Hamilton on pole for Russia GP as Vettel crash forces red flag

What DRAMA! Lewis Hamilton on pole for Russia GP as Sebastian Vettel crash forces red flag which almost dumps the Brit out of Q2… as Max Verstappen beats Valtteri Bottas to front-row

  • Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position at Sochi for the Russian Grand Prix
  • The Brit was almost dumped out of G2 after a red flag following Vettel’s crash
  • Mercedes’ man is now in prime position to take his record-equalling 91st win 
  • Meanwhile, Ferrari struggled again as Max Verstappen made it to the front row 
  • Latest Formula One news including practice, qualifying and race day updates 

Lewis Hamilton ran the gauntlet of a dramatic qualifying session – before setting himself up to match Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 victories by grabbing pole position for the Russian Grand Prix.

Subject to a stewards’ hearing for allegedly ignoring the race director’s instructions early in the afternoon’s running – along with Romain Graojean, Nicholas Latifi and Kevin Magnussen – the six-time world champion will start Sunday’s race as overwhelming favourite for victory.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen will be alongside him on the front row after qualifying just over half a second back. Valtteri Bottas, in the other Mercedes, was third quickest. 

Lewis Hamilton took pole position after qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix on Saturday 

The Mercedes star had two laps deleted for exceeding track limits in a dramatic session

The Brit was almost dumped out of Q2 after Sebastian Vettel’s crash left him without a time 

But it was a nerve-jangling afternoon in the Sochi Autodrom for Hamilton, the would-be history maker. In Q2, his time was wiped because he ran off the track and that plunged him down to 16th.

His problems intensified as he tried to set a lap to make it into Q2 only for Sebastian Vettel to spin and hit the tyre wall to bring about a red flag.

Charles Leclerc in the other Ferrari narrowly avoided his team-mate’s stricken car, catching the detached front wing as he threaded a path through on the exit of Turn 4. ‘Oh my God,’ said Leclerc, ‘That was very, very close.’

Anyway, Hamilton peeled back into the pits. There would be 2 minutes 15 seconds remaining once the Ferrari was cleared away and qualifying restarted.

Max Verstappen came in second, beating Valtteri Bottas to the front-row for Sunday’s race

Hamilton queued up eighth in the pit lane ready for the resumption. He had to get in an out-lap before the clock ran out to have even a shot at registering another time.

He ran wide in his anxiety, and it was touch and go. He was counted down in his ear and crossed the line with what seemed a fraction of a second spare – indeed the chequered flag was being waved, presumably prematurely. It was a brilliant bit of judgment, for he wanted to leave himself maximum space in front of him to charge during his final fast lap.

Anyway, he found enough space to put in a time that catapulted him to fourth – to live another day.

The Russian Grand Prix tomorrow promises to be a cracker after the dramatic qualifying 

The dunce of a TV director – criminal in his failure to acknowledge the best story of qualifying all season – barely tracked Hamilton, concentrating instead on Verstappen, who was into Q3 already.

Hamilton, once in into the final shootout himself, made no mistake

It was the Briton’s 96th pole. A record, of course. But not the big one he is gunning for this weekend.

Host commentator

Thanks for joining us for qualifying today… what a dramatic Saturday! 

Join us again tomorrow to see if Hamilton can secure that record-equalling 91st career victory, or if Max Verstappen can take his second win of 2020 and ruin the Mercedes party from the front row. 

I. Can’t. Wait. 

The order tomorrow

1:Hamilton

2: Verstappen 

3: Bottas

4:Perez
5: Ricciardo
6: Sainz
7: Ocon
8: Norris
9: Gasly
10: Albon

What a day for Lewis. He really can’t be stopped, grabbing yet another pole position and laying the groundwork for a record-equaling 91st victory in F1 on Sunday. 

Bottas is knocked down to third on the grid and Verstappen soars to a ront-row start…. setting thing up for a thrilling run to the first corner tomorrow 

Perez flies to fourth, knocking Ricciardo down to fifth. 

Hamilton has all-but confirmed pole with another rapid lap, improving his time again. What a comeback. 

Bottas at threat from Verstappen now

Can Bottas challenge Hamilton? Will Ricciardio keep his second row start? 

Sebastian Vettel just is not enjoying his final year at Ferrari. This is how his car exited Q2 after a spin into the barriers. Poor Seb

Hamilton’s poise has been crucial here, complete calm from the Brit and he’s overcome a troubled Q1 and Q2 to get back on top in Sochi. 

Hamilton leads Bottas by almost eight tenths, Verstappen in third just under a second back. Ricciardo in fourth, following his old team-mate. 

Mercedes survive that scare and are now aiming for a front row lock-out. Can Ricciardo challenge them after a superb Q2. 

Verstappen, Sainz and Perez also in the running

Stroll crashed out, with a problem surfacing in the pit lane so he had no chance to better his time. 

More trouble for Ferrari… their miserable 2020 just does not improve. Kvyat can’t back up that superb Q1 performance

Stroll crashed out, with a problem surfacing in the pit lane so he had no chance to better his time. 

More trouble for Ferrari… their miserable 2020 just does not improve. Kvyat can’t back up that superb Q1 performance

Here’s the mistake that caused Hamilton so much bother in Q2, slipping outside of track limits at the final bend in his first run. 

