Lewis Hamilton has admitted qualification for the Russian Grand Prix on Saturday was a “horrible” session but he still managed to claim a dramatic pole for Sunday’s race in Sochi.

The Mercedes driver pipped Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to top spot on a frantic afternoon, the Briton only 0.563 seconds quicker than the Dutchman, while Hamilton’s Mercedes’ team-mate Valtteri Bottas was close behind when coming in third fastest.

Hamilton seemed to be staring at a place much further down the grid than he’s used to in the second knock-out session when it was stopped after Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel crashed but, with just two minutes and 15 seconds left upon restart, the reigning world champion crossed the line with a second left.

Hamilton, who is the 11/8 favourite to record the fastest lap on Sunday, was relieved to secure pole but is wary of what lies ahead on raceday.

He said: “It was one of the worst qualifying sessions. It was horrible – heart in your mouth.

“I wanted to stay out and do a banker but they said come in and get new tyres and then the red flag came out. It was a risk, we got through but I am starting on softs which is not good.

“Undoubtedly I am likely to get dragged past tomorrow, it will make it hard to win the race.”

Verstappen (4/1 Race Winner), meanwhile, admitted to having some difficulties around the track but he was cautiously optimistic ahead of Sunday.

He said: “We were struggling a bit to find the right balance with the car, the track is quite slippy around here.

“If we can have a decent start then the tow effect is very big around here, so if we can get a good draft, then who knows what is going to happen into Turn Two – but it’s going to interesting anyway with the tyres as well tomorrow.”

Hamilton can equal Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of 91 Grand Prix victories with this weekend and he is the 8/15 favourite to do it on Sunday.

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