Charles Leclerc became the first Ferrari driver since Michael Schumacher to take four consecutive pole positions on Saturday in a qualifying session for the Russian Grand Prix that has served as a bridge between generations.
The leader of Formula One, Lewis Hamilton, joined the Monegasque, who was three years old when Schumacher accumulated four consecutive poles in 2000, on the front row of the grid, with Mercedes unable to match the speed of a single lap of the Ferrari team.
The imperturbable 21-year-old has already surpassed four-time world champion team-mate Sebastian Vettel, who will start in third place in nine consecutive races, although he has not been carried away by emotion after taking his sixth pole of the season.
“I felt amazing in the car. It definitely feels good to be back on the pole, but I don’t know if it’s the best track to start with,” said Leclerc after riding at the Olympic Park circuit with a fast lap of 31,628 seconds.
“You definitely feel very special, but I don’t want to think about those statistics, for now, I just want to focus on the job,” the youngster said of him in the same tone as seven-time world champion Schumacher.
Hamilton had placed third behind the two Ferrari after the first quick laps of the session, but the best pole record holder of all time was placed in the front row when necessary.
His time was 0.4 hundredths of a second slower than Leclerc’s, but he denied Ferrari from completely sweeping pole with 0.023 ahead in a race that has only been won by Mercedes since it first appeared on the calendar in 2014.
Max Verstappen qualified fourth for Red Bull, but the young Dutchman has a five-place penalty for a change of engine, which means Hamilton’s team-mate and title rival Valtteri Bottas will rise to the second row.
Hamilton leads Bottas by 65 points with six runs to go and is well placed to extend his lead on Sunday, as he has a 96-point lead over nearest rivals Leclerc and Verstappen in the standings.