Hamilton survives major scare to claim stunning Russian GP pole after Vettel crash
Lewis Hamilton survived a major Russian Grand Prix qualifying scare following a heavy crash involving Sebastian Vettel to claim the 96th pole position of his Formula 1 career.
With Q2 drawing to a close at the Sochi Autodrom, Vettel lost control of his Ferrari out of the exit of turn four, clipping one of the so-called 'sausage' apex kerbs, sending him spinning into a barrier, bouncing off it and back across into the middle of the track.
Following directly behind, Charles Leclerc just managed to avoid ramming into the four-time champion, running over the debris that included a dislodged front wing that Vettel kindly picked up and placed on top of his shattered car after climbing out of the cockpit.
It led to the red flag being brought out with two minutes and 15 seconds remaining, just as Mercedes driver Hamilton was poised to clinch his place in the top 10, only to abort, leaving him in 15th without a time.
That was due to the fact his first lap in Q2 was deleted for exceeding track limits on the exit of the final turn, and for the second time in qualifying as a lap in Q1 was also deleted, on that occasion for cutting across turn two.
It placed Hamilton under considerable pressure as while there was time for another out lap, it meant it was going to be touch and go to cross the line, not helped by the fact that when it came to returning to the track he was towards the rear of a line of cars in the pit lane.
As the clock ticked down on the outlap, and with Hamilton on the quicker soft tyre as opposed to Bottas who will start the race on the medium compound, the 35-year-old crossed the line to start his flying lap with 1.25s of the session remaining.
Throughout the lap, Hamilton was considerably down in both the first two sectors but did not enough in the final sector to finish the session fourth quickest behind the leading time set by Ricciardo.
Come Q3, Hamilton was imperious, recovering mentally to claim pole with a lap of one minute 31.304secs, finishing 0.563s ahead of Red Bull's Max Verstappen, who produced a stunning final lap to dislodge Valtteri Bottas from the front row.
Esteban Ocon lines up seventh, with the second McLaren of Lando Norris eighth on the grid ahead of AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly and Red Bull's Alex Albon, who was almost 1.2s behind Verstappen.
By the end of Q2, Leclerc missed out on a top-10 place by 0.043s to Ocon and will start 11th ahead of Daniil Kvyat in his AlphaTauri and Racing Point of Lance Stroll.
The Canadian was one of those who had been due to post a final flying lap after the red flag but encountered a technical issue while lining up in the pitlane and had to be wheeled back into the team's garage.
Williams' George Russell, who made it into Q2 for the sixth time this season, finishing ahead of both Leclerc and Vettel, starts 14th ahead of Vettel.
Romain Grosjean, claiming his Haas to be the best he has driven this season during qualifying, still failed to make it out of Q1, falling short by 0.458s to Vettel, with the Frenchman lining up 16th.
Alfa Romeo's Antonio Giovinazzi, the only driver to make up places on the first lap of every grand prix this season, will start 17th, ahead of Kevin Magnussen in his Haas, and Williams' Nicholas Latifi, who finished a second adrift of team-mate Russell.
As for Kimi Raikkonen, who will equal Rubens Barrichello's F1 record for the number of race starts with 322 when he pulls off the line on Sunday, will, unfortunately, line up last on the grid after failing to get in his late run because of a spin.
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