Lewis Hamilton stormed to pole position for the inaugural Russian Grand Prix at Sochi.
Hamilton posted a lap of 1:38.513 to edge his team-mate and title rival Nico Rosberg by just two tenths of a second, but both Mercedes drivers were fortunate yo hold onto their positions after a late charge from Valtteri Bottas, who looked set to snatch pole before sliding wide at the final corner.
Jenson Button snuck under the radar to finish fourth for McLaren, his best dry qualifying result of the season, while Daniil Kvyat starred for Toro Rosso, the Russian youngster fifth fastest in front of his home crowd.
Kevin Magnussen was fifth in the second McLaren, but the Dane will take a five-place grid penalty after his gearbox failure in final practice.
Daniel Ricciardo was the best placed Red Bull in seventh, the Australian ahead of both Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Fernando Alonso, while Jean-Eric Vergne made it both Toro Rossos in the top ten.
Sebastian Vettel was the major casualty of Q2, with the four-time champion forced to settle for 11th in the second Red Bull, ahead of the two Force Indias of Nico Hulkenberg – who will take a gearbox penalty – and Sergio Perez.
Sauber’s miserable season continued with both Esteban Gutierrez and his team-mate Adrian Sutil eliminated in the second part of qualifying, while Romain Grosjean was 16th in the lead Lotus.
Williams’ Felipe Massa was a shock elimination from the first knockout phase, as he battled a fuel pressure problem that left him just 18th fastest, some four seconds off the pace of the front runners.
Marcus Ericsson impressed on his way to 17th for Caterham, as the Swede missed out on a spot in Q2 by just a tenth of a second, while Kamui Kobayashi was half a second down on his team-mate in 19th.
Pastor Maldonado was 20th for Lotus after a recurrence of his ERS issue from final practice and will start from the back of the grid owing to a penalty, while Max Chilton was 21st in the sole Marussia competing this weekend.
Russian Grand Prix – Qualifying Classification:
1. Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes – 1:38.513
2. Nico Rosberg – Mercedes – 1:38.713
3. Valtteri Bottas – Williams – 1:38.920
4. Jenson Button – McLaren – 1:39.121
5. Daniil Kvyat – Toro Rosso – 1:39.277
6. Kevin Magnussen – McLaren – 1:39.629
7. Daniel Ricciardo – Red Bull – 1:39.635
8. Fernando Alonso – Ferrari – 1:39.709
9. Kimi Raikkonen – Ferrari – 1:39.771
10. Jean-Eric Vergne – Toro Rosso – 1:40.020
11. Sebastian Vettel – Red Bull – 1:40.052
12. Nico Hulkenberg – Force India – 1:40.058
13. Sergio Perez – Force India – 1:40.163
14. Esteban Gutierrez – Sauber – 1:40.536
15. Adrian Sutil – Sauber – 1:40.984
16. Romain Grosjean – Lotus – 1:41.397
17. Marcus Ericsson – Caterham – 1:42.648
18. Felipe Massa – Williams – 1:43.064
19. Kamui Kobayashi – Caterham – 1:43.166
20. Pastor Maldonado – Lotus – 1:43.205
21. Max Chilton – Marussia – 1:43.649
Image courtesy of Mercedes AMG PETRONAS