Charles Leclerc has secured his fourth back to back pole after improving on his final lap to out-qualify Mercedes Lewis Hamilton for the Russian Grand Prix. The Monacan has been unstoppable in qualifying since the start of the second half of the season.
Leclerc to beat Hamilton by four-tenths of a second after he put in a brilliant final lap to out-qualify teammate Sebastian Vettel for the ninth race in a row. He is the first Ferrari driver since Michael Schumacher in 2001 to claim four poles in succession and the 21-year-old now has six overall in 2019.
Vettel was pushed off the front row for the second week in a row after Hamilton put in an “awesome” final lap from Lewis Hamilton split the two red cars for Mercedes. Ferrari appeared to use their straight-line advantage, however, a messy final lap by Vettel left him two hundredths behind Hamilton.
Mercedes will have the upper hand on the first stint in the race, they where the only team to set their fastest times in Q2 on the Mediums, allowing them to run longer.
Leclerc said, “The car felt amazing. It definitely feels great to be back on pole but I don’t know if it’s the best track to start on pole, the straight is very long after the start. The start will be very important as always but here probably even more because of the straight length.”
Hamilton added, “I gave it absolutely everything I had at the end and the team did a great job just to tinker and push forwards. I’m so glad it came together – I wasn’t expecting to get on the front row, that’s for sure. I’m really, really happy with it.”
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was fourth six tenths off the pace, the dutchman will start ninth because of a penalty. But Verstappen was three tenths ahead of Valtteri Bottas, while teammate Alex Albon crashed out of the session in Q1.
Albon driver lost the rear, going through Turn Thirteen and went into the barrier, that left Vettel with a lot to do after failing to get a lap in. He did get a clean lap in going fastest in the first part of the session. Vettel settling for third.
He told Sky Sports, “I went in a bit hot. It’s frustrating. There’s a tailwind there and it caught me out. Race pace in P3 didn’t go too badly. Obviously we are giving our self a more difficult target, but we’ll see.”
The Red Bull driver carried too much speed into the corner after briefly locking the rears at the start of the braking phase, losing the rear he spun into the wall and out of qualifying.
McLaren’s Carlos Sainz won the midfield battle going sixth, after being six hundredths faster than Nico Hulkenberg while teammate Lando Norris was eighth. Romain Grosjean was a standout performer to return Haas to the top ten out-qualifying Daniel Ricciardo.
Pierre Gasly was eleventh fastest, the Toro Rosso driver missing out on Q3 by five hundredths. But an engine change will drop him to sixteenth. Sergio Perez out qualified Antonio Giovinnazi by eight-hundredths, but the Alfa Romeo hasn’t looked like a top ten challenger this weekend.
Kevin Magnussen and Lance Stroll start fourteenth and fifteenth, both drivers made mistakes at Turn Fifteen. The Dane ran wide as did Stroll, who was unable to improve leaving the Racing Point fifteenth almost half a tenth behind.
Kimi Raikkonen ran wide on his final lap, the rear of the car getting away from him in the last corner and allowed Alfa Romeo teammate Giovinazzi to bump him by less than a tenth.
The Williams drivers start on the ninth row, George Russell continuing his run in qualifying to beat Robert Kubica for the sixteenth time going almost two-hundredths faster.
Daniil Kvyat failed to qualify for his home race, the Russian starts last after a power unit issue saw him unable to take part in qualifying.
Mercedes and Ferrari will be on differing tyre strategies in Sunday’s race after Mercedes elected to use the medium compound in the second part of qualifying, meaning Hamilton and Bottas will both start on that tyre. The rest of the top ten start on soft tyres.