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Track Limits, Red Flag Key As Lewis Hamilton Takes Pole in Russia

Illustration for article titled Track Limits, Red Flag Key As Lewis Hamilton Takes Pole in Russia
Photo: BRYN LENNON/POOL/AFP (Getty Images)

Threats of rain, cancelled laps, and red flags: the qualifying session for Formula One’s Russian Grand Prix had it all, but it wasn’t enough to stop Lewis Hamilton. The British driver secured yet another pole position, but he had one hell of a difficult time getting there.

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The first segment of qualifying was riddled with cancelled laps as drivers exceeded track limits. Most found themselves departing the track in Turn 2 or navigating emergency chicanes before rejoining the track—not an ideal when you’re trying to preserve your tires. Hamilton was one of the impacted drivers, although he did manage to salvage his lap.

Knocked Out After Q1:

16. Romain Grosjean
17. Antonio Giovinazzi
18. Kevin Magnussen
19. Nicholas Latifi
20. Kimi Raikkonen

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The threat of rain became a very real possibility as Q2 kicked off, encouraging drivers to hit the track to set a time before it poured. As the clouds lingered, Hamilton had another cancelled lap time for exceeding track limits. Mercedes had a conundrum on its hands: Hamilton would have to set a second lap in Q2 for the first time in long time.

With just over two minutes left in the session, Sebastian Vettel had a heavy crash that brought out a red flag. He clipped the curb and lost grip, sending him into a spin. While the German driver was okay, he was definitely rattled. His teammate Charles Leclerc, sent out immediately after his teammate, caught the debris.

Sitting in 15th, Hamilton still had an opportunity to set a lap time. But he remained in the pits while eight other cars lined up at pit exit and was forced to line up behind them. Lance Stroll was pushed back to the garage after sitting in the fast lane.

When the session went green, Pierre Gasly appeared to bottleneck the field coming out of the pits. On cold tires, Hamilton lost control of the rear of his car—but he still managed to make it to the starting line with mere seconds remaining. He would be allowed to set his flying lap—and he was able to make it through.

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Knocked Out After Q2:

11. Charles Leclerc
12. Daniil Kvyat
13. Lance Stroll
14. George Russell
15. Sebastian Vettel

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The final segment of qualifying was fairly relaxed compared to the chaos of the other sessions. Hamilton had no issues with his lap this time, finding even more speed than he had in previous sessions. Teammate Valtteri Bottas, Hamilton’s biggest challenger, wasn’t able to set a faster lap than Hamilton. Then, Hamilton went on to improve his time yet again.

There was a solid battle for the front two rows. Bottas looked set to secure second when Sergio Perez came up on a flying lap. While the Mexican driver wasn’t able to take second, he qualified right behind Bottas. Then, Max Verstappen pulled out a stellar lap with a great last sector, securing second place. It’s the first time Verstappen will start from the front row at Sochi.

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Hamilton is currently under investigation for a problem in early qualifying, but for now, his pole position stands.

Top 10:

1. Lewis Hamilton
2. Max Verstappen
3. Valtteri Bottas
4. Sergio Perez
5. Daniel Ricciardo
6. Carlos Sainz Jr.
7. Esteban Ocon
8. Lando Norris
9. Pierre Gasly
10. Alex Albon

Weekends at Jalopnik. Managing editor at A Girl's Guide to Cars. Lead IndyCar writer and assistant editor at Frontstretch. Novelist. Motorsport fanatic.

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DISCUSSION

Elizabeth, I absolutely love your motorsports coverage, and I have a request.

Can you do an article about what track limits are? And why they are established, and how they are tracked, etc? Because a "limit" when you're supposed to be as fast as possible, seems very counterintuitive