Charles Leclerc will be starting a fourth straight race from pole position after setting the fastest time in qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix.
The Ferrari driver’s time of 1:31.628 was more than 0.4s quicker than nearest rival Lewis Hamilton, with Sebastian Vettel completing the top three.
Just 19 cars took part in qualifying as Toro Rosso were still completing an engine change after Daniil Kvyat broke down in FP3, although he was already starting from the back of the grid to due a previous engine change.
Sebastian Vettel struggled to get a clean lap in at the start of qualifying as he ran wide on his first flying lap before getting caught behind a yellow flag caused by Robert Kubica’s spinning Williams.
Vettel’s third effort also had to be abandoned as Alexander Albon had a high-speed crash after trying to carry too much speed through a corner, sending the Red Bull into the barrier and bringing out the Red Flag.
One the session restarted, Vettel was able to get himself out of the bottom five, but it wasn’t to be for Kimi Raikkonen, as he got on the kerb out of the last corner, leaving him towards the bottom of the standings, with a last-gasp quick lap from teammate Antonio Giovinazzi eliminating the Finn from Q1.
Giovinazzi was among those dropping out in Q2, along with Lance Stroll and Kevin Magnussen, who both ran wide on their flying laps, costing them time.
Romain Grosjean had a strong performance throughout qualifying to finish ninth, but will move up one place as a result of Verstappen’s grid penalty, while Carlos Sainz will be the highest placed driver from outside the top three teams.
Provisional qualifying result:
1 Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
3. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
4. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)*
5. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
6. Carlos Sainz (McLaren)
7. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault)
8. Lando Norris (McLaren)
9. Romain Grosjean (Haas)
10. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault)
11. Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso)*
12. Sergio Perez (Racing Point)
13. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo)
14. Kevin Magnussen (Haas)
15. Lance Stroll (Racing Point)
16. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo)
17. George Russell (Williams)
18. Robert Kubica (Williams)**
19. Alexander Albon (Red Bull)*
20. Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso)**
*Verstappen, Albon and Gasly all have 5-place grid penalties for taking a new engine.
**Kvyat and Kubica will both start at the back of the grid after taking new components.