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AFP
September 27, 2020

Hamilton on Russian pole after ‘horrible’ qualifying

Sports

AFP
September 27, 2020

SOCHI, Russia: Runaway Formula One series leader Lewis Hamilton emerged from a “horrible” red-flagged qualifying session at Sochi on Saturday with a stunning pole position for Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix.

In a crash-hit session the Mercedes six-time champion held his nerve to clock a best lap in one minute and 31.304 seconds to outpace Max Verstappen of Red Bull by half a second.

His Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, 55 points behind Hamilton in the title race, was third-quickest with Sergio Perez of Racing Point sharing the second row.

Hamilton is bidding to claim his fifth win at the Sochi track where Mercedes have dominated winning all six races since 2014.

If he translate pole into victory, he will equal Michael Schumacher’s career record of 91 Grand Prix wins.

The action was interrupted for 10 minutes in Q2 when four-time champion Sebastian Vettel crashed his Ferrari - he was unhurt and climbed from his wrecked car - leaving Hamilton, only 15th fastest, racing against the clock to reach Q3.

In close liaison with his team, he squeezed through with only seconds remaining before going on to take pole with a flawless fastest lap.

On a topsy-turvy day, Hamilton was called to the stewards, along with three other drivers, after the session for missing bollards at Turn Two during Q2.

“It was one of the worst qualifying sessions,” said Hamilton.

“It was horrible, heart in my mouth the whole way. I lost my first (Q2) lap by going wide for the first time this weekend and I wanted to stay out for another lap.

“They said I had new tyres, but then there was the red flag. It was a risk and ultimately I am starting on the soft tyre which is not good.