Sochi, Sept. 28: Charles Leclerc produced a supreme performance in qualifying at the Russian Grand Prix to take his fourth consecutive Formula One pole position.
Ferrari driver Leclerc was in a class of his own as he finished 0.402seconds ahead of Mercedes rival and championship leader Lewis Hamilton to claim his sixth pole of 2019.
Sebastian Vettel came in third, with Max Verstappen in fourth spot for Red Bull, though the Dutchman has a five-place grid penalty for taking a new Honda engine.
That will promote Valtteri Bottas, who was fifth, up one spot on the grid, with Carlos Sainz, Nico Hulkenberg, Lando Norris and Romain Grosjean the other beneficiaries.
Daniel Ricciardo completed the top 10, while Red Bull's Alex Albon crashed backwards into the barriers in Q1 at turn 13 – the same corner Verstappen had an earlier incident in FP3 – to ensure he will start towards the back.
Ferrari are in magnificent form as they seek a fourth consecutive F1 victory for the first time since 2008 and the Scuderia topped every part of qualifying.
Vettel was first in a Q1 session that was red-flagged for a spell after Albon's crash, before Leclerc came to the fore in Q2.
After first runs in Q3, Leclerc held a comfortable advantage over his German team-mate.
Vettel, who controversially benefited from a strategy call at the expense of Leclerc in Singapore last time out, improved at the second time of asking but not enough to better his team-mate, who in turn improved on his own time.
That left Ferrari to watch their rivals complete their laps and when Verstappen could only move up to third and Bottas had to abort his effort due to a mistake, Hamilton was the last obstacle.
Hamilton, a five-time world champion, was sitting a provisional fourth but surged up to second with an effort that split the Ferraris, edging out Vettel by just 0.023s.
It was still well short of the pace set by Leclerc, but enough to set up an intriguing grid for Sunday at a circuit where Mercedes have never been beaten before, with the team bidding to avoid going four races without a win for the first time in the hybrid era.
1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 1:31:628 2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0.402s 3. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +0.425s 4. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0.682s [has five-place grid penalty] 5. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +1.004s 6. Carlos Sainz (McLaren) +1.594s 7. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) +1.661s 8. Lando Norris (McLaren) +1.673s 9. Romain Grosjean (Haas) +1.889s 10. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) +2.033s