Haas F1 Team drivers Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean earned strong starting positions for Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix by advancing to the final round of knockout qualifying Saturday at Sochi Autodrom. The duo qualified fifth and ninth, respectively, as the American squad placed both its drivers into Q3 for the ninth time this season.
Magnussen’s performance equaled Haas F1 Team’s best qualifying effort to date – fifth earned by Grosjean on Aug. 25 for the Belgian Grand Prix and by Magnussen on July 21 for the German Grand Prix. The Russian Grand Prix is the 16th race of 2018 and the 57th race for Haas F1 Team since its debut in the 2016 Australian Grand Prix.
Grosjean set the eighth-fastest time in Q1 with a lap of 1:34.022 around the 5.848-kilometer (3.634-mile), 18-turn circuit. Magnussen was right behind his teammate in ninth with a lap of 1:34.078. Only the top-15 drivers move on to Q2.
In Q2, Grosjean earned the sixth-fastest time with a lap of 1:33.517 and Magnussen was eighth with a lap of 1:33.747, allowing each driver to make the top-10 cutoff and advance to Q3.
Q3 featured the heavy hitters of Formula One, with four-time and reigning champion Mercedes and 16-time champion Scuderia Ferrari represented. Haas F1 Team held its own among these powerhouses, with Magnussen qualifying a best-of-the-rest fifth with a lap of 1:33.181 and Grosjean taking ninth with a lap of 1:33.704.
Both Magnussen and Grosjean ran exclusively on the Pirelli P Zero Pink hypersoft tire throughout qualifying.
Taking the pole for the Russian Grand Prix was Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas. His fast lap of 1:31.387 set a new track qualifying record at Sochi and was .145 of a second better than runner-up and teammate, Lewis Hamilton. It was Bottas’ sixth career Formula One pole, his second this season and his first at Sochi.
Before Magnussen, Grosjean and the rest of their Formula One counterparts participated in knockout qualifying, they had one final practice (FP3) to dial in their racecars for a quick lap around the track. The duo performed the same program in FP3, beginning on Pirelli P Zero Purple ultrasoft tires before transitioning to Pink hypersofts.
Magnussen ran 15 laps and set the ninth-fastest time with a 1:34.820 on his 13th tour. Grosjean tallied 18 laps and earned his best time on his 15th lap – a 1:35.185 that put him 13th overall. Both drivers secured their quick time utilizing the hypersoft tire. Magnussen described his Haas VF-18 has a bit “understeery” while Grosjean endured both understeer and oversteer.
Romain Grosjean: “Unfortunately, we had too much traffic on the out lap of my last run in Q3. The tires were really cold to start the lap and I just didn’t get the grip. I couldn’t repeat my lap time from Q2, which is a bit of a shame, but it happens. Some cars were really slowing down a lot in the last two corners and that created a bit of a queue. For the race, well, we’re starting on hypersofts with Renault behind starting on ultrasofts. They didn’t run in Q2, but with the other penalties, they’re going to start 11th and 12th. I don’t know what it’s going to be like. We’ll do our best, but P9 is definitely not where I wanted to be.”
Kevin Magnussen: “I’m happy. It’s best of the rest, again – pole position for us. It’s a good feeling. It was a good lap. It could’ve been better. The only place I messed up was in turn two. I hit the curb and definitely when you do that, you lose time with wheelspin. I thought from there it would probably be difficult, but I kept it together and did a good rest of the lap. Luckily, it’s not like the Red Bulls qualified into Q3 and then just didn’t run. We have more people running the hypersoft tire – that’s a bit better for us. It would’ve been worse if the Force Indias or both Saubers had started just outside the top-10 with fresh tires. That would’ve been tricky. I’m sure the Red Bulls will come back strong. It’ll be interesting to see how far they get. There’s a good chance they’ll get back up, but the best of the rest is our target.”
Guenther Steiner: “It was a good result today. Starting fifth with Kevin, it’s very nice. Romain just had a little issue with the temperature of his tires as he started his last lap, so he’ll start ninth. Again, that’s not perfect, but it’s still not a bad position to start in. Let’s see if we can get some points tomorrow.”