Formula One leader Lewis Hamilton joined the Monegasque, who was three years old when Schumacher racked up four successive poles in 2000, on the front row with Mercedes unable to match Ferrari's pace but on a different tyre strategy. But Leclerc, Vettel and Verstappen all ran the "soft" tyres to set their fastest times, while Bottas and Hamilton used the "medium", so it is hard to draw any conclusions from their headline lap times.
"I remember being at school and you got a slap on the hand for it (racism) and it is just allowed to slide. Why would I want to go slower?" he responded.
"But now I'm fighting Valtteri for the world championship so I don't expect, for a second, anything like that of him this time". Mercedes estimates the Ferraris are gaining as much as 0.8s on the straights alone, and, despite making back a significant amount of time in the corners, the silver cars have no answer for that kind of advantage over a single lap.
Vettel, who conceded he "couldn't extract the maximum out of the car", will start third.
But Alex Albon crashed the other Red Bull in Q1 and will start from the back row at the Sochi Autodrom.
It was a generally uneventful session, although Daniel Ricciardo spun and crashed at Turn 10 at the very end. He also ensured that there would not be a team order game like he had done last season.
Leclerc had appeared the favourite for pole after impressive performances in practice and he quickly confirmed that when it really mattered in Q3.
Max Verstappen qualified fourth for Red Bull but the Dutch youngster carries a five-place grid penalty due to an engine change, meaning Hamilton's team mate and title rival Valtteri Bottas moves up to the second row.
I think today the vehicle behaves well, we've been fast, we've been competitive as well on the high-fuel runs. "It definitely feels awesome to be back on pole, but I don't know if it's the best track to start on pole", said Leclerc. We'll work very late tonight to understand what we can do better and make some changes to the auto for tomorrow.
"It is not my job to worry but we are conscious of the position we are in", Hamilton added. So it will be tough off the start tomorrow, but even if we were in the lead - or if we were on pole for example - they're so fast on the straights that by the time they get to Turn 1, the kink, they blast past us with the jet fuel or whatever it is!
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