Russian F1 Grand Prix 2019 Qualifying: Charles Leclerc Secures 4th Pole in a Row

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistSeptember 28, 2019

SOCHI, RUSSIA - SEPTEMBER 27: Charles Leclerc of Monaco driving the (16) Scuderia Ferrari SF90 on track during practice for the F1 Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on September 27, 2019 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)
Charles Coates/Getty Images

Ferrari are on course to secure a fourth win in a row, as Charles Leclerc qualified in pole position for the Formula One Russian Grand Prix on Sunday.

The Monegasque topped the timesheets with a mark of one minute, 31.628 seconds, meaning he'll start at the head of the race for the fourth successive grand prix. Joining him on the front row will be Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, with Sebastian Vettel tucked in behind his team-mate in third.

Earlier in the day, Leclerc was comfortably the quickest in final practice, building momentum for a fantastic qualifying performance. Read on for a recap of the best of the action from Saturday in Sochi.

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Qualifying Recap

Here are the standings from qualifying in Sochi:

Formula 1 @F1

CLASSIFICATION: END OF QUALIFYING Confirmation of @Charles_Leclerc's fourth pole in a row, and sixth overall this season ๐Ÿ‘€๐Ÿ‘ #RussianGP ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ #F1 https://t.co/eIE6s9e4iC

There was an early scare for Ferrari in Q1, as Vettel found himself down in 19th position with two laps to go. Eventually, he was able to produce a sharp lap to move out of danger, joining his team-mate in the second phase.

The big surprise in the session was the elimination of Alex Albon. The Red Bull driver has struggled for pace throughout the week and he made an error at Turn 12, ending up planting his car into the wall:

Sky Sports F1 @SkySportsF1

Alex Albon is in the wall!๐Ÿ’ฅ The Red Bull man loses it and slides into the wall at Turn 12. Red Flag๐Ÿšฉ ๐Ÿ“บLive on Sky Sports F1 ๐Ÿ“ฑLive on the App and Sky Go: https://t.co/BFwOUmJQSn ๐Ÿ’ปLive blog: https://t.co/CkqLNAZAQx https://t.co/p1RKvaxjh2

Given Albon's recent struggles and those of Pierre Gasly early in the campaign, F1 writer Pablo Elizade thinks Red Bull have a big decision to make ahead of next season regarding Max Verstappen's team-mate:

Pablo Elizalde @EliGP

I don't know if Red Bull can afford to choose just between Gasly and Albon for 2020. Call me crazy.

Kimi Raikkonen also failed to make it into the second part of qualifying. Per Autosport Live, it was clear the Finn wasn't happy with himself after making an error on the final corner:

Autosport Live @autosportlive

There was a radio message from Raikkonen, but it was entirely bleeped out by FOM. #F1

In Q2, Ferrari were again the quickest, and comfortably so. At this point, it was clear something special was going to be required to knock the Scuderia drivers off the top of the time sheets. At the end of the session, Leclerc was more than six tenths of a second clear of the field.

That trend continued into Q3, as Leclerc was easily the quickest after the first set of hot laps, with Vettel in second spot.

Leclerc lowered his time again on the second hot lap, putting him well clear of the chasing pack. Vettel was unable to cling to his spot on the front row though, as Hamilton produced an excellent run at a clutch point to split the Ferrari drivers.

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FP3 Recap

Here are the standings after final practice in Sochi:

Formula 1 @F1

CLASSIFICATION: END OF FP3 @ScuderiaFerrari on top and their rivals have work to do ๐Ÿ‘€ Next stop = qualifying! #RussianGP ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ #F1 https://t.co/dBzYJPqDqv

With heavy cloud gathering above the track prior to the start of FP3, it was no shock to see the teams take things easy early on.

As such, full-throttle action on the circuit was hard to come by initially, with Leclerc moving to the top of the standings. Intriguingly, Max Verstappen was only 0.4 seconds behind the Ferrari driver on the slower medium compound.

Meanwhile, there was a disappointing start to the day for home driver Daniil Kvyatโ€”who is already set to start at the back of the grid due to a number of penaltiesโ€”when his Toro Rosso ground to a halt after complaints regarding downshift issues:

Formula 1 @F1

๐Ÿ“ป: "Engine, engine, engine - I have an engine problem" Deja-vu for Dany Kvyat ๐Ÿ˜” He had trouble early in FP1, and now he's out of the car again in FP3 #RussianGP ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ #F1 https://t.co/Td6s1g41I8

As the minutes ticked down, the drivers started to up the ante in an attempt to establish a rhythm ahead of qualifying.ย 

Leclerc was able to lower his time at the top before Vettel moved up into second spot. Mercedes were unable to get close to the Ferrari drivers despite trying to apply some pressure late on, giving them plenty of work to do ahead of the qualifying runs.

Meanwhile, there was a late scare for Verstappen whenย he spun off the circuit and clipped the barrier with the rear of his car. On the radio, the Dutchman said he didn't think there was any damage to the car.