Leclerc emulates Schumacher with fourth pole in a row
SOCHI, Russia – Charles Leclerc became the first Ferrari driver since Michael Schumacher to take four pole positions in a row on Saturday in a Russian Grand Prix qualifying session that bridged the generations.
Formula One leader Lewis Hamilton joined the Monegasque, who was three years old when Schumacher racked up four poles in a row in 2000, on the front row with Mercedes unable to match Ferrari's single lap speed.
The unfazed 21-year-old has now out-qualified four times world champion team mate Sebastian Vettel, who starts in third place, for nine successive races but he was not about to get carried away after his sixth pole of the season.
"The car felt amazing. It definitely feels great to be back on pole but I don't know if it's the best track to start on pole," said Leclerc after lapping the Olympic Park circuit with a pole lap of one minute 31.628 seconds.
"It definitely feels very special but I don't really want to think about those stats for now, I just want to focus on the job," said the youngster when spoken of in the same breath as seven times world champion Schumacher.
When you mess up the last sector to give everyone else a chance 😬— Formula 1 (@F1) September 28, 2019
But still grab your fourth straight pole position by four tenths 🚀#RussianGP 🇷🇺 #F1 @Charles_Leclerc @ScuderiaFerrari pic.twitter.com/DYwYsOlxRT
"There's still a long way to go tomorrow, we've been competitive all weekend long and the race simulation seems positive too. It's looking good for tomorrow."
Hamilton had been third behind the two Ferraris after the first flying laps of the final shootout session but the all-time pole record holder lifted himself onto the front row when it mattered.
His time was 0.4 of a second slower than Leclerc but denied Ferrari a front row sweep by 0.023 ahead of a race that has only ever been won by Mercedes since it first appeared on the calendar in 2014.
"It was a tough qualifying session because these guys have some crazy speeds on the straights," said the five times champion after ending up in a Ferrari sandwich.
"They go to another level. You know that whole 'party mode' you talked about us having? They have something else beyond that – jet mode.
"Nonetheless I gave it absolutely everything I had at the end. I'm so glad it came together, I wasn't expecting it to."
Max Verstappen qualified fourth for Red Bull but the Dutch youngster carries a five-place grid penalty due to an engine change, meaning Hamilton's team mate and title rival Valtteri Bottas moves up to the second row.
Hamilton leads Bottas by 65 points with six races remaining and is well placed to extend his lead on Sunday, given that he is 96 points clear of closest non-Mercedes rivals Leclerc and Verstappen in the standings.Reuters