Soft tyres "necessary" for Hamilton in Q2 despite plea

Mercedes has explained why it opted to qualify Lewis Hamilton on the less-favourable soft compound tyre for the Russian Grand Prix despite his plea to use mediums.

Hamilton initially set the fastest lap in the second stage of Formula 1 qualifying in Sochi on the medium compound tyre, only for his time to be deleted for exceeding track limits.

Hamilton wanted to go for another push lap on the same set of medium tyres, but was instructed to return to the pits.

A red flag then scuppered Hamilton's planned second run late in the session, leaving him with just over two minutes to complete and out-lap on the soft tyre upon resumption.

Hamilton ultimately made it through to Q3 on softs and went on to take pole position by half a second, but said after the session he found qualifying "horrible" and was uneasy about starting on softs.

But Mercedes has said that Hamilton's car was only fuelled for a single push lap during his first Q2 run, meaning he could not go for a second banker lap on the mediums as he had wished.

"It was absolutely scheduled," team principal Toto Wolff said of the decision to bring Hamilton in. "We couldn't do another lap, because he didn't have the fuel."

After making it through Q2 on softs, Hamilton will start from pole ahead of Red Bull's Max Verstappen and Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, both of whom are on the more favourable medium tyre.

Hamilton said that he had pleaded with the Mercedes team not to fit him with softs for his last run in Q2, believing he could have advanced on the mediums.

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"I wanted to go back out on the medium, because of course I don't want to start on the soft tyre," Hamilton said when asked by Motorsport.com about the tyre choice.

"But we had to wait at the end of the pitlane for two minutes, and the tyre temperatures would have dropped down massively.

"It definitely wasn't great, and I did plead to have the medium tyre but they weren't having it.

"Naturally I think we'll have a discussion at the end whether it was right or wrong, it doesn't matter now, it's happened, so we'll just make do with what we have."

Hamilton crossed the line with around one second to spare to begin his Q2 lap, narrowly avoiding being left 15th on the grid without a time to his name.

The six-time world champion had to be given a hurry-up at the final corner by engineer Pete Bonnington to begin his final push lap in order to get to the line in time.

Wolff explained why Mercedes had left it a little longer to get Hamilton out instead of putting him at the front of the train of cars, and that the team had no choice but to fit softs to the car.

"We couldn't really send him out early, because you need to switch off the car and restart it on the MGU-K, which is something we can't do," Wolff said.

"We felt that if he was at the back of the train, and not do the out-lap that he would need to do, we could be caught out because the medium is simply not there yet.

"That is why we put him on the soft, which is clearly compromising him for the strategy tomorrow, but was a necessary safeguard today to make sure that he would make it into Q3."

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2020 F1 Russian Grand Prix qualifying results, full grid lineup
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