’t stop Vettel unloading a torrent of abuse over the radio. After Kvyat embarrassed Vettel with his racing nouse in China, he undid all of his good work and surely won’t be seeing Vettel in an ugly jumper on a personalised Christmas card any time soon.

At the fourth most engine-intensive track on the calendar, McLaren Honda managed to get both of their drivers into the points, with Alonso especially impressive claiming sixth place.

"We have the pace, I think we had the fifth fastest lap of the race. The car keeps growing, today was more normal pace and being in the points should be the target from now on," said Alonso.

"There are some circuits now that will suit even better our car; Barcelona and Monaco," added an optimistic Fernando.

Kevin Magnussen held on to score the first potassium filled points for Team Banana, while a disappointing showing from Toro Rosso saw Verstappen retire with an engine failure and Sainz drop out of the points and slugged with a questionable 10-second penalty for closing the door on Jolyon Palmer during the middle phase of the race.

Rosberg joins an elite group of drivers that have won seven consecutive races and although Hamilton's challenge has been largely muted thus far, things are looking difficult for his title defence.

Rosberg on pole as Hamilton's bad luck continues

It was an early shower for Nico Rosberg after claiming pole and vacating his car with one and a half minutes remaining in the session, but it was Lewis Hamilton's misfortune that tells the story, with the Brit failing to take to the track during Q3 with the same MGU-H issue that afflicted him in China.

"I was quite confident that the lap was good enough because in Q2 Ferrari was quite far away," said Rosberg.

"Of-course starting pole position will be great," said Rosberg when asked about his chances of another victory, "but it's never easy."

After telling the BBC that he, "can't really afford to fall any further back" Hamilton's issues should give Rosberg an easy run to his seventh straight race win, and expanding on his "magic pudding-like" points lead over the reigning champion this season. 

Valtteri Bottas will line up alongside Rosberg, with Sebastian Vettel setting the second fastest time but incurring a five-place grid penalty and will effectively be Hamilton's first major obstacle as the surge toward a podium position kicks off tomorrow.

Come at me, Putin: Russian qualifying recap

We all know what happened in Russia last year, but I assure you this time it'll be different. Like it was in the beginning? If you'll just be patient I can work things out...

Ahem.

Rod recaps the qualifying action, or lack of action in Carlos Sainz's case, so make sure you're up to date before the big race today. YEAH? Yeah, Russia!