Nico Rosberg will start the Russian Grand Prix from pole position after leading throughout the qualifying session.
The Mercedes driver headed all three parts of qualifying while team mate Lewis Hamilton went off the track trying to beat his pole position time.
Valtteri Bottas took third place but team mate Felipe Massa could only manage 15th.
Despite a disrupted build-up to qualifying, the first phase proceeded according to the usual routine. The two Mercedes drivers were easily able to proceed to the second part without having to use a set of super-soft tyres.
All their rivals did use the softer rubber, however. Valtteri Bottas improved enough that he ended the session in between the two Mercedes drivers, with Rosberg leading the times.
With Carlos Sainz Jnr unable to participate following his crash in practice, just four further drivers were eliminated in Q1. Home favourite Daniil Kvyat was one of the last to escape the bottom group.
Jenson Button was keeping a close eye on the progress of the Saubers, and he and Felipe Nasr swapped closely-matched sector times on their last flying effort. In the end both of them made it through, however, leaving their team mates behind along with the Manor pair.
Drivers eliminated in Q1
|20||Carlos Sainz Jnr||Toro Rosso-Renault|
Rosberg pressed on as the second part of qualifying began, beating the track record on his first run with a 1’38.335. Hamilton, despite losing telemetry shortly after leaving the pits, found almost two-thirds of a second to take over at the top of the table, but Rosberg hit back right away with a 1’37.500. That left the pair over a second clear of their pursuers.
Once again it was Bottas who led the charge against the Mercedes, getting within seven-tenths of a second of Rosberg. But just as last year his team mate did not accompany him into Q3: Felipe Massa caught traffic on his lap and complained he lost rear tyre grip.
The second Williams ended up 15th behind Pastor Maldonado, who also failed to accompany his team mate into Q3, having spun in the first session.
Felipe Nasr held tenth place until the final moments, when he was pipped by Max Verstappen. Kvyat also lost out to Verstappen – by less than a tenth of a second, missing out on the chance to start his home race from the top ten again.
Drivers eliminated in Q2
|11||Daniil Kvyat||Red Bull-Renault||1’39.214|
With the track conditions improving steadily, Rosberg might have been at a disadvantage by being the first of the two Mercedes to do a lap. But he set a 1’37.113 when Hamilton couldn’t get within three-tenths of a second of.
The pair were set for a final-run shoot-out but it all came to naught after Hamilton ran wide at turn 13. He made for the pits and with that the challenge for pole position was over. Rosberg also headed back to his garage before the chequered flag came out.
Kimi Raikkonen copied Hamilton’s mistake at turn 13 and also made for the pits, leaving Bottas and Vettel to scrap for third place. The Williams driver had a poor end to his lap, however, and Vettel came close to beating him. The pair were separated by just 0.053 seconds, which Vettel felt he could have found.
Behind Raikkonen the two Force Indias were covered by an even narrower margin. Romain Grosjean and Max Verstappen bumped Daniel Ricciardo back to tenth, the Red Bull driver describing his final effort as a “disaster”.
Top ten in Q3
|6||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1’38.659|
|7||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||1’38.691|
|9||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso-Renault||1’38.924|
|10||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull-Renault||1’39.728|
2015 Russian Grand Prix
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- Unrepentant Raikkonen says he would repeat Bottas move
- Perez earns first Driver of the Weekend win for three years
- Russia’s second grand prix gets higher rating
- 2015 Russian Grand Prix team radio transcript