The two faces of Lewis Hamilton in Sochi: from the threat of disaster to a wonderful 'pole'

The two faces of Lewis Hamilton in Sochi: from the threat of disaster to a wonderful 'pole'

The World Cup leader overcomes several errors in Q1 and Q2 to clearly outperform Verstappen and Bottas, with Sainz sixth.

The two faces of Lewis Hamilton in Sochi: from the threat of disaster to a wonderful 'pole'

The 96th pole of his career, including a record in Sochi (1.31.304), was one of the most unusual in the life of Lewis Hamilton . After a string of previous mistakes, the World Championship leader pulled off an astonishing lap against Valtteri Bottas , a true specialist on the Russian track. “It was one of my worst Saturdays,” admitted the World Cup, which on Sunday will start with soft tires to contain the momentum of Max Verstappen , always aggressive with the slipstreams. “It was an epic lap,” revealed the Red Bull leader, after finding the right balance for his car.

To the variations in the anemometer, with an annoying tail wind, the drop in temperatures was added. Friday's sun had given way to a cloudy sky and an asphalt with just 32ºC. However, these variations in the weather did not affect Carlos Sainz , installed all afternoon in privileged times. Finally he will start from sixth place, behind Sergio Pérez and Daniel Ricciardo , fifth, his most qualified rivals in the middle of the grid.

In a stroke of genius, Hamilton took half a second on Verstappen and more than six tenths against Bottas, with a small error in turn 1. Who would have suspected it minutes before, with two almost consecutive mishaps by Lewis, when exceeding the limits track at Turn 2 and locking the left front wheel at Turn 13.

Ferrari, out of Q3

It was not the only scare of a very tight first round, where Ferrari could only avoid the disaster occupying the last two positions. The exponential improvement in the last attempts gave Leclerc a good scare, surpassed by the opponents to fall from fifth to fourteenth place. Sainz also did not return to the asphalt and collapsed from fourth to twelfth.

It must have been difficult to warm up the tires in those restless moments, when Pérez announced a few drops of rain that did not materialize. Hamilton again pushed the limits in the last corner, so they erased his time. The hexacampeón did not give one, exposed to another couple of extreme situations.

At turn 4 Sebastian Vettel , bothered by the tailwind, crashed his SF-1000 into the protections and Charles Leclerc had to settle for not taking it ahead. The red flag ordered by Michael Masi , with just two and a half minutes left, forced Hamilton to go the extra mile. He had to leave quickly and get rid of the slower ones. However, he shook too early and then left too much space in front of Esteban Ocon , so he looked in a rush to reach the goal with a green light.

The record of 91 wins

A strange breakdown, with the car already making the single file, condemned Lance Stroll and Leclerc infuriated with the communication error that prevented him from avoiding Vettel with greater anticipation. The honor of Racing Point was saved by Pérez, while Lando Norris could not squeeze the new nose and front wing of his McLaren.

On Sunday, for regulatory reasons, Hamilton will start on soft tires and with great care to stay out of reach of Bottas and Verstappen on the endless straight. There shouldn't be too much of a problem for 44, who will push hard to match Michael Schumacher's record of 91 wins.

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