Ferrari followed up on their strong practice pace in Russia, securing first and second on the grid for the grand prix in Sochi. It seemed Raikkonen would be the polesitter on Sunday until Vettel undercut him at the last.
Sebastian Vettel secured Ferrari their first pole position of the season on Saturday in Sochi. The Scuderia sealed the top two spots on the grid and froze Mercedes out in qualifying.
Russia's track seemed to favor the scarlet cars, which had also topped the lap charts in Friday's practice sessions.
"That was a Sebastian Vettel lap," Vettel's race engineer said over the radio when congratulating the German. "Yes yes yes yes yes yes," Vettel responded after a cheer, adding his standard thanks in Italian aimed at the team.
For much of the session, it appeared that Kimi Raikkonen would roll back the years, having held the fastest lap until Vettel's last-gasp lap to undercut him. The 2007 champion had not sat on pole since the French Grand Prix of 2008, back during his first stint at Ferrari.
Valtteri Bottas qualified third for Mercedes, while Lewis Hamilton was well off the lead pace in fourth. He made an error later in his flying lap, falling adrift after going faster than anyone in the first sector of the lap.
Williams' Felipe Massa split the two Red Bulls, qualifying sixth in between Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. Nico Hülkenberg was strong for Renault once more in eighth, with the Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Sebastian ocon rounding out the top 10.
Home favoite Daniil Kvyat could only manage 13th in front of the Russian fans, two spots behind his Spanish Toro Rosso teammate Carlos Sainz Jr.
Ferrari take their challenge to qualifying
After Vettel's race wins in Melbourne and Sakir, Saturday's result for Ferrari was another sign that they can get back to their winn. After three seasons of near-complete domination from Mercedes, the Italian outfit now appears a more consistent threat to the Silver Arrows at the front.
After watching Ferrari win two of the first three, Mercedes have decided to resort to team orders where necessary
Mercedes even announced on Saturday that the team had rethought its policies on team orders, reacting to the more consistent threat posed by Ferrari this season. After three years of insisting (at least officially) that their two drivers were free to race, Niki Lauda suggested that in future, the slower driver would be asked to yield in any given race. Mercedes already did just this, albeit somewhat clumsily, at the last race in Bahrain, twice asking Valtteri Bottas to let Lewis Hamilton through.