Leclerc scores pole position for Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc achieved his fifteenth career pole position with an incredible lap around the streets of Baku. This is his sixth pole in eight races this season, showcasing his confidence and speed in qualifying driving that beautiful F1-75 race car.

After trading fastest times in each sessions at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Sergio Perez just missed out on scoring P1 but getting a front row start is a good position considering the RB18 is very fast in a straight-line. His Red Bull teammate and championship leader Max Verstappen is right behind with P3.

It was an exciting qualifying session and the Ferrari driver had been adrift of teammate Carlos Sainz in the early part of Q3, but Charles stepped up with a mighty final flying lap turned in a rapid first two sectors.

A weekend-best time of one minute, 41.359 seconds at Baku, a circuit thought to favour Red Bull, gave Leclerc a substantial 0.282 seconds cushion over Sergio Perez as points leader Max Verstappen snared third.

Sainz, meanwhile, backed off on his last attempt to settle in fourth but was still some nine tenths quicker than the next car, George Russell in the Mercedes W13.

Former championship leader Leclerc, who has not won a race since the third round in Australia, was 0.05 seconds adrift of Sainz after the first batch of quick laps in the final shootout for pole.

But he still retained second as Perez brushed the inside wall when entering Turn 5, having already oversteered on the exit of Turn 1, to nick third ahead of Verstappen.

The Ferraris were doing the damage in the first two sectors although the RB18s were faster by 0.2 seconds on the long sprint to the line.

Sainz was first to go for a final flying lap but was slow through the Turn 5-6 chicane and messy on the exit of Turn 7 to back out of his effort.

That threw the attention on Leclerc, who set the fastest first and second sectors of the day to have a massive half-second cushion ahead of the flat-chat run to the line.

Perez was able to use the grunt of the rebadged Honda power unit to close a little after setting two personal best sectors but failed to match the rapid Ferrari driver across the line by nigh on 0.3 seconds.

This came after Checo was late out for his final lap when the engine struggled to fire, which teammate Verstappen questioned – seemingly having been left without a tow.

The trend of Verstappen falling fractionally behind his Monaco-winning stablemate continued as the defending champion ran to a one minute, 41.706 seconds, missing Perez by 0.06 seconds.

Sainz held in fourth ahead of Russell, while Pierre Gasly ran to sixth as part of an impressive double Q3 appearance for AlphaTauri.

Lewis Hamilton, who struggled with his brake pedal, porpoising and was noted by the stewards for driving too slowly in Q2, mustered seventh ahead of Yuki Tsunoda. The Mercedes driver’s incident will be investigated after the session.

A fraught session for Aston Martin ended with Sebastian Vettel snaring ninth, the four-time champion recovering after nosing into the barriers in Q2 after a Turn 15 lock up and being fortunate not to damage the car.

Fernando Alonso, meanwhile, completed the top ten although caught the attention of Alex Albon earlier on, when he was accused by the Williams driver of deliberately causing a yellow flag.

Lando Norris was the first driver to miss out on Q3, having missed the cut off by 0.022 seconds in the 15-minute Q2 session – his cause not helped by a late error – that Perez had topped by 0.009 seconds over Leclerc.

Lando’s first effort was stymied by tyres that were not cool enough before being notably held up by Hamilton at the exit of Turn 12.

His final attempt to make it into the top ten was undone when he ran straight on at Turn 15, tethering him to P11 as Daniel Ricciardo was another 0.18 seconds in arrears in P12.

Esteban Ocon was P13 ahead of the Alfa Romeos. Zhou Guanyu has impressed by running fifth fastest on five-lap old tyres at the mid-point of Q1 but he and stablemate Valtteri Bottas were shuffled down to P14 and P15.

It was an evening of struggles for Bottas. He had run off at Turn 3 in the first part of qualifying and then had to abort his next flying lap to leave him adrift of Zhou initially.

Lance Stroll brought out the red flags following a second crash in quick succession in Q1, to pause a session that Verstappen would top with a one minute, 42.722 seconds to lead Perez by a tenth.

The Aston Martin driver was languishing down in P19, as teammate Vettel was running high in fifth position, but brought out a quick yellow flag when he hit the barrier at Turn 7.

Stroll locked the front-left and nosed into the Tecpro although punched reverse and was given the all-clear on damage to go again immediately for a flying lap to move into Q2.

But with two minutes and 30 seconds of Q1 to the 18-minute Q1 to play, he understeered through Turn 2 and whacked into the outside wall to rip off his front wing and crumple his right wheel.

The session was paused for ten minutes to add to the delayed start, while the cars most at risk of eliminated queued at the end of the pitlane in a bid to find clear track position.

That teed up a mini-race as all but the Ferraris, Red Bulls and Ocon waited to go out – with Alex Albon, Valtteri Bottas, Nicholas Latifi and Mick Schumacher in the drop zone alongside Stroll.

Schumacher was told to “push like hell” and Norris was handed the instruction: “elbows out, let’s overtake these cars”.

