Valtteri Bottas stunned Mercedes team-mateLewis Hamilton to snatch pole position for the Russian Grand Prix, shattering to Sochi Autodrom lap record in the process. Hamilton had looked dominant in qualifying, but Bottas delivered right at the last to clock one minute 31.387 seconds and continue his exceptional form in Sochi.
Bottas maintained his run of never being outqualified by a team-mate at Sochi, where he picked up his maiden F1 race win last year.
With Hamilton having opened up a 40-point lead over Sebastian Vettel, Bottas may well hope to hold off his teammate from the front row, with Mercedes having displayed far superior pace to Ferrari all weekend.
Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen locked out the second row, albeit half a second and eight tenths adrift of Bottas respectively.
Hamilton had looked near guaranteed for pole with supreme performances to top both Q1 and Q2, but a slight error at turn seven on his final flying lap opened the door for Bottas.
The Finn’s performance is a timely reminder of his abilities, as onlookers begin to question why Mercedes have not put Esteban Ocon in his seat, given Toto Wolff’s fury at the Frenchman’s likely barren 2019.
Bottas will be wary come raceday, having lost out on his only previous pole of the season in Austria – as well as his opening-lap slipstream here a year ago which helped him win from third on the grid.
With Red Bull out of the picture due to grid penalties, Kevin Magnussen and Ocon took fifth and sixth respectively, with Charles Leclerc delivering a fine seventh place for Sauber ahead of Sergio Perez, Romain Grosjean and Marcus Ericsson.
Russian Grand Prix – Here are the complete results from the qualifying hour at the Sochi Autodrom.
Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:31.387
Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +0.145
Sebastian Vettel Ferrari +0.556
Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari +0.850
Kevin Magnussen Haas +1.794
Esteban Ocon Force India +2.026
Charles Leclerc Sauber +2.032
Sergio Perez Force India +2.176
Romain Grosjean Haas +2.317
Marcus Ericsson Sauber +3.809