Hamilton eases to Italian GP pole at Monza

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Lewis Hamilton eased to his seventh consecutive pole position during qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix on Saturday at Monza.

Hamilton posted a fastest lap time of 1:23.397 to secure his 11th pole of the 2015 season ahead of Ferrari drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel as Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg struggled to fourth place on the grid.

After discovering a problem on Rosberg’s power unit following the final practice session on Saturday morning, Mercedes opted to revert back to the one used by the German at the Belgian Grand Prix so he could take part in qualifying.

WATCH: Italian Grand Prix qualifying full replay

As a result, Hamilton was the only Mercedes driver to run with the upgraded power unit in qualifying, and the advantage was clear as he stormed to his seventh consecutive pole position with relative ease.

Hamilton’s first lap in Q3 was enough to give him pole, but the Briton went faster still with his second effort to ensure that he would not be beaten by the chasing Ferrari drivers.

Taking advantage of Rosberg’s engine trouble, Raikkonen rallied to record his best qualifying of the season in second place, edging out Ferrari teammate Vettel by just 0.054 seconds.

Rosberg managed to jump up to P4 with his final lap in qualifying after previously trailing Williams’ Felipe Massa. The Brazilian was eventually left to settle for fifth place ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Sergio Perez finished seventh for Force India in what proved to be a mixed Q3 for the team. Nico Hulkenberg could only qualify ninth after he stopped at the pit entry during the session, allowing Romain Grosjean to move up to P8 for Lotus. Marcus Ericsson rounded out the top ten for Sauber.

Pastor Maldonado and Felipe Nasr were unable to match the pace of their teammates in qualifying, dropping out in Q2 as a result in 11th and 12th place respectively.

Given the grid drops that were hanging over their heads, Carlos Sainz Jr. and Daniil Kvyat only went out for one flying lap during qualifying, leaving them P13 and P14. Daniel Ricciardo did not even bother to go out on track in Q2 for the same reason, knowing he would start from the very back regardless.

The McLaren duo of Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso endured another difficult qualifying session on Saturday as they both dropped out in Q1 once again. Alonso had been on the brink of making it into Q2, but late laps from Ricciardo and Button dropped the Spaniard down to P17 at the end of the session.

Manor had a trouble-free session en route to P18 and P19, leaving Max Verstappen to prop up the order for Toro Rosso. The Dutchman was only sent out on track with a few seconds to go in Q1 after Toro Rosso had to fix a problem on his car. When he did though, his engine cover was not fitted properly, causing it to fly off the car at the Curva Grande and leave debris on the track.

Verstappen, Button and Alonso are just three of the drivers that will face a grid drop for tomorrow’s race. They will be joined at the back of the grid by Kvyat, Sainz and Ricciardo after they all made changes to their power units, bumping the Manor drivers up the order.

Hamilton’s tally of seven consecutive pole positions matches the record set within a single season by Alain Prost back in 1993, and is now just one shy of Ayrton Senna’s overall record that was spread across 1988 and 1989.

Lewis Hamilton takes F1 pole in dramatic Russian GP qualifying

Russian pole Lewis Hamilton
Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
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SOCHI, Russia — Lewis Hamilton took a step closer to equaling the Formula One win record Saturday by clinching pole position at the Russian Grand Prix, after narrowly avoiding early elimination when Sebastian Vettel crashed.

Hamilton charged to a track-record time of 1 minute, 31.304 seconds, beating the Red Bull of Max Verstappen by 0.563 for his fifth straight pole position. Hamilton can achieve his 91st career win in the race on Sunday, matching the record held by Michael Schumacher.

Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, was beaten into third by Verstappen’s fast run at the end of the session and was .652 off Hamilton’s time.

The long run from the grid to the first significant turn means Bottas could yet threaten to overtake Hamilton at the start 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.

“This year you’re seeing that our cars are more draggy and there’s more tow this year than we’ve seen in other years. So I generally expect one of (Verstappen and Bottas) to come flying by at some point. I think I’m just going to focus on my race and run the fastest race I can.”

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 tires, which could give them an edge in terms of pit strategy over Hamilton, who is on soft tires, which wear much faster.

“I’m just going to have to nurse those tires for as far as I can. These guys, if they get by, they’re going to be pulling away,” Hamilton said.

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 to make 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.”

Hamilton was also asked to report to race stewards over another incident in which he went off the track in the first part of qualifying. No further action was taken. It was found Hamilton didn’t gain an advantage because the lap time wasn’t counted.

Hamilton is the runaway championship leader with a 55-point advantage over second-place Bottas and 80 over Verstappen. If he can earn four more pole positions in the last seven races, he would be the first driver to 100 in F1 history.

Earlier in the third and final practice Saturday morning, Hamilton set the pace with a time of 1 minute, 33.279 seconds that was 0.776 better than his Mercedes teammate Bottas, who had been quickest in the first two sessions.