Sebastian Vettel of Scuderia Ferrari once again took pole position in the Qualifying for Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes joins him on the front row, while his teammate Valtteri Bottas will start at P3. Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen rounded out the top five. Kimi Raikkonen, who was fastest in both Q1 and Q2, could only end up sixth when it mattered.
Sebastian Vettel Takes a Hat-trick of Poles
Scary moment for Toro Rosso in Q1
The first qualifying session at Baku started in slightly windy conditions with track temperatures at 26 degrees C and air temperatures at 22 degrees C. Most teams took the stickiest ultrasoft tyres in their first runs. Romain Grosjean mistimed his braking near the escape road once and then had gear-box problems, ending up exiting Q1 without setting a time.
This triggered the yellow flags for a while. Many cars, including that of Sergio Perez and Pierre Gasly, had to take the escape road at Turn 15. Gasly showed cat-like reflexes in avoiding a near-certain collision with his teammate Brendon Hartley who was going painfully slowly just before the turn due to a puncture.
This scary moment for Torro Rosso meant that both their cars were eliminated in Q1, along with those of Grosjean, Stoffel Vandoorne and Marcus Ericsson. Kimi Raikkonen topped the time-sheets with a lap time of 1:42.538. Both the Williams cars and the Sauber of Charles Leclerc scraped through to Q2, while the McLaren of Vandoorne had a miserable time.
Kimi Raikkonen tops again in Q2
Most teams started on super-soft tyres in the second qualifying session. Raikkonen had a massive lock-up on his first flying lap flat-spotting his tyres. He had to go back to the pits to reboot with ultra-softs. He came back blazing with the fastest lap of 1:42.510 which was enough to take him to the top of time-sheets again.
Williams team had their best qualifying session of the season with Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin taking P11 & P12. Fernando Alonso once again failed to take his McLaren into Q3. This is exposing a lot of chinks in McLaren’s armour prompting a shake-up in their technical team during the build-up to this weekend. Charles Leclerc and Kevin Magnussen were the other drivers eliminated during Q2. Daniel Ricciardo just managed to scrape through to Q3 by the skin of his teeth.
Championship leaders grab front-row in Q3
Both Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton had a tough outing on Friday during the free practice sessions. But both delivered when it mattered in Q3 with Vettel taking a third consecutive pole with a lap time of 1:41.498.
Kimi Raikkonen, who had the better of Vettel all along in qualifying, made a mistake on his first run. During his second run, Raikkonen was well on course for a deserving pole, going purple in Sectors 1 and 2, but again made an error at Turn 16. This made him end up a heart-breaking P6.
The Force Indias did well with their latest updates to claim P7 & P8 on the grid, while the Renaults rounded out the top-10.
Interesting race in prospect
With Vettel and Hamilton lined up side by side on the front row, the memories of their clash last year has been refreshed. Windy conditions at the street circuit will certainly trigger some mistakes from the drivers on race day. An incident-filled race with a high probability of Safety Car is in prospect for Sunday!
The complete time sheet of Qualifying at Baku:
|4||3||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||1:42.857||1:43.482||1:41.911||20|
|5||33||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||1:42.642||1:42.901||1:41.994||19|
|7||31||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||1:43.021||1:42.967||1:42.523||20|
|8||11||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||1:43.992||1:43.366||1:42.547||20|
|17||10||SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA||1:44.496||9|
|NC||28||SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA||1:57.354||5|
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