Charles Leclerc dominated today's qualifying session in Sochi (1'31''628), as Lewis Hamilton caught up on him in the last sector, which allowed him to beat Vettel last-minute.
Leclerc emerged as the fastest driver half way through Q3, three tenths ahead of teammate Vettel and over 0.5s clear of Hamilton. As Vettel equalled his teammate in S1, Leclerc was in for further improvements throughout his whole last attempt, which ended with a mighty 1'31''628. Lewis Hamilton set a record partial in S3, which was enough to claim first row. Sebastian Vettel was therefore knocked out of the first row and had to settle with P3, having also been outqualified by his teammate for the 9th time in a row. Max Verstappen will start next to the German tomorrow, whereas Bottas and Sainz will share the third row. Hulkenberg in 7th outshadowed his teammate Ricciardo (P10), beating Lando Norris by a little over than 0.10s. Grosjean and Ricciardo close the Top-10 in Sochi.
Leclerc topped Q2, ending one tenth of a second ahead of Vettel, as Verstappen clocked the third fastest laptime ahead of the Mercedes duo. A Haas came out on top of the midfield once again, but this time it was Romain Grosjean snatching a 1’33’’643, with Norris less than a tenth behind. Both McLarens and Renaults went through to Q3, as Lance Stroll and Kevin Magnussen were both caught at fault during their last attempts.
Gasly missed the Top-10 by 0.036s and was the first of the eliminated drivers, ahead of Perez, Giovinazzi, Magnussen and Stroll.
Q1 was red flagged with 6 and a half minutes left due to Alexander Albon spinning at Turn 13 and hitting the barrier with the rear of his RB15. Having damaged the rear wing and the right suspension, Albon’s qualifying session ended prematurely due to the accident.
Once the session resumed, all eyes were on Vettel, as the German had not set a time before Albon’s accident happened. The German went fastest in Q1 on the SuperSoft tyre, being nearly two tenths clear of Hamilton. His teammate Charles Leclerc set his laptime on Mediums.
Kevin Magnussen set a remarkable 1’33’’889, two tenths off Leclerc on different tyres, and closed Q1 ahead of Ricciardo and the McLaren duo. Renault’s Hulkenberg rounds up the Top-10, but the contention is very tight in the midfield, as there is a one-second gap from Magnussen (P6) to Kimi Raikkonen in P16.
The two Alfa Romeo drivers were split by Q2, as the Finn came up short against teammate Giovinazzi due to a costly error at the final corner of his last attempt to get through.
The drivers who did not make it to Q2 were: Raikkonen, Russell, Kubica, Albon and Kvyat.