SOCHI – Valtteri Bottas upstaged his championship-leading Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton with a dazzling lap in Saturday’s qualifying session to seize pole position for the Russian Grand Prix.
The Finn, who has struggled to keep pace with the defending four-time champion for much of the season, relished the confines of one of his favourite tracks as he clocked a record lap in one minute and 31.387 seconds.
His late fastest lap lifted him ahead of Hamilton, who aborted his final lap after running wide at Turn Seven, and put a grin back on his face as the Mercedes pair delivered another front row lockout.
It was his second pole this year and the sixth of his career.
Bottas claimed his maiden Formula One victory in Russia last year and showed a clear affinity with the track as Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari, who trails Hamilton by 40 points in the title race, took third.
Vettel’s Sauber-bound Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen wound up fourth ahead of Kevin Magnussen of Haas, job-hunting Frenchman Esteban Ocon of Force India and Ferrari-bound Charles LecLerc of Sauber.
Sergio Perez, in the second Force India, was eighth ahead of Romain Grosjean in the second Haas and Marcus Ericsson in the second Sauber.
The two Red Bulls did not qualify for the top-10 shootout, knowing they face engine penalties that will mean they start Sunday’s race from the back of the grid along with both Toro Rosso cars and Fernando Alonso’s McLaren.