Vettel on pole at Baku

Three is the magic number as Sebastian Vettel claimed his third consecutive pole position in qualifying for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

The Ferrari driver’s first run in the Q3 was good enough to secure pole position by 0.179 seconds from Mercedes driver and title rival Lewis Hamilton after a lock-up spoiled his second attempt.

But in the final seconds of the session, it seemed Kimi Raikkonen was set for pole position having set the fastest times of all in the first two sectors.

The Iceman threw away that time by being too aggressive on the throttle out of the Turn 16 left-hander, which led to him losing enough time that he did not improve on his first run time.

This put Raikkonen down in sixth position, behind Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas and the Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.

Five of the top six will start on the supersoft Pirellis, having used them to set their times in Q2, the exception being Raikkonen who locked up on his flying lap and set his time on his second run using the ultrasofts.

Ricciardo appeared to benefit from a slipstream tow from Raikkonen to pip his team-mate by less than a tenth of a second.

Esteban Ocon performed strongly throughout qualifying to end up as best of the rest in seventh, a second off the pace, and just ahead of Force India team-mate Sergio Perez.

Nico Hulkenberg was ninth fastest, although has to serve a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change and will hand the place to Renault team-mate Carlos Sainz.

Lance Stroll came close to knocking Ricciardo out in Q2 with his late lap, which was just 0.103 seconds slower than the Red Bull driver’s supersoft pace and good enough for P11.

That put him three tenths clear of Williams team-mate Sergey Sirotkin, who survived an investigation into impeding Sauber driver Marcus Ericsson in Q1 without any action being taken.

Fernando Alonso was P13 for McLaren, having been shuffled down from ninth place after the first runs despite improving on his second set of ultrasofts.

Sauber’s Charles Leclerc was P14, while Haas driver Kevin Magnussen was just under seven tenths down in P15 after lapping over a second slower than he had in Q1.

Stoffel Vandoorne was the quickest driver to be eliminated in Q1 thanks to Stroll’s late lap of one minute, 44.359 seconds, which was 0.130 seconds quicker than the McLaren driver.

That also relegated Pierre Gasly to P17 after the Frenchman’s second run was ruined by an incident with Toro Rosso team-mate Brendon Hartley.

Hartley was moving slowly with a puncture at Turn 14 when Gasly happened upon him at the fast left-hand kink while on a lap that looked quick enough to get him into Q2.

Gasly just managed to swerve around the right side of Hartley and narrowly avoid contact, but he mounted the outside kerb and ended up in the Turn 15 escape road before returning to the pits – labelling what happened “unacceptable” over the radio.

“I was trying to get out of the way of Gasly but it was too late,” said Hartley over the radio. “I feel pretty stupid about Gasly.”

Hartley had to abandon his quick lap from the first run, and did not have time to have another run after his puncture so ended up down in P19 behind Ericsson having not set a serious lap time.

Haas driver Romain Grosjean was P20 having not set a time thanks to stopping with a gearbox problem early in Q1.

So a brilliant result for Sebastian Vettel with his 53rd pole position in Formula 1. His Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was too aggressive in the final sector and had to settle with P6.

Sunday’s race is going to be fascinating as Mercedes and Red Bull are looking strong. The long straights at Baku will help overtaking so Vettel needs to keep an eye on his mirrors to stay out in front.

Qualifying positions:
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m41.498s
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m41.677s
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m41.837s
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 1m41.911s
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Renault 1m41.994s
6 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m42.490s
7 Esteban Ocon Force India-Mercedes 1m42.523s
8 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1m42.547s
9 Carlos Sainz Renault 1m43.351s
10 Lance Stroll Williams-Mercedes 1m43.585s
11 Sergey Sirotkin Williams-Mercedes 1m43.886s
12 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Renault 1m44.019s
13 Charles Leclerc Sauber-Ferrari 1m44.074s
14 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m43.066s*
15 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1m44.759s
16 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Renault 1m44.489s
17 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Honda 1m44.496s
18 Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 1m45.541s
19 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso-Honda 1m57.354s
20 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari –

*Five-place grid penalty following gearbox change

7 thoughts to “Vettel on pole at Baku”

  1. Baku qualifying review as reported by

    He struggled on Friday, but Sebastian Vettel found that little bit of magic once more on Saturday afternoon in Azerbaijan as he captured his third pole position in a row. However, Kimi Raikkonen blew Ferrari’s hopes of a front-row lockout after making a crucial mistake in the last sector of his final run. Up until that point the Finn had looked set to steal pole position away from his team mate, but instead he’ll line up in P6 as Lewis Hamilton held onto second place for Mercedes.

    The Briton, lying second to Vettel in the world championship, finished 0.179s behind the German and a couple of tenths ahead of Silver Arrows team mate Valtteri Bottas.

