Charles Leclerc clinches fourth consecutive pole at the Russian Grand Prix

by Sudha Sundararaj

Charles Leclerc clinched his fourth straighte pole position since the summer break with a dominant performance at the Sochi Autodrom circuit at the 2019 Russian Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton with a last-gasp effort joined the Ferrari driver on the front row. Hamilton was 0.402 seconds behind Leclerc who blew away the competition with a sensational lap time of 1m31.628s for pole position.

Sebastian Vettel had to be content with third place for the second race in a row with a huge gap of 0.425 seconds to his team-mate Leclerc who was in a class of his own.

Max Verstappen qualified ahead of Valtteri Bottas in fourth position, but will be demoted to ninth position after a five-place grid penalty for a new Power Unit element.

Carlos Sainz qualified in sixth position in a tight midfield battle. Nico Hulkenberg qualified in seventh position just ahead of Lando Noriss by 0.012 seconds. Romain Grosjean and Daniel Ricciardo rounded off the top 10 positions.

The qualifying session started under clear skies with air temperatures at twenty-one degrees C and track temperatures at thirty-one degrees C. The three Pirelli tyre compounds for this race are the white-striped hard tyres (C2), the yellow-striped medium tyres (C3) and the red-striped soft tyres (C4).

The eighteen-minute long first session of qualifying got underway with George Russell first on the track and the Briton set the first timed lap.

The Ferrari SF90 especially in the hands of Leclerc was quicker than the Mercedes and Red Bull Racing cars in the free practice sessions. Leclerc and Vettel went out on the medium compound tyres and Leclerc went to the top of the timesheets.

Vettel made a mistake at Turn 13 and had to abort his first flying lap. On the second flying lap, the German again hit trouble as Robert Kubica’s lockup brought out the yellow flag in Sector 3.

Hamilton and Verstappen on the soft compound tyres took the top 2 positions on the timesheet. Alexander Albon crash into the barriers at Turn 13 ended his qualification session and brought out the red flag with six minutes to go.

Vettel was still in the drop zone and had to put on a set of soft compound tyres and in a do or die effort took first position on the time charts when the session restarted.

Antonio Giovinazzi in the dying minutes of the session nosed ahead of team-mate Kimi Räikkönen to take fifteenth position. Daniil Kvyat did not take part in qualification in his home Grand Prix.

The drivers in the first qualification dropzone were Kimi Räikkönen, George Russell, Robert Kubica, Alexander Albon, Daniil Kvyat.

The fifteen-minute long second qualification session started with the Mercedes drivers, Hamilton and Bottas, going out on the medium compound tyres. The Silver Arrows had no answer to the pace of Ferrari and decided to qualify on the medium compound tyres to try a contra-strategy in the race.

Leclerc was back on top with a lap time of 1m32.434s, a huge 0.657 seconds ahead of team-mate Vettel. Verstappen slotted behind the Ferrari drivers with Hamilton, Bottas, Norris and Sainz behind him.

In the dying minutes of the session, Grosjean moved out of the drop zone into sixth position. Hulkenberg and Ricciardo scraped through into the final qualification session in ninth and tenth positions respectively.

The drivers in the second qualification dropzone were Pierre Gasly, Sergio Pérez, Antonio Giovinazzi, Kevin Magnussen, Lance Stroll.

The final all important twelve-minute shootout started with Leclerc setting the pace once again as he took provisional pole with his first flying lap of 1m31.801s. Vettel slotted behind Leclerc but 0.334 seconds behind him. Hamilton was further behind with a gap of 0.564 seconds.

On the second set of flying laps, Leclerc further improved to take pole position with a lap time of 1m31.628s. Hamilton with a last-gasp effort edged Vettel by 0.023 seconds to take second position.

Verstappen finished in fourth position but will start in ninth position because of grid penalties. Bottas will be promoted to fourth position on the starting grid. Sainz finished ‘best of the rest’ in sixth position.

Top 10 after Q3: Charles Leclerc, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Max Verstappen, Valtteri Bottas, Carlos Sainz, Nico Hulkenberg, Lando Norris, Romain Grosjean, Daniel Ricciardo.

2019 Russian Grand Prix Qualification Results:

116Charles LeclercFerrari01:33.61301:32.43401:31.62818
244Lewis HamiltonMercedes01:33.23001:33.13401:32.03019
35Sebastian VettelFerrari01:33.03201:32.53601:32.05322
433Max VerstappenRed Bull Racing Honda01:33.36801:32.63401:32.31015
577Valtteri BottasMercedes01:33.41301:33.28101:32.63218
655Carlos SainzMcLaren Renault01:34.18401:33.80701:33.22220
727Nico HulkenbergRenault01:34.23601:33.89801:33.28915
84Lando NorrisMcLaren Renault01:34.20101:33.72501:33.30120
98Romain GrosjeanHaas Ferrari01:34.28301:33.64301:33.51719
103Daniel RicciardoRenault01:34.13801:33.86201:33.66118
1110Pierre GaslyScuderia Toro Rosso Honda01:34.45601:33.95013
1211Sergio PerezRacing Point BWT Mercedes01:34.33601:33.95814
1399Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari01:34.75501:34.03714
1420Kevin MagnussenHaas Ferrari01:33.88901:34.08213
1518Lance StrollRacing Point BWT Mercedes01:34.28701:34.23314
167Kimi R„ikk”nenAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari01:34.8408
1763George RussellWilliams Mercedes01:35.3568
1888Robert KubicaWilliams Mercedes01:36.4748
1923Alexander AlbonRed Bull Racing Honda01:39.1974
NC26Daniil KvyatScuderia Toro Rosso Honda

Q1 107% time – 1:39.544

Note – Verstappen, Albon and Gasly each penalised 5 grid places for use of additional power unit elements. Kvyat and Kubica required to start race from back of grid due to multiple power unit element changes. Kvyat races at stewards’ discretion after failing to set a qualifying time.

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