Charles Leclerc is the first Ferrari driver since Michael Schumacher in 2001 to secure four pole positions on the trot, P1 in qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix.
Arriving in Sochi on the back of three successive pole positions, two of which he turned into victories, the Monégasque driver was the firm favourite ahead of Saturday afternoon’s session.
He lived up to the billing.
Leclerc laid down a 1:31.628 to beat Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.
But while the youngster was having a great time out on track, Red Bull’s newly promoted driver Alexander Albon was the day’s big casualty as he crashed out of Q1, bringing out the red flags.
The Red Bull rookie got it wrong at Turn 13, lost the car under braking and rear-ended the barrier, damaging the rear right of his RB15.
The timing of the crash was not good for Vettel with the potential pole-sitter down in 19th place having ventured out on the medium tyres and getting it wrong on his first hot lap.
— WTF1 (@wtf1official) September 28, 2019
The session resumed with six minutes and 38 seconds on the clock with Vettel immediately out on the soft tyres.
He went P1 while out went Kimi Raikkonen, George Russell, Robert Kubica, Albon and Daniil Kvyat.
The Russian driver did not set a time in qualifying as his STR14, already facing a back of the grid start, suffered an engine issue in final practice that led to yet another engine change.
Q2 saw Mercedes and Ferrari opt for different strategies with Valtteri Bottas and Hamilton heading out on the medium tyres while Leclerc and Vettel went with the softs.
The rules state that any driver who makes it into Q3 has to start the grand prix on the tyres they used for their first fastest time in Q2.
Leclerc went quickest ahead of Vettel, who ran a set of old softs followed by new, while out went Pierre Gasly, Sergio Perez, Antonio Giovinazzi, Kevin Magnusen and Lance Stroll.
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 28, 2019
Ferrari went into Q3 with Leclerc the clear favourite to take pole position.
His opening gambit was a 1:31.801, putting him on provisional pole by 0.3s ahead of Vettel. Hamilton was third.
Vettel made a mistake early in his second run, costing him time in the opening sector, while Leclerc upped his pace in the first sector.
It was more of the same in the second with Vettel unable to match his team-mate, who again upped his pace. With a repeat scenario in the third, Leclerc took pole position with a 1:31.628, 0.425s faster than Vettel.
Vettel dropped to third, beaten by Hamilton by 0.023s with Verstappen up to fourth ahead of Bottas and Carlos Sainz.
Nico Hulkenberg, Lando Norris, Romain Grosjean and Daniel Ricciardo completed the top ten.
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:31.628
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 0.402s
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 0.425s
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull 0.682s
5 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1.004s
6 Carlos Sainz McLaren 1.594s
7 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1.661s
8 Lando Norris McLaren 1.673s
9 Romain Grosjean Haas 1.889s
10 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 2.033s
11 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 1:33.950
12 Sergio Perez Racing Point 1:33.958
13 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo 1:34.037
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:34.082
15 Lance Stroll Racing Point 1:34.233
16 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo 1:34.840
17 George Russell Williams 1:35.356
18 Robert Kubica Williams 1:36.474
19 Alexander Albon Red Bull 1:39.197
20 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso did not set a time
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