But when the Haas lunged on the McLaren into Turn 16 of the out-lap, both drivers had their lines for the 1.35-mile flat-chat sprint to the next braking zone of Turn 1 ruined.

Norris backed out of his lap and before long and so did teammate Ricciardo, but they were spared elimination (progressing in P13 and P14) when Fernando Alonso ran off.

The Alpine driver took to the escape road of Turn 15 to bring out a yellow flag, which the chasing Albon considered to be foul play, accusing Alonso of braking early and still missing the corner.

That left Kevin Magnussen, both Williams drivers and Schumacher at the back of the grid.

The Haas cars are also under investigation for the pitlane incident, thought to be butting their way into the queue out the team garage at the end of the pitlane at the start of Q1.

The session start had been delayed by 15 minutes to allow for repairs to the Tecpro barriers following a spate of crashes in the supporting Formula 2 sprint race.

So congratulations to Charles Leclerc with pole position at Azerbaijan Grand Prix. That was an epic lap around Baku and to be half a second clear ahead of his Ferrari teammate is supreme. And yet the straight-line speed of the Red Bull is going to make an exciting race. Game on.

Azerbaijan Grand Prix, qualifying results:
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:41.359
2 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:41.641
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:41.706
4 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:41.814
5 George Russell Mercedes 1:42.712
6 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 1:42.845
7 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:42.924
8 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:43.056
9 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1:43.091
10 Fernando Alonso Alpine 1:43.173
11 Lando Norris McLaren 1:43.398
12 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 1:43.574
13 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:43.585
14 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:43.790
15 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:44.444
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:44.643
17 Alex Albon Williams 1:44.719
18 Nicholas Latifi Williams 1:45.367
19 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:45.371
20 Mick Schumacher Haas 1:45.775

4 thoughts to “Leclerc scores pole position for Azerbaijan Grand Prix”

  1. Qualifying review as reported by

    Charles Leclerc took pole position with a stunning lap in qualifying for the 2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, as Sergio Perez put himself on the front row in P2.

    Leclerc set the ultimate benchmark of 1m 41.359s, going over two-tenths faster than Sergio Perez in a nailbiting Q3 session. Although he had provisional pole before that, Carlos Sainz couldn’t hook up his final effort and ended up fourth – behind Max Verstappen.

    George Russell rounded out the top five for Mercedes, Pierre Gasly sharing the third row with him with a solid showing for AlphaTauri. Unhappy throughout qualifying, Lewis Hamilton took seventh and will share row four with AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda.

    Sebastian Vettel took P9 for Aston Martin with Alpine’s Fernando Alonso rounding out the top 10.

    Q2 saw both McLarens and both Alfa Romeos eliminated: Lando Norris 11th and Daniel Ricciardo 12th; Zhou Guanyu 14th and Valtteri Bottas 15th. Between those orange and red pairs was the blue Alpine driver, Esteban Ocon.

    Haas’s Kevin Magnussen was left in Q1, taking a provisional P16 on the grid, Williams drivers Alex Albon 17th and Nicholas Latifi 18th.

    Aston Martin driver Lance Stroll crashed out of Q1 and will start a provisional P19 on the grid ahead of Haas’s Mick Schumacher, 20th.

    Q1 – Red flag makes for late chaos as drivers scramble for space

    Long shadows crept across the Baku City Circuit for Saturday evening’s qualifying session, Perez having led two of three preceding practice sessions – Leclerc at the top in Friday’s FP2.

    But it was Verstappen, with a tow off his team mate, who set the benchmark for Q1 with a time of 1m 42.772s, Perez going just 0.011s off in P2. Ferrari weren’t far off, Leclerc 0.143s off in third and Sainz another tenth away in P4. In the drop zone with time ticking mercilessly away were both Williams, Alfa Romeo’s Bottas – who aborted his first run – then Stroll and Schumacher.

    A red flag would follow, pausing the session with two minutes and 30 seconds remaining after a brace of errors from Stroll; the Aston Martin driver locked up and tapped his front wing going into Turn 7. But on the following lap came his session-ending error, the Canadian clattering into the barriers at Turn 2.

    Cue a mad scramble for track position at the end of Q1, Mercedes leading the line of cars out of the pits, numerous drivers being told to push on their out-laps – producing a race to the start-finish line as drivers began their flying laps side-by-side.

    Despite beginning his lap alongside Latifi, Bottas managed to just make it out of the bottom five, claiming P15 with a margin of 0.165s over Haas’s Magnussen.

    Williams drivers Albon – furious that Alonso had compromised his lap – and Latifi were eliminated in 17th and 18th respectively, while Stroll stayed 19th after his crash and Schumacher rounded out the standings in P20 for Haas.

    Gasly jumped to P5 to drop Aston Martin driver Vettel down to sixth, while AlphaTauri team mate Tsunoda took P7 and Mercedes’ Russell P8. A solid showing from Zhou put the Alfa Romeo ninth ahead of Alpine’s Ocon.

