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F1 Raceweek: Leclerc eyes chance to end Mercedes' Russian Grand Prix run

By Russell Greaves
Charles Leclerc looks to end Mercedes dominance in Russian Grand Prix

Sochi, September 29: Charles Leclerc has a chance to rewrite the record books at Sunday's Russian Grand Prix after qualifying on pole once again.

The Ferrari star, who finished the final session 0.402seconds ahead of championship leader Lewis Hamilton, will be looking to end Mercedes' dominance at the Sochi circuit.

But the prize of a fourth consecutive Scuderia win – the first such streak since 2008 – would represent an even bigger shot in the arm.

Mercedes have won each of the five previous races staged at the track but Leclerc is the form man in Formula One.

Saturday's qualifying exploits put the 21-year-old at the head of the grid for the fourth time running, although Leclerc questioned whether that would prove an advantage come the race.

"The car felt amazing and it feels great to be back on pole but I don't know whether it is the best track to start on pole – the straight is very long after the start," he said.

"It feels very, very special but I don't want to think about stats for now. I just want to focus on the job. There is a long way to go and it is a good start.

"We have been competitive all weekend and the race simulation seems good too."

Hamilton, whose nearest challenger in the standings is team-mate Valtteri Bottas, will start from second, with Sebastian Vettel immediately behind him.

The start could prove particularly telling as Mercedes have opted for medium tyres, while their rivals will all start on the faster, but less durable, softs.

"I don't know how many metres it is worth but it is definitely potentially the case that we will be potentially slightly down compared to them at the start," said the Briton.

"I'll have to get the best start I can possibly do and depending on where we all slot in, if he (Vettel) is right behind me or if he gets a tow from Leclerc, he'll be sailing past me. They are so fast on the straights it is quite impressive.

"But we just stay optimistic, we will do our best and I'll try to get to turn one first some way, somehow."


Mercedes' choice of tyre certainly raised a few eyebrows, not least of all among the Ferrari contingent.

Team principal Mattia Binotto confessed his surprise at the call, insisting it had never crossed his mind to implement the same strategy for Ferrari.

"[It was] surprising to us, their choice, not something we were considering to be honest. I think we need to try to understand why they did that choice," Binotto said.

"Certainly we believe the soft tyre has a grip advantage at the start, the start will be key on Sunday.

"Different strategies may do something interesting for the race for the fans."


It looks set to be a disappointing weekend for Red Bull, who were already having to contend with grid penalties for switching their power units.

A change in the weather conditions saw the wind pick up around the Sochi track and that proved a problem for Max Verstappen and team-mate Alexander Albon, who will start from ninth and 18th respectively.

"I always knew qualifying would be tricky on such a power sensitive circuit but the lap was good and there wasn't much more in it," said Verstappen.

"The wind picked up and it seemed to hurt us in the last sector which is normally our strongest point so I couldn't really use the full potential of the car."


1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)

2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

3. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)

4. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)

5. Carlos Sainz (McLaren)

6. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault)

7. Lando Norris (McLaren)

8. Romain Grosjean (Haas)

9. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)

10. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault)


2018: Lewis Hamilton

2017: Valtteri Bottas

2016: Nico Rosberg

2015: Lewis Hamilton


1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 296

2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 231 (-65)

3. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 200 (-96)

4. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 200 (-96)

5. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 194 (-102)


1. Mercedes 527

2. Ferrari 394 (-133)

3. Red Bull 289 (-238)

4. McLaren 89 (-438)

5. Renault 67 (-460)


Cloud cover and mild temperatures will be accompanied by a gentle breeze that should have little to no impact on the racing.

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Story first published: Sunday, September 29, 2019, 0:30 [IST]
Other articles published on Sep 29, 2019
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