World Champion Lewis Hamilton survived a scare to claim pole position for Formula 1’s Russian Grand Prix but remains under investigation for a track limits infringement.
Hamilton set a new track record in Q3, recording two laps quick enough for the top spot, to wind up with a time of 1:31.304.
It marked the fifth successive pole position for Hamilton, his eighth of the season, and the 96th of his career, as he chases a record-equalling 91st Formula 1 victory on Sunday.
However he remains under investigation for failing to adhere to the Turn 2 bollard instructions – which state a driver must negotiate polystyrene blocks if they go wide – during Q1.
Hamilton also came perilously close to being knocked out in Q2.
Hamilton gets through Q2 drama
Hamilton was on the brink of elimination in Q2 and only narrowly made the top 10 shootout.
Hamilton ran wide at the final turn on his first effort, prompting race control to delete his lap, and he was on a session-best effort later on when Sebastian Vettel crashed heavily.
Vettel lost control of his Ferrari SF1000 through Turn 4, and was almost collected by following team-mate Charles Leclerc, bringing out the red flag seconds before Hamilton completed his lap.
Just 2:15 remained on the clock when the session restarted and Hamilton’s position in the queue meant he was towards the rear of the train.
He then went wide into Turn 2 and only began his sole timed lap with two seconds to spare before the chequered flag was waved, receiving a hurry-up call from engineer Pete Bonnington.
Hamilton made it, but did so on Softs, giving him a strategic difference to team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who easily made Q3 on Mediums.
Verstappen secures shock front row
Mercedes had dominated proceedings at Sochi but it was not a 1-2 for the marque as Bottas put in two subdued laps in Q3.
It allowed Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to split the Mercedes drivers, securing a spot on the front row, despite fears on Friday that he would not even be able to challenge for third.
Racing Point’s Sergio Perez narrowly eclipsed Renault driver Daniel Ricciardo to take fourth, in front of Carlos Sainz and Esteban Ocon.
Lando Norris was eighth while Pierre Gasly and Alexander Albon, who struggled to match the pace of team-mate Hamilton, rounded out the top 10.
Ferrari out in Q2 after Vettel crash
Ferrari had shown better pace this weekend compared to its previous showings but it suffered a double Q2 exit, which included the hefty accident for Vettel, who rotated his car into the Turn 4 barriers.
Charles Leclerc was inside the top 10 when his team-mate crashed but was then shuffled out of the Q3 spots when the session resumed.
He will start in 11th place, with Vettel provisionally 15th.
Home representative Daniil Kvyat was 12th while Lance Stroll encountered an issue as the cars lined up in the pit lane after the red flag and did not return to the circuit.
George Russell made Q2 for the sixth time this season and will start from 14th place.
Haas and Alfa Romeo out early
Haas and Alfa Romeo suffered a double Q1 elimination as the Ferrari-powered cars lacked one-lap pace.
Romain Grosjean made gains after Friday woe to qualify 16th, ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi, with Kevin Magnussen 18th.
Nicholas Latifi only had one representative push lap after going wide on his first effort and wound up 19th, with Kimi Raikkonen at the back after a Turn 2 spin on his last lap.
Sunday’s 53-lap Russian Grand Prix will begin at 14:10 local time.