Hamilton scores his 66th career pole at Baku

Lewis Hamilton won the Mercedes duel from Valtteri Bottas in qualifying to record his 66th career pole at the Baku Street Circuit.

This latest achievement in Formula 1 means Hamilton is just two poles away in equalling Michael Schumacher’s record of 68. The form that Hamilton is on, the triple champion can surpass this and record more.

Hamilton was the only driver to lap under one minute, 42 seconds in Q1 and was comfortably fastest with a single run in Q2 as well.

He let Bottas get briefly ahead during the initial runs in Q3, after locking up and running wide at Turn 16 near the end of his quickest lap, before Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull hit the wall at the Turn 6 right-hander, bringing out the red flags and spoiling a potentially faster lap for Hamilton.

That incident turned the session into a one flying lap dash once the Red Bull was cleared, and Hamilton pulled out an awesome effort on his final run to claim pole by almost half a second from Bottas.

Both Ferraris struggled in qualifying, with Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel taking to the escape road at Turn 3 during their first runs.

Raikkonen recovered best to claim third on the grid, but over six tenths of a second down on the Mercedes of fellow Finn Bottas.

Vettel was fourth in the sister Ferrari, fractionally ahead of the surviving Red Bull of Max Verstappen.

Sergio Perez pipped Force India team-mate Esteban Ocon by less than a tenth of a second to complete the top six, while Lance Stroll narrowly outqualified Williams team-mate Felipe Massa for the first time to claim a career-best eighth on the grid.

Ricciardo ended up slowest in Q3 following his crash.

The pace of the top five teams ensured there wasn’t much of a fight to make it through to Q3.

The Toro Rossos of Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz weren’t fast enough to challenge the Williams and Force Indias, but were comfortably quick enough to outpace Kevin Magnussen’s Haas (even with the benefit of an aerodynamic tow from Sainz), Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault – which lost power after only one run in Q2 – and Pascal Wehrlein’s Sauber, which the Mercedes junior driver heroically dragged into the top 15.

A last-ditch effort from Magnussen ensured a Haas made it through to Q2 at the expense of Fernando Alonso’s McLaren-Honda, which ended up P16, fitted with a ‘spec 2’ engine, and just 0.017 seconds shy of beating Wehrlein’s Sauber into Q2.

Alonso is set to drop to the rear of the grid thanks to his 40-place grid penalty for various engine component changes, which will promote Romain Grosjean’s Haas and the Sauber of Marcus Ericsson.

Stoffel Vandoorne was slowest of those that ran in qualifying, 0.235 seconds adrift of Ericsson, and will also cop a hefty grid penalty – including five places for an unscheduled gearbox change after final practice.

Jolyon Palmer was classified last in qualifying, without a lap time. He sat out the session after a high-pressure fuel leak caused his Renault to cook itself during the early stages of practice three.

The speed advantage from Mercedes was highly impressive in qualifying. The long, home straight really showcase the power and to be over a second clear from rival Ferrari underlines the dominance of this hybrid era of Formula 1.

The Azerbaijan Grand Prix is going to be fascinating on Sunday. Can Hamilton reduce the points gap to Sebastian Vettel? What can Valterri Bottas do? Is he able to challenge for victory? Bring on the race.

Qualifying positions, Baku:

1    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    1m40.593s
2    Valtteri Bottas    Mercedes    1m41.027s
3    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    1m41.693s
4    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    1m41.841s
5    Max Verstappen    Red Bull-Renault    1m41.879s
6    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    1m42.111s
7    Esteban Ocon    Force India-Mercedes    1m42.186s
8    Lance Stroll    Williams-Mercedes    1m42.753s
9    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    1m42.798s
10    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-Renault    1m43.414s
11    Daniil Kvyat    Toro Rosso-Renault    1m43.186s
12    Kevin Magnussen    Haas-Ferrari    1m43.796s
13    Nico Hulkenberg    Renault    1m44.267s
14    Pascal Wehrlein    Sauber-Ferrari    1m44.603s
15    Carlos Sainz    Toro Rosso-Renault    1m43.347s
16    Romain Grosjean    Haas-Ferrari    1m44.468s
17    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    1m44.795s
18    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda     1m44.334s*
19    Stoffel Vandoorne    McLaren-Honda     1m45.030s*
20    Jolyon Palmer       Renault –

*Grid penalties for power unit change

4 thoughts to “Hamilton scores his 66th career pole at Baku”

  1. Azerbaijan Grand Prix qualifying review as reported by Formula1.com.

    Lewis Hamilton will start the 2017 Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix from pole position after beating Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas by half a second in a frantic end to Saturday’s qualifying session in Baku. Championship leader Sebastian Vettel finished fourth behind Ferrari partner Kimi Raikkonen.

