- Relieved is the best word to describe Valtteri Bottas after his pole position in Sochi. The Finn didn’t try to hide the fact he needed a good result to get his confidence back. “It’s an important day”, he said after beating Lewis Hamilton by less than two-tenths of a second. But he also knows things could easily go wrong in the first meters of the race: “There’s a long way before Turn 2, so I have to focus on making a good start.”

- The result marked Bottas' sixth F1 pole position and his second of the season, as well as continuing his impressive record of having never been outqualified by a teammate at Sochi, and always qualifying inside the top three.

COTA #2 - Tremendous Turn 1

- Bottas also made it clear he doesn’t expect Mercedes to stop him from winning for the first time this year by invoking team orders. Asked if he thought he will be free to make his own race, he firmly said “yes” - although team boss Toto Wolff later admitted he was uneasy about the idea of his two drivers fighting for victory.

- The newfound good form from Mercedes looks like being the new benchmark for teams in F1. The team has always excelled in Sochi, but there were doubts if it would be the case this year given Ferrari's perceived straight line speed advantage. For Toto Wolff, the good pace mostly comes from a better understanding of the tyres, but Sebastian Vettel is not so sure: “I don’t know. I think it’s always been very close. The other side has been very good communicating that they had an inferior car, but I don’t think that was the case.”

- Lewis Hamilton was relaxed and trying to minimise the error that potentially cost him another pole position, having run off at Turn 7 on his final Q3 lap. “It was nothing major”, said the championship leader, keeping a smile on his face during the interviews, perhaps encouraged by the fact the tow on the run to Turn 2 could work in his favour.

- Another smiley man was Charles Leclerc, who will start from a career-best seventh position this Sunday, even though he revealed he’s not feeling completely comfortable driving in Sochi: “I don’t think it fits my driving style, so I had to change a lot yesterday night but I’m quite happy to see the result.”

- Leclerc's teammate, Marcus Ericsson, made it through to Q3 for the first time since the 2015 Italian Grand Prix, benefitting from the lack of running. He will start the race P10.

- Amid the backlash over the lack of running in Q2, it was unclear if those who got through had missed an opportunity of using the Ultrasofts in the second part of qualifying. As the Renaults, the Red Bulls and Pierre Gasly didn’t even bother setting times, all the remaining 10 cars would have got through even with the slower tyre, gaining a strategic advantage for the race - as Mercedes and Ferrari did. “We have to look back and see if we could have done anything differently. But it’s also about not taking unnecessary risks”, Kevin Magnussen, fifth on the grid, pointed out.

- Having so many cars opting to stay in the garage generated some discussion in the paddock, but Toto Wolff was quick to point out “it’s the first time of the year that it happens”. It might not be the last, though, as more engine penalties are expected in the last five races of the season, perhaps sparking a repeat.

- Following confirmation that he will be driving for Toro Rosso in F1 next year, Daniil Kvyat appeared in the F1 paddock at a grand prix for the first time since the Canadian Grand Prix back in June.

- The identity of Kvyat's teammate remains unclear, with Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko saying the incumbent Brendon Hartley must "beat Gasly" if he wants to retain his seat for 2019. Marko also said that Red Bull would consider Esteban Ocon for the Toro Rosso seat, but only on the condition that he cut all ties with existing contracts.

- Bernie Ecclestone made an appearance in the F1 paddock today, catching up with a number of old friends and colleagues. Mercedes' press briefing with Wolff began with a question from "the man in the black jacket", with Ecclestone an interested observer.

- All of the top four drivers will start the race on Ultrasofts, with the remainder of the top 10 on Hypersofts. The rest of the grid has a free choice of starting tyre.

- Amid the confusion about how the back of the grid would look, the FIA confirmed the provisional grid with Fernando Alonso leading the penalised cars in P16. The Toro Rosso pair of Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley will follow in 17th and 18th (Gasly got out on-track in FP1 ahead of Hartley, so his penalty is applied first), with Red Bull drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen occupying the final row after both received an additional gearbox penalty. Verstappen also received a grid drop for not slowing for yellow flags in Q1.