    The Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen were next up in fourth and fifth, the former pipping his team mate after gratefully picking up a tow from a recovering Raikkonen.

    Completing the top 10 in what was a thrilling session were the Force Indias of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez, making their first Q3 appearances of the year, and the Renaults of Nico Hulkenberg (who entered qualifying with a five-place grid drop hanging over him) and Carlos Sainz.

    Q1 had begun with drama almost from the off. The session was barely four minutes old when Romain Grosjean become the first casualty. A huge lock-up at Turn 3 forced him to take the escape road, causing a big flat spot on his front-left tyre – and ultimately a gearbox issue ended his day before it had even properly begun.

    As has been the pattern this season, Raikkonen started the qualifying process in impressive fashion and was the better of the two Ferraris at the beginning of Q1.

    With all 10 constructors running on the quickest ultrasoft tyres early on, Force India continued to show signs of improvement with Ocon temporarily going P2 ahead of Mercedes and Red Bull.

    Ocon’s team mate, Perez, perhaps tried too hard to match the Frenchman’s exploits. Turn 15 proved to be a big ask once again, with the Mexican overcooking the corner and ruining a set of tyres.

    The opening session was beginning to hot up, with Raikkonen still leading the way, when the Toro Rosso pair of Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley almost collided in what was a very lucky escape.

    A slow-moving Hartley was limping out of Turn 14 after suffering a puncture when an onrushing Gasly rounded the corner and came within inches of colliding full speed into the back of the Kiwi.

    Both Toro Rossos ultimately exited Q1, and were followed by McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne, Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson – the only driver to fail to reach Q2 this season – and Grosjean. On a positive note, rookies Charles Leclerc and Sergey Sirotkin moved into Q2 for the first time this year.

    The second segment saw the top three teams – Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull – send all their drivers out on supersoft rubber with an eye on tomorrow’s race, while the rest of the field emerged on ultrasofts.

    And, similar to the opening session, it didn’t take long for the tricky corners to bring out the best and worst of the drivers.

    Raikkonen suffered most after making a costly mistake and flat-spotting his tyres, forcing him to retreat to the pits for ultrasofts – a switch that will surely compromise him in the race when all around him will start on more durable rubber.

    The Finn did at least put the his purple tyres to good use, ending the session just over a tenth quicker than Hamilton as the Williams of Lance Stroll and Sirotkin, along with McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, Sauber’s Leclerc and Haas’s Kevin Magnussen (whose car lost bodywork at one stage) were the unfortunate ones to fail to reach Q3.

    So, who would come up with the goods in the all-important final session? Ferrari laid down the gauntlet when Vettel produced a superb lap to move to the top, an impressive 0.342s ahead of Hamilton.

    And that lap would ultimately prove enough for the German to secure his first hat-trick of pole positions since 2013 on a day when Ferrari on speed alone should have scored the 60th front row lockout in their F1 history.

    With the first four on the grid lining up in championship order and major gusts predicted to hit Baku on Sunday, the stage is set for what promises to be a thrilling Grand Prix.

  2. Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly says his high-speed Q1 near miss with teammate Brendon Hartley in Azerbaijan Grand Prix qualifying was the “scariest moment of my career”.

    The incident occurred at the end of Q1 in Baku, as Gasly happened upon a touring Hartley near the end of the lap before Turn 15.

    Hartley was going slowly, as he had hit the wall and punctured his front-left tyre, and Gasly had to take evasive action to avoid a massive accident, ending up down an escape road.

    “It was really scary, the scariest moment of my career,” said Gasly. “I didn’t know if he was going left or going right.

    “I don’t know what happened to Brendon, he slowed down massively. I was at 320kph and, honestly… he almost stopped, I tried to avoid him and I was sure I was going to crash.

    “I could already see myself in the air, I don’t know how I avoided it, but it was a pretty scary moment.

    “Maybe if he has a puncture it doesn’t help him. I am sure he didn’t do it on purpose, but he was on the line, I wasn’t sure if he was going to go on line or not.

    “I am sure it wasn’t on purpose, maybe next time we need a bigger gap between [our] two cars.”

    Hartley admitted blame for the incident, but was unaware Gasly was on a flying lap and catching him so quickly.

    “It was a disaster, pretty upset about that,” said Hartley. “I hadn’t put a lap on the board before then; both times yellow flags on my lap.

    “Then I clipped the inside wall and through the left hander I knew I had an issue and slowed down, I was unaware Pierre was so close behind me.

    “Obviously I was going half speed, trying to figure how bad the problem was and I completely messed it up. The problem is, with the walls, you don’t see them coming.

    “I made a big mistake, I’m sorry for him. I owe him a big apology for getting in the way and nearly causing a huge accident. I’m disappointed how that went down. Not a good day.”


