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Hamilton: Mixed feelings about starting Russian GP in pole position

Sports Desk, Sep 26 (efe-epa).- Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) claimed the 96th pole of his storied Formula One career in Saturday’s qualifying for the Grand Prix of Russia, but the six-time world champion said afterward that starting in P1 will not necessarily be an advantage.

“The session was one of the worst qualifying sessions! It was horrible, heart in your mouth the whole way,” the Briton said.

“Ultimately I’m starting on the soft (tires), which is not good. It’s nice being on pole, but here is probably the worst play to be on pole with the draggier cars this year,” Hamilton said ahead of a race that could see him match Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 wins.

One thing that may be on Hamilton’s mind is that the last pole-sitter to win at the Sochi Autodrom was Nico Rosberg in 2016.

In fact, the driver starting in P1 has gone on to lift the trophy only twice in the history of the Russian Grand Prix, an event added to the F1 calendar in 2014.

Hamilton earned the pole position by setting a new track record with a fastest lap of 1:31.304, more than half-a-second better than Dutch driver Max Verstappen (Red Bull).

His Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, was third. The Finn had to be disappointed with that result after he dominated all three practice sessions.

Even so, Hamilton suggested that Verstappen and Bottas will have the edge at the start on Sunday by virtue of their being on medium tires.

“Both of the cars I’m racing against, they’re both on the medium tomorrow so that’s definitely going to make it hard to win the race,” the 35-year-old said.

Hamilton was forced to resort to the soft tires to avoid being knocked out before the third and final qualifying round.

The British driver saw his first lap in Q2 thrown out for violating track limits and then had to scramble when Sebastian Vettel crashed his Ferrari, causing the red flag to come out.

Mexico’s Sergio “Checo” Perez (Racing Point) will join Bottas on the second row of the grid Sunday, while Australian veteran Daniel Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) and Spaniard Carlos Sainz (McLaren) will share the third row.

Seventh place belongs to Frenchman Esteban Ocon (Renault) and Sainz’s British teammate, Lando Norris, will begin in P8, ahead of France’s Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) and Thai driver Alex Albon (Red Bull).

Ferarri’s nightmare season continued, as neither of the Scuderia’s drivers qualified in the top 10. Charles Leclerc of Monaco was 11th and Vettel, the German four-time F1 champion, could do no better than 15th.

Mercedes has won all six prior Russian GP races and Hamilton, who accounts for four of those victories, is well on his way to equaling Schumacher by winning the F1 championship for a seventh time.

Hamilton leads the 2020 driver standings with 190 points, 55 more than Bottas and 80 more than Verstappen. EFE

mam/dr

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