Hamilton on pole in Russia with Schumacher's record in sight

Lewis Hamilton took a step closer to equaling the Formula One win record on Saturday by clinching pole position at the Russian Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton after clinching the pole position for the Russian Grand Prix.   -  AP Photo

Lewis Hamilton took a step closer to equaling the Formula One win record on Saturday by clinching pole position at the Russian Grand Prix, after narrowly avoiding early elimination when Sebastian Vettel crashed.

The long run from the grid to the first significant turn means Bottas could yet threaten to overtake Hamilton at the start on Sunday using the slipstream from his teammate’s car. “It’s nice being on pole but here is probably the worst place to be on pole,” Hamilton said.

Bottas earned his first win at the 2017 race in Russia after starting third and overtaking the two Ferraris ahead of him at the start.

Verstappen and Bottas both start the race on medium tyres, which could give them an edge in terms of pit strategy over Hamilton, who is on soft tyres.

Russian GP: Mercedes' Bottas fastest in both practice sessions  

Verstappen said he was delighted to start second.

"I wasn’t expecting that and of course it’s great for us. If we can get a good start tomorrow you never know what can happen,” he said.

Vettel lost control of his car over the kerb on the inside of the 90-degree, right-hand turn four and spun into the wall, before the Ferrari bounced back onto the track. Teammate Charles Leclerc was following closely behind and narrowly missed the wrecked car, driving over its discarded front wing.

"Oh my god, that was very, very close,” Leclerc told his team over the radio. Leclerc qualified 11th and Vettel 15th as Ferrari failed to reach the top-10 shootout with either car for the third time in four races.

Vettel’s crash meant the red flag was waved while Hamilton was trying to set his first valid lap time to make the third session - after his first attempt was earlier ruled out for going off the track.

After the track was cleared and the session restarted, Hamilton had to rush his out-lap and ran off the track before making it over the line in time for another flying lap with just a second to spare.

"It was horrible,” Hamilton said. “Heart in the mouth.”

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