The 29-year-old Briton, winner of the last three Grands Prix, was fastest with a late lap at the new Sochi Autodrom to finish two-tenths of a second clear of his Mercedes team-mate and title rival Nico Rosberg.

The German, 10 points behind Hamilton in the championship with four races remaining, pushed hard to catch him, but was almost overhauled by Finn Valtteri Bottas in the final seconds, the Williams driver only missing out on a front row start when he slid off circuit at the penultimate corner.

It was Hamilton's seventh pole this year and the 38th of his career and, for the Mercedes team another front row lockout, their ninth of the season ahead of Sunday's race in which they can clinch the constructors' crown, ending Red Bull's four year reign as team champions.

"Pole is a great place to start and the team have done a great job," said Hamilton.

Briton Jenson Button recovered from an undistinguished showing in Saturday morning's final free practice to take fourth place on the grid alongside Bottas.

Local favourite Daniil Kvyat claimed a rousing fifth place for Toro Rosso to the delight of a capacity crowd in the Olympic Park circuit. It was the 20-year-old Russian's best qualifying performance.

Australian Daniel Ricciardo struggled to take seventh in the leading Red Bull, but team-mate and four-time champion German Sebastian Vettel failed to make the cut for the top ten, dropping out in Q2 in 11th place.

Qualifying too place on a beautiful late summer's day in the Black Sea resort in contrast to the lashing rainstorms a week earlier in Japan, where Frenchman Jules Bianchi suffered his life-threatening injuries last Sunday.

The two Mercedes men were soon on top with solid laps as the scramble to survive the first cut began. Bottas was soon on their heels, but Felipe Massa struggled with fuel pressure problems and was eliminated in 18th place.

Among those to go out with the Brazilian was Briton Max Chilton in the sole Marussia.

"It's been a difficult weekend for us all so far," said Chilton.

"It's not been easy. So, all in all, and considering the situation, we've done well.

"With the whole team around me we can try to do the best job we can for Jules."

Rosberg was swiftly on top in Q2, but after a fast Bottas lap, Hamilton romped clear again in another demonstration of his pure speed and talent, his current supremacy accentuated as four-time champion Vettel failed to make the top ten shootout.

As the German dropped out, both Toro Rossos went through.

"He just didn't get the balance and the lap," said Red Bull boss Christian Horner, whose team are likely to pass their champions' crown to Mercedes on Sunday.

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