Charles Leclerc claimed a shock second straight F1 2021 pole place on the Azerbaijan GP because the Ferrari driver outshone title rivals Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen in a frenetic qualifying that was stuffed with crashes.
A gripping hour-long session on the Baku streets noticed a record-equalling 4 purple flags after driver shunts – the final of which sealing pole for Leclerc, who set a hovering tempo together with his first lap in Q3 to move the sector.
“I didn’t count on to be as aggressive as we have been at present,” mentioned Leclerc, who was additionally on pole in Monaco just for his end-of-qualifying crash to disclaim him the possibility of defending it within the race.
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Lewis Hamilton was second behind Leclerc on the time of Yuki Tsunoda’s crash into the obstacles, because the world champion managed to search out type in his Mercedes after struggling proper by way of Azerbaijan’s observe periods.
Leclerc’s 1:41.218 was aided by a tow on the lengthy start-finish straight and was 0.2s sooner than Hamilton.
“That is such a monumental consequence for us as a result of we have been struggling such as you could not consider all weekend,” admitted Hamilton. “It has been the largest problem in a very long time. It has been a little bit of a catastrophe.”
A annoyed Verstappen was a tenth slower than Hamilton in third as Purple Bull did not ship on their observe promise, with the championship-leading Dutchman feeling on consecutive Saturdays that purple flags denied him pole.
Sergio Perez and Valtteri Bottas are out of place considerably within the different Purple Bull and Mercedes automobiles, in seventh and tenth respectively.
Pierre Gasly as an alternative claimed a career-best fourth on the grid for AlphaTauri, forward of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, who crashed himself simply after Tsunoda as he encountered the rookie driver’s stricken automobile at Flip 3.
Lando Norris certified sixth, though is underneath investigation from stewards over a red-flag infringement, with the in-form McLaren teenager having stayed out on observe as an alternative of reporting straight to the pits.
Fernando Alonso, in the meantime, sealed his greatest grid place since returning to the game in eighth for Alpine, out-qualifying Esteban Ocon for the primary time in 5 races.
Sebastian Vettel was unfortunate in eleventh.
The massive crashes from Azerbaijan GP qualifying
The Baku shootout was halted 4 occasions resulting from crashes, which each wrecked automobiles, and plenty of laps for rival drivers.
Lance Stroll was the primary to crash at Flip 15, proper in the beginning of Q1.
Quickly after qualifying resumed, it was stopped once more as Antonio Giovinazzi discovered the identical T15 obstacles in his Alfa Romeo.
In tough windy circumstances, Daniel Ricciardo was the following driver to deliver out the purple flags on his final flying lap in Q2 as he shunted into the wall at Flip 3. It wasn’t preferrred for Ricciardo, who’s desperately in search of type, nor the drivers on fast laps looking for Q3 equivalent to Vettel and Esteban Ocon.
Then it was Tsunoda, and Sainz’s, flip on the finish of Q3.
Azerbaijan GP qualifying: High 10
1) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
2) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
3) Max Verstappen, Purple Bull
4) Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri
5) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
6) Lando Norris, McLaren
7) Sergio Perez, Purple Bull
8) Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri
9) Fernando Alonso, Alpine
10) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes
Mercedes shock Purple Bull, Ferrari shock each
The primary qualifying session in Azerbaijan in two years was stuffed with crashes, and surprises. Not simply because Leclerc led Ferrari to back-to-back poles – having been with no pole since 2019 earlier than Monaco – but additionally as a result of Hamilton managed to wrestle Mercedes again forward of Purple Bull.
By means of Friday and Saturday’s observe, it appeared like Mercedes might properly be Q2 casualties not to mention pole contenders, with Purple Bull seemingly comfy. However a late setup change on Hamilton’s automobile did the trick, with the Englishman fast all through the shootout.
Hamilton used a low-downforce rear wing that helped his straight-line velocity, a special setup to team-mate Bottas who struggled.
“We saved our composure,” mentioned Hamilton. “We have continued to have tough discussions within the background and difficult each other, and simply by no means taking no for a solution. We have moved round, made so many modifications, over these two days. Simply chasing our tail and it has been so tough.
“However the work in a single day and significantly between the periods was wonderful from the crew and actually happy with everybody for retaining constructive. To be up there and so shut to those guys is a good begin.”
Hamilton will subsequently begin Sunday’s race simply forward of Verstappen, who he trails by 4 factors within the 2021 title standings.
Verstappen, who returned to the observe in qualifying following a crash on the finish of P3, seemed to be hitting type in direction of the top of the shootout earlier than the purple flag, and so was understandably offended.
However his team-mate’s lack of tempo was extra complicated, with Perez having appeared to be a match for Verstappen heading into qualifying earlier than ending 0.3s off in seventh.
Purple Bull boss Christian Horner insists Purple Bull are nonetheless in fine condition for the race.
An intriguing battle subsequently awaits, very probably between three groups and plenty of drivers.
Azerbaijan GP Qualifying Timesheet
|1) Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||1:41.218|
|2) Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||+0.232|
|3) Max Verstappen||Purple Bull||+0.345|
|4) Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri||+0.347|
|5) Carlos Sainz||Ferrari||+0.358|
|6) Lando Norris||McLaren||+0.529|
|7) Sergio Perez||Purple Bull||+0.699|
|8) Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri||+0.993|
|9) Fernando Alonso||Alpine||+1.109|
|10) Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes||+1.441|
|Knocked out in Q2|
|11) Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin||1:42.224|
|12) Esteban Ocon||Alpine||1:42.273|
|13) Daniel Ricciardo||McLaren||1:42.558|
|14) Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo||1:42.587|
|15) George Russell||Williams||1:42.758|
|Knocked out in Q1|
|16) Nicholas Latifi||Williams||1:43.128|
|17) Nikita Mazepin||Haas||1:44.158|
|18) Mick Schumacher||Haas||1:44.238|
|19) Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||No time set – crashed|
|20) Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||No time set – crashed|
When is Sunday’s Grand Prix?
Lights out for the high-speed Azerbaijan GP is at 1pm, dwell on Sky Sports activities F1. Intensive build-up begins at 11.30am.