ANOTHER WIN FOR LEWIS? Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton put his team on pole for the inaugural Russian GP on Sunday. Image: AP/Petr David Josek
SOCHI, Russia - Championship leader Lewis Hamilton put Mercedes on pole position for the first Russian Grand Prix on Saturday with team mate and title rival Nico Rosberg having to settle for second.The pole was the 29-year-old's seventh of the season and 38th of his career, but he felt he could have done better on a new circuit that snakes around the Sochi Winter Olympic park.
Hamilton, the 2008 champion, who leads Rosberg by 10 points with four races remaining, said: "It wasn't a perfect lap I think there was more time in it. The track surface is great, very smooth but it's got a lot of grip.
"The kerbs are done nicely and the surroundings, being around the Olympic Park is quite an incredible place."
FASTEST ALL WEEKEND
Rosberg had to recognise that Hamilton, fastest also in practice, had been quicker all weekend.
Both were given a scare by Valtteri Bottas, whose Williams was quicker through the first two sectors before the Finn made a big mistake right at the end and was unable to improve on his third place.
Bottas said: "I didn't know at that time it was close to the pole. I risked it a bit too much in last two corners, went a bit wide and when you go off, it's really slippery."
McLaren's Jenson Button completed the second row while Daniil Kvyat, the only current Russian F1 driver, will have the home crowd excited after taking fifth place for the Toro Rosso team.
CHASING FOURTH WIN
Ferrari, whose record run of 81 successive races in the points ended in Japan, and outgoing champions Red Bull had a difficult session.
Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen qualified eighth and ninth while Red Bull's quadruple World champion Sebastian Vettel managed only 11th. Brazilian Felipe Massa fared even worse, with an engine problem dumping the Williams driver out in the first phase and leaving him 18th on the grid.
Hamilton will be chasing his fourth win in a row on Sunday, and ninth of the season, while Mercedes look set to wrap up the Constructors' Championship for the first time.
Hamilton said: "It doesn't change much for me in the race but it will be a historic moment for us. It's going to be the first time so it's going to be historic for the team, a very special moment."
That might finally bring out the champagne after a tough and dark week, with French driver Jules Bianchi fighting for his life in hospital after crashing into a recovery tractor in last Sunday's Japanese race at Suzuka.
The drivers are all carrying stickers of support on their helmets.
Stay with Wheels24 for the 2014 Russian GP this weekend.
Qualifying from the Russian GP at Sochi International Street Circuit on Saturday
1. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes 1min38.513
2. Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 1min38.713
3. Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams-Mercedes 1min38.920
4. Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 1min39.121
5. Daniil Kvyat (Russia) Toro Rosso - Renault 1min39.277
6. Kevin Magnussen (Denmark) McLaren 1min39.629
7. Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) RedBull - Renault 1min39.635
8. Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari 1min39.709
9. Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari 1min39.771
10. Jean-Eric Vergne (France) Toro Rosso - Renault 1min40.020
11. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) RedBull - Renault 1min40.052
12. Nico Hulkenberg (Germany) Force India - Mercedes 1min40.058
13. Sergio Perez (Mexico) Force India - Mercedes 1min40.163
14. Esteban Gutierrez (Mexico) Sauber - Ferrari 1min40.536
15. Adrian Sutil (Germany) Sauber - Ferrari 1min40.984
16. Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus - Renault 1min41.397
17. Marcus Ericsson (Sweden) Caterham - Renault 1min42.648
18. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Williams-Mercedes 1min43.064
19. Kamui Kobayashi (Japan) Caterham - Renault 1min43.166
20. Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Lotus - Renault 1min43.205
21. Max Chilton (Britain) Marussia - Ferrari 1min43.649