    Q3 was red flagged with 3m 33s remaining after Daniel Ricciardo lost the rear of his Red Bull on the exit of Turn 6 and clouted the wall, ending the Australian’s hopes. It set up a barnstorming end to the hour when running resumed.

    Max Verstappen was first on track and took the sole remaining Red Bull to fifth, ahead of the Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon. Williams rookie Lance Stroll out-qualified team mate Felipe Massa for eighth, with the unfortunate Ricciardo completing the top ten.

    Hamilton had dominated Q1 with a lap of 1m 41.983s which left Verstappen breathless on 1m 42.544s as Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Vettel (with a new ‘old’ engine in his Ferrari after his car developed a water leak in FP3) and Bottas followed.

    Down the back, Kevin Magnussen saved what was looking like a disastrous session for Haas by bumping Fernando Alonso out of Q2 at the last moment. Thus the McLaren star was 16th on 1m 44.334s ahead of ‘wallbanger’ Romain Grosjean in the other Haas on 1m 44.468s.

    Marcus Ericsson was the lone Sauber eliminated on 1m 44.795s as team mate Pascal Wehrlein had produced a great 15th fastest lap of 1m 44.317s, which left McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne as the final dropout in 19th with 1m 45.030s, as Jolyon Palmer’s Renault was still out of action following its FP3 fire.

    Hamilton went even faster in Q2, drawing gasps with 1m 41.275s, which Bottas eventually got closer to with m 41.502s as Vettel claimed third with 1m 41.911s.

    The Toro Rosso boys batted throughout and were the first fallers in 11th and 12th, with Daniil Kvyat on 1m 43.186s and Carlos Sainz on 1m 43.347s. Behind them, Magnussen was 13th on 1m 32.796s, as Nico Hulkenberg struggled to 1m 44.267s after electrical problems on his Renault, and Wehrlein lapped his Sauber in 1m 44.603s.

    Hamilton looked set to dominate the first runs in Q3 again, but had a less than great third sector, so Bottas was the faster this time with 1m 41.274s to 1m 41.428s. That left them comfortably ahead of Verstappen on 1m 42.261s and Raikkonen on 1m 42.446s, however, as Vettel’s hopes of improving on 1m 43.194s ended in the Turn 2 escape road.

    Then Ricciardo’s Red Bull stopped in Turn 6, after he broadsided and brushed the outer wall, bringing out the red flag. At the same time Raikkonen had gone off in Turn 2, and Perez brushed a wall, so team mate Ocon was the faster Force India in fifth on 1m 42.833s, ahead of Vettel.

    Neither Williams had run by this stage.

    After the nine-minute delay, would anyone be able to generate sufficient tyre and brake temperatures to improve in the three and a half minutes that remained?

    Yes was the answer. Bottas improved, to 1m 41.027s, but Hamilton pulled out a stonker to snatch pole back with 1m 40.593s.

    As Verstappen failed to improve on 1m 41.879s, Red Bull saw their second-row slot disappear as both Raikkonen and Vettel improved, to 1m 41.695s and 1m 41.841s apiece.

    Perez jumped up too, to sixth in 1m 42.111s as Ocon failed to better his 1m 42.186s, while Stroll just edged out Williams team mate Massa, with 1m 42.753s to 1m 42.798s. Ricciardo was left 10th on his previous 1m 43.414s.

    Both McLarens will start from the rear of the field on Sunday thanks to multiple grid penalties for use of additional Honda power unit elements, while Sainz will lose three grid spots for causing a collision last time out in Canada. 

  2. Lewis Hamilton has described his Baku pole lap as “do or die”. Motorsport.com has the full story.

    Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton described his Azerbaijan GP pole lap as “do or die”, having overhauled teammate Valtteri Bottas at the very end of the Q3 shoot-out.

    Hamilton, who had crashed in Q3 during the inaugural Baku F1 race last year, looked like he’d miss out on pole again this time around, as he trailed Bottas after a mistake on his first flying lap in the final segment.

    But while a red flag triggered by Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo scuppered his second effort, Hamilton was left with enough time to have another go after the session restarted – and duly beat Bottas by 0.434s to score his 66th pole in F1.

    “It was do or die,” Hamilton said in the post-qualifying press conference. “If ever there was a time for me to perfect, that was the time.

    “In qualifying, sometimes you don’t extract it, but it was a perfect lap.”

