Brit could only muster a fourth place finish in Sochi behind team-mate Valtteri Bottas
LEWIS HAMILTON was left scratching his head in Sochi after being out-classed by Ferrari duo Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen.
Hamilton could only qualify down in fourth place, as he was upstaged by his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas for the Russian Grand Prix.
Hamilton’s performance was his worst result in qualifying – ignoring grid penalties and mechanical breakdowns – since the 2015 Singapore GP; ironically the last race Vettel won.
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Last night, Hamilton was knuckling down with his engineers to identify just why he was so off the pace, as the smile was wiped from his face for the first time in 2017.
He said: “I was not quick enough. I have to go back to the drawing board to figure out why, but Sunday is another day.
“It is all still to play for but at least I am up there in the mix. But it was all in the last sector, I lost half a second.
“I don’t know why I need to look at it. That is where all the mistakes have happened.
“Ferrari are quickest in qualifying and generally in race trim, so it will be interesting to see where we stand but my goal is to get forwards.
“But my long-run pace on Friday was pretty poor for me, so I am hoping it gets better.”
Vettel could not hide his delight at his 47th career pole and added: “When I got the message I got it, I was over the moon.
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“We have had a good start to the season. We are now in front, which is a great achievement and I am sure it will be very close. We are very happy we are back.”
Vettel will start at the front while Raikkonen will start in second place as Ferrari made it a one-two for the first time since the French GP in 2008.
And the reaction on the Mercedes bosses faces showed their concerns as the Italian team finally cracked Saturday qualifying.
Fellow Brit Jolyon Palmer also had another miserable afternoon in his Renault after crashing out in Q1.
Palmer, who is coming under pressure after a poor start to the season, knows he needs to start delivering on track.
But he had another shocker here, clipping the kerb and spinning off and damaging his car in the process to qualify down in 16th place.
Meanwhile, Stoffel Vandoorne was also eliminated at the first hurdle in his McLaren after he struggled for speed.
The Belgian was already destined to start at the back after taking a 15-place grid penalty for using up his engine allocation.
He said: “We knew before qualifying that we would start at the back of the grid, so we have to try and get the most out of the race, even though it will be difficult to overtake.
“Every weekend we are learning a bit more. We expected another difficult weekend and we expected this result.”