  3. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel feared Q3 error would cost him pole after making an error. has the full details.

    Sebastian Vettel feared that he may have blown pole position on his final Q3 run at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, after making an error as he got “too excited”.

    The German had been at the top of the timesheets after the first runs, despite making two small mistakes, so was confident he could do even better on his second effort.

    But his hopes of an improvement were dashed at Turn 3 when he locked up, forcing him to abandon his lap and leaving him fearing the worst as he returned to the pits.

    “Q3 run one I was really happy with,” explained the Ferrari driver. “There was maybe a tiny bit in the middle sector, Turn 6 and Turn 11, where I was a bit greedy and went a bit wider than I should.

    “But the rest of the lap was really good. I had a good exit of the last corner which has been incredibly difficult today with the wind playing tricks on all of us I guess, and even a little bit of a tow with a car 5/6/7 seconds ahead. I was really happy with how that lap came together.

    “On the second run, I knew there was a little bit more in those places I just mentioned and the car was on fire straight away.

    “But I think I got a bit too excited for Turn 3 and tried to brake later, quite a bit later, than the laps before.”

    Vettel said that a subsequent lock up that left him with a flat spot left him convinced there was little point to carry on with the lap.

    “Once I hit the bumps, it locked the front and from then onwards the front left was flat spotted,” added the world championship leader.

    “I was quite upset at the time in the car because I burned my shot at an improvement – and I didn’t know what was going on around me.

    “When I then aborted the lap and came in I was told ‘pole position’, so I was quite happy – really happy.

    “The team has done well, we changed the car again overnight and found even more performance.”

  4. Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton admitted that the team changed “pretty much everything” on car to seek performance. has the news story.

    Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes changed “pretty much everything” to transform its car’s performance after Formula 1 free practice for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

    Mercedes had a difficult first day of practice on Friday, but Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas were back in the hunt in qualifying, securing second and third on the grid behind Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.

    “We were struggling yesterday, we came into today and the engineers did some really great work last night to understand where we were and how we could progress forward,” said Hamilton.

    “Thank you to them for their hard work. Today was a much more reasonable car.

    “There were still areas where we were lacking, but it’s a work in progress, and to be that close to the Ferraris is definitely a positive.”

    When asked by what the changes were, Hamilton said: “Pretty much everything on the car. We did a lot of changes.”

    Hamilton said he was surprised Red Bull’s challenge faded away, but he believes Mercedes can mount a challenge to Vettel with two cars in the mix against the Ferrari.

    “Sebastian did a great job today so congratulations to him,” he said. “Ferrari have been so dominant in the last couple of races pace-wise, we knew they would be quick here, which they have been all weekend.

    “Red Bull also looked promising, not really sure what happened to them.

    “To have both me and Valtteri up there is good for the team, a good boost, to be right up there in the mix, so we’re excited for the race.

    “Ferrari have a phenomenal car this weekend, but I am happy with the job the team did to get us from where we were yesterday to today. We are in the mix, so I will try to give Seb a hard time tomorrow.”

    Bottas added: “We are there with both cars now, we’re starting very close. The race here can be very crazy so we are up for the fight.

    “The end result today was a lot better than what we saw and what we thought it could be.

    “I feel maybe still Ferrari was too quick for us, but it’s a reasonable result, and now we have both cars in a good position to fight for the win.”

  5. Sebastian Vettel may have “got too excited” on his final lap in Baku qualifying and made a mistake, but the Ferrari driver’s first effort was so good, it earned him his third successive pole position…

    It’s the first time in the turbo hybrid era that Vettel has taken three poles on the bounce, the last time coming in Italy, Singapore and Korea in 2013 when he raced for Red Bull and went on to clinch what was his fourth consecutive drivers’ championship.

    Vettel said he lacked the rhythm on Friday in Azerbaijan, but the championship leader and the Prancing Horse found something overnight that transformed his feeling in the car.

    His first Q3 lap was strong, but he feared all was lost when he locked up on his final run in qualifying and was forced to back off.

    “We changed the car overnight and found more performance,” said Vettel. “I felt the car was good Q1, Q2 and in last sector of qualifying, I knew I had the car that does what I want.

    ”I felt I could get a good lap together. The first lap I was really happy. Maybe two tiny bits where it wasn’t exactly perfect.

    “I knew on the second run, the track would ramp up and I had to go out there again.

    “The car was on fire straight away, then I think I got a bit too excited for Turn 3 and tried to brake quite a bit later than before. The front left was flat-spotted.

    “I wasn’t sure whether I go straight or do I try to hang onto it. I tried to hang onto it.

    “I was quite upset at the time, as I burned my shot, and I didn’t know what was going on around me. I aborted the lap and when I came in and was told I was on pole, I was really happy.”