    Hamilton admitted he had been “greedy” on his first Q3 effort, which appeared set to put him top of the timesheets before he ran wide at Turn 16.

    “The lap before was very good until the last corner – and so weird that, just before going into it, I thought ‘don’t be greedy’. And, of course, I was greedy and locked up.”

    His subsequent pole benchmark was especially notable because he only had time for one warm-up lap out of the pits despite Mercedes having appeared to struggle more than its direct rivals to get its tyres up to temperature.

    “All weekend we have not been able to do it on one [preparation] lap but others have, so I had to give it everything I had,” he said. “Valtteri, I could see he was on a great lap as well.

    “Even if it was [only for] second, it was one ultimate lap that I could be proud of.”

    Bottas, who likewise improved on his final effort after a single preparation lap, admitted his final attempt was not perfect.

    “Not clean enough, didn’t get enough grip. Before the red flag it was going okay, so [I’m] disappointed in the end to lose the pole position, that was the target for me today.

    “I am proud – we made quite big changes in practice sessions, we were lost in the beginning and managed to turn it around and we think, for tomorrow, we have a great starting position and a good fight to get another 1-2 for the team.”

    Mercedes GP non-executive chairman Niki Lauda said only Hamilton could have achieved the lap that earned pole in Baku.

    “We had some problems on Friday but the team did a fantastic job to set the car up in the right way,” he told Sky F1.

    “And Lewis with his lap here – I’ve never seen anything like it.

    “It was not plain sailing at all. But I tell you, a lot of thinking, digging, back to the factory, forwards, and whatsoever, and in the end the improvement the engineers and all the mechanics did to the car was outstanding. And Lewis what he did today, nobody else I think can do that.”

  3. Championship leader Sebastian Vettel has “no doubts” Ferrari can match Mercedes’ race pace after being over a second adrift in qualifying. Motorsport.com has the details.

    Sebastian Vettel believes that Ferrari can turn around its qualifying defeat by Mercedes in Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

    Vettel could only qualify fourth, behind both Mercedes and teammate Kimi Raikkonen, in Baku on Saturday.

    “The result is OK, but we’re not entirely happy obviously,” said Vettel. “This morning didn’t help [when he lost FP3 running time with a hydraulic problem], but that’s not an excuse. We are doing enough laps.

    “In the end I was alone and had no tow in the last sector, but I’m not a big fan of excuses. I could have done a bit better, but probably P3 was the maximum.

    “I think everybody was surprised by how much Mercedes improved [in qualifying]. However, we must be careful not to read too much into it. If you’re totally comfortable with your car on a circuit like this one you can easily gain quite an amount of time.”

    Vettel believes that the raw pace advantage of the Mercedes will be less apparent in the race on Sunday.

    “We’re a little more confident that we’ve found a bit more in the car, so I wouldn’t worry too much,” he added. “Obviously it’s not ideal where we qualified, tomorrow is a long race and the pace should be good.”

    When quizzed by NBC Sports over Ferrari’s one-second pace deficit to Mercedes today, Vettel fired back: “Today they did, I don’t think they have [it] tomorrow.

    “We start P4, if I improve by one position that’s a podium, and we see. I think Mercedes will also be quick tomorrow, but I have no doubts that we can be a match.

    “On Friday, our long-runs were very good. But this doesn’t help much when you start a bit further back.”

  4. Max Verstappen has called on Red Bull to fix the technical gremlins that are costing him results, after losing what he believed should have been third position behind the Mercedes duo on the grid in Baku.

    A fortnight after he was forced out of Canadian Grand Prix with a battery issue, Verstappen also ground to a halt in FP3 this morning with an electrical shutdown.

    In Azerbaijan GP qualifying on Saturday, he encountered engine cuts and a gear synch issue, and believes the latter issue cost him two places on the grid.

    “It’s not really nice to be fifth,” he said. “Of course, the problem in P3 was not ideal. But also in Q2 I had some problems going to the limiter – the engine was cutting out a bit. So that was not good.

    “Then in Q3, my final lap, which of course counts, I was three tenths faster than my previous one then I lost gear synch, so on the straights I was losing a lot of time, which is of course very painful.

    “We need to get on top of that, because it shouldn’t happen. A lot of issues.

    “I’m a bit disappointed with fifth, even though with all the issues, we should have been third.”

    Verstappen was upbeat about recent developments, which include a software update from Renault which is allowing Red Bull to have more horsepower.

    “You can see there is a bit more horsepower, that’s good, but we always want more!” he quipped.

    “We definitely made a step forward here, with all the long straights. Second sector, where all corners are, we are in the fight – so that’s good.”

    Source: Motorsport.com

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