Mercedes ran out of luck in qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix, but team boss Toto Wolff is confident Lewis Hamilton will deliver the win.
A dramatic thunderstorm which had struck the Sochi Autodrom cleared away at the perfect time to ensure qualifying took place, and it certainly did not disappoint.
With the track drying, a window opened up at the very end of Q3 to try a flying lap on slick tyres, an opportunity on which Lando Norris capitalised to take the first pole position of his career, while Carlos Sainz and George Russell joined him in forming a shock top three on the grid.
Hamilton, meanwhile, will start P4, after missing out on a second push lap which was needed to make the soft tyres work.
There was an unfortunate slap of the wall for Hamilton during Q3 as he entered the pit lane, but Wolff said that made “no difference” to the eventual outcome.
Instead, it was simply a case of bad luck.
The boys line up P4 and P7 for the #RussianGP after a dramatic ending to Quali pic.twitter.com/4ssfUjfJb2
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“There are these situations which are really unfortunate. It’s not even that we made a mistake or the drivers contributed to it,” Wolff told Sky F1.
“We were the first cars out in the session and that’s why we were in the sequence that either we would have aborted the last two runs on the intermediates, to get two soft runs in, or like we played it safe, finish the lap, which we did.
“And in the end, even without Lewis’ kiss on the wall, we wouldn’t have been able to do two laps.
“I think today there was no mistake, honestly. If you let me turn back, what we would change is maybe not go out first on the track but go out a minute later.
“But knowing this would have these consequences at the end is crystal ball reading, so at the end of the day it was unlucky, it cost us P1 and P2 on the grid.
“We need to turn it around tomorrow but these things sometimes go against you. It’s a lap-two tyre is the slick, and I’m sure we would have been fast enough for the front row. But with one lap you have no chance to heat it up.”
All hope is not lost though for Wolff – far from it, with Mercedes’ team principal confident of Hamilton delivering a fifth career victory in Sochi.
“I think with Lewis where he is we can win it, and that should be the aim,” Wolff confirmed.
“If everything goes well then with Valtteri, when he starts from seventh, there are other considerations we have at the moment. If he starts from seventh I think easily back onto the podium – that must be the target.”
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