Hamilton inches closer to record with pole in Sochi

BOITUMELO RANTAO

DEFENDING world champion Lewis Hamilton delivered a class performance, when he needed to and claimed his 96th pole position in qualifying at the Russian GP in dramatic fashion.

The pole position gives Hamilton a golden chance to claim his 91st victory and equal the great Michael Schumacher’s record.

Hamilton found himself in last place with two minutes left in the second qualifying session, following a red flag after a Ferrari crash. The champion then produced a sensational lap, a new track record at Sochi, with just 1.25 seconds left in the session.

He admitted that it was not easy. This is what he said after claiming the pole;

“That was one of the toughest qualifying sessions I can remember, proper heart in your mouth the whole way. But I feel super grateful for everyone keeping their cool as it could have been a lot, lot worse. Q2 was hugely challenging, my first attempt was taken away for going over the track limits at the final corner. The team brought me in for refuelling and to fit new tyres but when I was on my second lap, the red flag came out. After that, it was very close to still get that final lap in – I overtook a few cars in the last sector but then lost time behind a Renault. I just heard Bono say ‘go, go, go’, so I was gunning it to get across the line. 

“There was so much going on and I had to just calm down and find my center. Valtteri had been strong all weekend, so I had no choice but to deliver with those final Q3 laps. The first lap in the final session was really great, and I thought it would be difficult to improve, but I managed to find a tiny bit on the second lap. It’s nice to take pole position, but this track is probably the worst place to be on pole, due to the long run to the first braking zone. So, I’m expecting a tough fight down to Turn 2 and a challenging race, especially as I’m starting on the Soft tyre, which is a good compound for the race start but is the worst tyre for the opening stint.”

Red bull’s Max Verstappen blazed into second place, ahead of Hamilton’s teammate Valterri Bottas, in the closing stages of the session.

Behind the top three, an excellent effort from Racing Point’s Sergio Perez saw him claim fourth on the grid ahead of Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo. Ricciardo’s teammate Ocon will start from seventh. A mechanical issue from Perez’s teammate Stroll saw him drop out in Q2 in 13th.

Both Ferrari’s were eliminated in the second qualifying session with Vettel crashing into the barrier. Leclerc dropped out of the top 10, after the session was restarted, and will start on the grid in 11th.

Race Start: 13:05 

Grid start classification:

1.    Hamilton – Mercedes

2.    Verstappen – Red Bull

3.    Bottas – Mercedes

4.    Perez – Racing Point

5.    Ricciardo – Renault

6.    Sainz – McLaren

7.    Ocon – Renault

8.    Norris – McLaren

9.    Gasly – AlphaTauri

10. Albon – Red Bull

11. Leclerc – Ferrari

12. Kyvat – AlphaTauri

13. Stroll – Racing Point

14. Russel – Williams

15. Vettel – Ferrari

16. Grosjean – Hass

17. Giovinazzi – Alfa Romeo

18. Magnussen – Haas

19. Latifi – Williams

20. Raikonnen – Alfa Romeo

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