Charles Leclerc beat Lewis Hamilton by four tenths of a second in qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix to become the first Ferrari driver to score four consecutive pole positions since Michael Schumacher in 2001.
After securing poles at Spa-Francorchamps, Monza and at Singapore’s Marina Bay Street Circuit last weekend, Leclerc was again untouchable at the Sochi Autodrom and he set a final Q3 time of 1:31.628 to eclipse Mercedes driver Hamilton by 0.402. Sebastian Vettel was third in the second Ferrari, two hundredths of a seconds behind the championship leader.
Q1 got underway with Leclerc setting the pace on medium tyres. The Monegasque driver logged a time of 1:33.613 to top the timesheet but Hamilton took over in P1 on soft tyres with a lap of 1:33.230.
Red Bull Racing drivers Max Verstappen and Alex Albon then took to the circuit and Verstappen immediately jumped to second place with a lap just 0.138 slower than Hamilton’s early table topper. Albon’s opening run was compromised, however, when Williams’ Robert Kubica spun ahead of him and he was forced to make another attempt. It ended early, however, when the Thai driver lost the rear end of his RB15 in Turn 13 and he slid into the barriers and out of the session.
The red flags were shown and on the resumption, Vettel, who had earlier also had a moment at Turn 13, went out on soft tyres. He jumped to the top of the timesheet with a lap of 1:33.032. That stood as the benchmark until the flag as Leclerc, Verstappen and both Mercedes drivers sat out the remainder of the session.
Eliminated at the end of the session, however, were 16th-placed Alfa Romeo driver Kimi Räikkönen, Williams pair George Russell and Robert Kubica and Albon. Already facing a back-of-the-grid start due to replacing PU elements and having suffered another PU problem in final practice, Daniil Kvyat did not take part in the session.
In the second session Leclerc led the way, with the Monegasque claiming top spot with his first run before shaving more time off to hold the position after the second run thanks to a lap of 1:32.434.
Vettel was closer to his team-mate this time, finishing the segment just 0.102s behind the younger Ferrari driver and Verstappen progressed to Q3 in third place with a lap of 1:32.634, two tenths of a seconds off the P1 pace.
Eliminated at this point were 11th-placed Toro Rosso driver Pierre Gasly followed by Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez, Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi and the second Racing Point of Lance Stroll.
And after he had topped the opening two segments of qualifying there was to be no denying Leclerc in the final top-10 shoot out. Vettel began his first flying lap strongly but a very quick final sector saw Leclerc take provisional pole with a lap of 1:31.801, three tenths ahead of the German. Hamilton was fourth ahead of Bottas, while Vertsappen lost the rear end slightly through the final turn of his lap and the error saw him slot into fifth place.
Leclerc then improved again on his final run to seal his fourth consecutive pole position with a lap of 1:31.628, while Hamilton split the Ferraris with a lap just two hundredths of a second quicker than Vettel’s. Verstappen improved on his final run to take fourth and edge Bottas back to P5.
Behind the Finn, sixth place in the session went to McLaren’s Carlos Sainz with Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg in seventh. Lando Norris was eighth in the second McLaren ahead of Haas’ Romain Grosjean and the final top-10 place went to Daniel Ricciardo in the second Renault.
2019 FIA Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix – Qualifying
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:31.628 7 229.763
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:32.030 0.402 7 228.760
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:32.053 0.425 7 228.703
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda 1:32.310 0.682 6 228.066
5 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:32.632 1.004 5 227.273
6 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren/Renault 1:33.222 1.594 6 225.835
7 Nico Hülkenberg Renault 1:33.289 1.661 6 225.672
8 Lando Norris McLaren/Renault 1:33.301 1.673 6 225.643
9 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 1:33.517 1.889 6 225.122
10 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1:33.661 2.033 6 224.776
11 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso/Honda 1:33.950 1.516 5 224.085
12 Sergio Pérez Racing Point/Mercedes 1:33.958 1.524 6 224.066
13 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:34.037 1.603 6 223.877
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 1:34.082 1.648 5 223.770
15 Lance Stroll Racing Point/Mercedes 1:34.233 1.799 6 223.412
16 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:34.840 1.808 8 221.982
17 George Russell Williams/Mercedes 1:35.356 2.324 8 220.781
18 Robert Kubica Williams/Mercedes 1:36.474 3.442 8 218.222
19 Alexander Albon Red Bull/Honda 1:39.197 6.165 4 212.232