Valtteri Bottas has claimed pole position at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix after pipping Lewis Hamilton, whilst pole favorite Charles Leclerc crashed out during the second part of qualifying.
Bottas set a 1.40.495s, with Hamilton second and 0.059s behind, as Sebastian Vettel could only manage third place in the Ferrari. Meanwhile, Verstappen who couldn’t take part in the final shootout, was only fourth fastest.
Story of the session
As the session got underway, Williams driver George Russell was first to take to circuit. However, quickly followed were the frontrunner’s, as Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel took to circuit.
As the first round of laps were completed, as Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas went fastest, and edged pacesetter Leclerc by 0.222s, as Hamilton locked up and had to abort his first lap, and the same was with Vettel. Upon their second laps, Vettel went to the top of the time-sheets with a 1.42.348s, whilst Hamilton could only go seventh, and over a second off Vettel’s lap.
As the track continued to evolve, Leclerc and Bottas set new fastest laps, and the Ferrari driver set a 1.41.426s, to set himself 0.6s clear of the Mercedes to highlight the Ferrari’s performance advantage.
After sitting in fifteenth place, Hamilton was able to improve to third place on his third run, but was still some 0.846s off Leclerc’s fastest lap, which prompted concerns about the cut-off times.
As the track evolved, Pierre Gasly went fastest in the slipstream of a Racing Point with a 1.41.335s, which concerned the front-runners, as they would need to run again to cover off the mid-field teams – especially the likes of Hamilton and Vettel who were lacking to their team-mates.
As Q1 came to an end, Kubica went into the wall at the castle session which brung out the Red Flag and ended the first part of qualifying, which was nothing short of action here in Azerbaijan.
Stroll, Grosjean, Hulkenberg, Russell and Kubica all faced elimination during the first part of qualifying here in Baku.
After a lengthy 20 minute delay to repair the barrier damage from Kubica’s crash, Q2 was finally underway as the track temperature continued to drop, and we reached ever closer to sunset.
During the first part of Q2, both Ferrari drivers took on the medium compound tyres, despite the cooling track conditions, which was making warm-up very difficult for the drivers.
During the end of the first laps, Verstappen went to the top of the time-sheets, as the two Mercedes were second and third. Meanwhile, Leclerc was fifth and Vettel was eleventh on the slower, medium tyres which weren’t working for the Scuderia.
As the Ferrari’s tried to extract reasonable pace on the medium compound tyres, Leclerc went straight into the wall at the same location where Kubica went off, which put the Ferrari driver out of qualifying, and another big clean up job for the barriers.
As the session resumed after another lengthy delay, Sebastian Vettel to take to circuit, as he had to improve from his P12 slot, following a horror run on the medium tyres. Vettel could only go seventh fastest, however due to a drop in track temperature, Vettel could only go seventh, as others struggled to improve. On the following lap Vettel improved to fifth, as Red Bull’s Verstappen stayed on top.
As the pole position shootout finally got underway, Max Verstappen was first take to circuit, however his rivals weren’t as keen as heading to lap, and after a short interval, the two Mercedes headed to circuit.
As the first laps came to an end, Lewis Hamilton easily went onto provisional pole with a 1.40.703s, with Vettel 0.4s adrift of the British driver, followed by Bottas and Verstappen – which came to a surprise for everyone. However, after another run, Verstappen went second fastest, but still was 0.366s adrift of the British driver.
During the last run, Bottas suddenly beat his team-mate to pole.