    Vettel joked he doesn’t have a crystal ball with which to predict the result tomorrow, but he is hopeful of a strong outcome as he now feels comfortable in the car around the tight Baku streets.

    “It will be an intense race, here anything can happen,” he said. “Safety cars are very likely. The good point was our car was very good this afternoon which should put us in a good place tomorrow.

    “Yesterday, I struggled with confidence and trust in the car and just rhythm, which is important round here. Today, when it clicks, it just keeps coming. It was really enjoyable.”

    Vettel currently leads the drivers’ championship by nine points from Lewis Hamilton, who starts Sunday’s race alongside him on the front row, with Valtteri Bottas a further five points back in third.


  6. The Iceman had the opportunity to score his first pole position of the season after setting purple sectors in 1 and 2, but Kimi Raikkonen had a sideways moment in sector 3 and lost out on pole. He admits Q3 error was “painful”. has the full story.

    Kimi Raikkonen has admitted the “f***-up” that cost him pole position for Formula 1’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix is “painful” and his own fault.

    The Ferrari drivers was two tenths quicker than Sebastian Vettel’s benchmark until he had a big sideways moment exiting Baku’s Turn 16 left-hander just after completing the second sector.

    That left Raikkonen sixth fastest, and he would have snatched pole had he completed the lap at that pace because Vettel did not improve his time after a mistake of his own.

    Raikkonen was unsure what caused the error as he had been more cautious on corner entry because of the high, changing winds but said he was not caught out by a gust.

    “No, obviously it was a f***-up,” he said. “A mistake. It cost us quite a few places so not the greatest end.”

    Asked by to explain if it was because his rear tyres were overheating or if he was too aggressive on the throttle, Raikkonen said he drove “no different, it just went”.

    “No issues, I took it easier even on the entry because obviously it’s been a bit trickier with the wind all day,” he said.

    “I don’t know, it just got sideways, I got it back but I knew already it was all gone because it’s flat out and a long straight [to complete the lap].”

    Raikkonen has enjoyed a strong start to the 2018 season and qualified on the front row for the opening three races.

    However, in Bahrain and China he was beaten to pole by Vettel after failing to fully convert strong practice pace.

    “Right now I’m disappointed with what happened today,” he said when asked by how frustrating it was after another imperfect final run in Q3.

    “I’ve been a few times disappointed. This is a different story and today, what can you do? I can only look in the mirror. It’s painful.”

    The Finn will start the race on ultrasoft tyres with the five in front of him on supersofts.

    “You always try to attack,” he said about his plan for the first stint. “Today it didn’t pay off, tomorrow is a new day. I haven’t really thought about tomorrow yet. We’ll see what we can do.”

  7. Force India driver Sergio Perez hails ‘massive’ qualifying result. has the details.

    Force India are back in the game. After being almost notable by their absence from the midfield battle to date this season, in Baku qualifying on Saturday they were (by some margin) ‘best of the rest’ behind the top three teams, with Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez seventh and eighth respectively.

    It was the first time this year that Force India have got both cars into Q3 and Perez said it had been a very big day for the him and the team, despite narrowly losing out in the times to Ocon – and to the sixth-placed Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen.

    “As a team result it’s a massive one, a massive boost for us,” said the Mexican. “We were clearly the fastest midfield team today.

    “I’m a bit disappointed the margin was so close, not just to my team mate but to Raikkonen, but my qualifying had been so low. I mean I didn’t get a clear lap up until Q3.

    “With the wind conditions that we had today – so many yellow flags were out – it was not the ideal preparation for Q3, but I’m very happy we made it.”

    Ocon was equally pleased with the obvious steps forward Force India have taken in Azerbaijan – a race where he and Perez famously clashed last year – and is confident a good result is possible on Sunday.

    “It’s been very strong this weekend – P3 for Sergio in FP1 and then P7 for us in FP2,” he said. “We’re solid overall. As a weekend I think we’ve brought good progress to the car.

    “It was very enjoyable to drive and we are where we deserve [to be] today. The team is working very, very hard and it’s still a long season, so I hope we can keep that position.

    “We have the pace overall for the long runs – if we have it in quali it should be okay in the race – but you know there’s a lot of opportunities here to gain or to lose, so you have to be careful with what you do in the race.”

    Perez insisted there would definitely be no repeat of last year’s coming together between the two pink and white cars, adding: “We know that tomorrow is a massive opportunity for us, to be able to score a good amount of points for the team.”

    He also conceded that while on speed alone Force India won’t be podium contenders on Sunday, different climatic conditions and the unpredictability of the Baku City Circuit could throw up an unexpected result.

    “Tomorrow is going to be a new track – we’re expecting cooler track temperatures, the wind to pick up, so it will be quite interesting. On pure pace I don’t believe (a rostrum is possible), but it’s Baku and so much can happen here.”

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