An edge-of-your-seat qualifying session finished with a red flag, and a red car on pole position as Charles Leclerc grabbed pole position for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku.
Leclerc’s pole rounded off a strong qualifying session for the Ferrari team, with Carlos Sainz set to start from fifth after his final hot lap ended with a session-ending crash as he and Yuki Tsunoda both crashed in quick succession to bring out the fourth red flag of the day.
It was a positive day, too, for Lewis Hamilton, whose decision to run a lower-downforce front wing paid off as he found some crucial qualifying pace to score a front-row start alongside Leclerc.
But the session proved to be a nightmare for Red Bull, with Max Verstappen in third and Sergio Perez seventh after initially looking in control of affairs earlier in the day.
The street circuit in Baku offers a markedly different test to the slow, twisty Monaco circuit they raced on in the previous round.
The track features tight 90-degree turns with no run-off, meaning there’s no room for error, as four red flags during the three qualifying sessions proved.
It meant qualifying was all-important as the top contenders looked to establish the cleanest possible route to Turn 1 in Sunday’s race.
Mercedes chief Toto Wolff believes something is ‘fundamentally wrong’ at Azerbaijan GP
Azerbaijan Grand Prix Qualifying: LIVE
Qualifying 2 results
- Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 1:41.625
- Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +0.005
- Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0.009
- Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) +0.029
- Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +0.034
- Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.115
- Lando Norris (McLaren) +0.188
- Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +0.307
- Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +0.481
- Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +0.570
- Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin)
- Estaban Ocon (Alpine)
- Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren)
- Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo)
- George Russell (Williams)
2:00pm: It’s another car in the wall, another red flag and the end of Q2, as Daniel Ricciardo, desperately trying to get back into the mix, hits the wall almost head-on after getting it all wrong on his hot lap.
It means the session is over, with Vettel, Ocon, Ricciardo, Raikkonen and Russell all ruled out. They’ll start from 11th-15th on the grid, respectively.
Azerbaijan Grand Prix Qualifying: LIVE
Qualifying 1 results
- Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:41.545
- Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0.215
- Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +0.423
- Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.576
- Lando Norris (McLaren) +0.622
- Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +0.696
- Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +0.743
- Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) +0.759
- Estaban Ocon (Alpine) +0.881
- Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) +0.915
- Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) +0.976
- Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +1.156
- George Russell (Williams) +1.183
- Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo) +1.378
- Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +1.389
- Nicholas Latifi (Williams)
- Mick Schumacher (Haas)
- Nikita Mazepin (Haas)
- Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)
- Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo)
1:20pm: Another car is in the wall at Turn 15, as Antonio Giovinazzi’s Alfa Romeo brings out the red flag again, as tensions start to rise in the pit lane in Baku.
Only 10 cars have a lap time registered, with both Red Bulls sitting pretty in first and second, and the Ferrari duo of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc in third and fourth.
There’s still nine minutes, 22 seconds left in the session, but with half the grid still to register a time, finding a sweet spot between cars is going to be a tricky task.
The name of the game now is simply to get through the session and into Q2. But to do that, the drivers have to get a time on the board.
1:04pm: The session has been red-flagged after Lance Stroll hit the wall hard at Turn 15 and destroyed his front-right suspension after some serious understeer.
While a nightmare for the Aston Martin team, the incident is an absolute godsend for Williams, who are all hands to the pump – quite literally – trying to rebuild George Russell’s car in an attempt to get him out on track in Q1.
The Brit, who is known as “Mr. Saturday” for his ability to consistently do the business in qualifying, suffered from a water pump leak in practice and needed a power unit change on his Williams car.
It meant his team faced a race against time to get the car rebuilt in time for the end of Q1, but Sky’s Ted Kravitz has just reported that Russell’s car, incredibly, is now ready, and he’ll take to the track for the remaining 14 minutes of the session when it eventually restarts.