The Brit made it to the line with less than two seconds to go before the timer ran out after a red flag followed Vettel’s crash, causing chaos for Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton flies in fourth, sixth tenths behind Ricciardio. Huge sighs of relief from the Mercedes garage. 

Albon and Verstappen in eighth and ninth, also having to scramble. 

With Vettel crashing and Leclerc not fast enough, Ferrari are out in Q2. 

Wow, that was close. Lewis Hamilton somehow makes it to the line before the Q2 timer ticks down to zero. He’s now flying around the track, needing to climb off the very bottom of the standings

We’re back underway, Red Bull storm off ahead desperate to get a timed-lap in. Hamilton goes wide and drops back through the pack. Worrying times for Lewis…

Ready for a frantic end to Q2 as the cars wait in the pit lane for the red flag to be lifted

Lewis is having a rough qualifying so far… he’s going to have to fly through his out-lap just to get a timed-lap on the board… hardly ideal.

We have two minutes  and 15 seconds left of Q2 as the sessions remains red flagged and the timer paused

McLaren principle Andreas Seidl is expecting a ‘race to the pit exit’

Vettel suffers a big crash, the German seems shaken but physically ok. He’s jumped out of the car and is helping clear-up a lot of debris.

The session has been red flagged and it is now going to be close as to whether Hamilton can get a lap in… currently he has no time registered for Q2. 

Huge drama

An all-star bottom five currently, Albon, Stroll, Vettel, Hamilton and Russell all in danger as Kvyat and Leclerc hover dangerously. 

Scratch that, Lewis has had his lap time deleted again! Just like Q1 his first attempt is cancelled-out – pressure is on for the Brit after going wide at the final turn. 

Meanwhile, Ricciardo puts in a stormer to lead provisionally after Bottas struggles in the final turn. Sainz and Perez follow the Renault star

Hamilton’s first Q2 lap comes in almost a second faster than his team-mate, with Leclerc and Vettel another half a second back

Mercedes and Ferrari straight out for the very start of Q2, everyone keen to get lap times on the board after several were deleted in Q1. 

Mercedes top the pile again with Valtteri Bottas continuing an impressive weekend, while Ferrari JUST survive the drop into the bottom five. 

Gasly bounces-back from his slump to a Q1 exit last time out, coming in eighth

Ocon and Kvyat on fire! 

George Russell qualifies 13th and earns his Williams another go at Q2. So impressive once again from the young Brit 

Kevin Magnussen can’t move out of the bottom five in his Haas, and both Alphas are out once again

Esteban Ocon moved up to third, Ricciardo can’t beat his team-mate and runs in fourth

Sebastian Vettel, despite looking improved through the weekend so far, is down in 14th… with Grosjean and Latifi yet to register a time

Meanwhile, Leclerc is up in sixth provisionally. Can Charles break the top-five against all odds again?

Five minutes left, the drivers have come into the pits to prepare for their final attempts. So far we have an order of:

Bottas

Hamilton

Perez

Sainz

Verstappen

Leclerc

Ricciardo

Gasly

Albon

Stroll

– There’s a 10 per cent chance of rain, so that probably means there will be none.

– A few fans are here for Lewis’s shot at history – 30,000 allegedly in the stands. The town is busy – a lot busier than when it opened to the world for the 2014 Winter Olympics: new shops, restaurants and bars.

– The media centre is like a morgue. Near silence, very few journalists here.

– I expect Lewis to put it on pole. A Mercedes lockout. Let’s see.

The number 77 car is topping the standings with two Racing Point cars over a second behind, with Perez leading team-mate Stroll.

Hamilton gets his braking wrong and exceeds track limits, seeing his time chalked-off. 

Cars pouring out onto the track now, with both Mercedes cars leading a flurry of their competitors… while Russell heads onto his first timed lap

George Russel is the first man out onto the track on a cloudy day in Sochi, looking to take advantage of the empty circuit in his Williams. 

Q1 is closing-in fast, lets see if George Russell can make another push into Q2 and whether Ferrari can show signs of life and avoid an early exit amid their horror-season. 

Lewis Hamilton can equal Michael Schumacher’s 91 Formula One wins on Sunday, and pole position here will be crucial in boosting his chance of holding-off Bottas and Verstappen. 

Here, Sportsmail digs into the question: Who is F1’s greatest ever? 

Lewis Hamilton topped the time-sheets once more, denying his team-mate Bottas a practice hat-trick after the Brit qualified just 19th in FP1. Meanwhile, Carlos Sainz impressed again 

1: Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:33.279

2: Valtteri Bottas Mercedes +0.776

3: Carlos Sainz McLaren +0.817
4: Esteban Ocon Renault +0.960
5: Sergio Perez Racing Point +0.973
6: Max Verstappen Red Bull +1.027
7: Sebastian Vettel Ferrari +1.315
8: Lance Stroll Racing Point +1.453
9: Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri +1.489
10: Daniel Ricciardo Renault +1.508

Welcome to Sportsmail’s live coverage of the Russian Grand Prix from Sochi! 

Tune in for live updates throughout qualifying, as Lewis Hamilton looks to lay the groundwork for his 91st career win, which would equal Michael Schumacher’s win record.

Two weeks after the Tuscan GP, the drivers are refreshed and ready for some full-gas action in qualifying. 


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