    Hamilton finished 11th while Alonso took 12th, the Alpine driver having gone into the Turn 15 run-off on his final lap – that action causing Albon to back off under caution and infuriating the Williams driver in the process. McLaren’s drivers were next, Norris 13th and Ricciardo 14th, with Bottas the last to make it into Q2.

    Knocked out: Magnussen, Albon, Latifi, Stroll, Schumacher

    Q2 – Perez hits back in a dramatic session

    Hamilton, Ocon and Ricciardo were in trouble after the opening laps, while Alfa Romeo had not emerged. Early in Q2, Sainz was top by a tenth ahead of Leclerc – who made a mistake coming out of the final corner – while Verstappen and Perez were just a few hundredths behind the Monegasque.

    Vettel, like Stroll in Q1, had a huge lock-up at Turn 15 and went square into the barriers with seven minutes left to bring out a brief yellow – reiterating the strength of those Aston Martin front wings.

    The order eventually shuffled with Perez going top with a time of 1m 41.955s, Leclerc 0.091s behind while Sainz was eventually 0.133s off the Mexican. Verstappen, fourth, was 0.139s behind his team mate – while Gasly rounded out the top five.

    In P6 was Mercedes’ Hamilton, audibly frustrated after repeated attempts to make it up from P11 before getting a useful tow from Russell (P8). Between the Mercedes was Vettel in P7, and behind them was Alonso in P9.

    With a compromised out-lap as he came across a slow-going Hamilton, Norris backed out of his final flying effort and was out of Q2 by just 0.022s to AlphaTauri’s Tsunoda. Team mate Ricciardo was also out in 12th, while Ocon was 13th. Alfa Romeo’s Zhou finished 14th, Bottas 15th.

    The session would end with Hamilton under investigation for driving too slowly.

    Knocked out: Norris, Ricciardo, Ocon, Zhou, Bottas

    Q3 – Sainz watches shot at maiden pole slip away

    There was barely a shadow in sight for Q3, so low had the sun dropped. The temperatures had dropped too, drivers able to eke out more than a flying lap from their soft compounds.

    Gasly set the pace early on from Russell then Hamilton, but the Red Bulls and Ferraris were yet to emerge. And when they did, it was Sainz who set the provisional pole time with a 1m 41.814s, Leclerc 0.047s off with a slide out of Turn 12. Perez was next, 0.126s off Sainz, and Verstappen fourth by another five-hundredths. The Scuderia were on for a second straight one-two in qualifying…

    An issue for Perez kept him in the garage just a bit longer than his team mate, leaving him without a tow. And with Sainz looking to keep his pole, there would be no tow for or from Leclerc either.

    The Spaniard almost hit the barriers coming out of Turn 2 as he pushed the limits and lost almost half a second on his effort. Leclerc however improved in the first sector, and again in the second… and it turned out to be a lap good enough for pole position as he set the benchmark of 1m 41.359s.

    Verstappen briefly shot to second but Perez eclipsed him by eight-hundredths, for second on the grid. And, cursing the extra inches he took leaving Turn 2, Sainz settled for fourth.

    Russell rounded out the top five for Mercedes, 1.353s off pole, while Gasly took sixth for AlphaTauri.

    Perturbed by porpoising, Hamilton took seventh for Mercedes, just over two-tenths behind Russell, while Tsunoda was just over a tenth behind Hamilton on his way to P8.

    Vettel was another 0.04s behind Tsunoda in ninth and in P10 was Alonso, the Spaniard 0.08s behind the four-time champion.

  2. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc “did not expect” Baku Formula 1 pole after Q1 and Q2 performances. provides the full story.

    Charles Leclerc says he “did not expect” to take pole position for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, having finished third in Q1 and second in Q2.

    Despite thoughts that the circuit would favour championship leaders Red Bull, the Ferrari driver set a weekend-best time of 1m41.359s to land his sixth pole of the season.

    He finished the session 0.282s ahead of Red Bull’s Sergio Perez in second, with points leader Max Verstappen in third.

    Leclerc says he “really struggled to see that we were faster” before “everything came together” in his last lap.

    He said: “It feels good this one. Obviously all pole positions feel good. But this one I probably did not expect it because I thought Red Bull was stronger, especially in Q1 and Q2, I really struggled to see that we were faster.

    “But then in the last lap, everything came together. And again, I managed to do a good lap so extremely happy.”

    Former championship leader Leclerc, who has not won a race since the third round in Australia, was 0.05s adrift of teammate Carlos Sainz after the first batch of quick laps in the final shootout for pole.

    But on his final run, he set the fastest first and second sectors of the day to have a massive half-second cushion ahead of the flat-out run to the line.

    Leclerc says he is “really excited” for Sunday’s race, but warned that tyre management could play a big part.

    He added: “I’m really excited for tomorrow. I think we’ll have quite a bit of tension tomorrow because tyre management is a big thing here.

    “In Barcelona and Monaco, I think we were managing it well. Even though Monaco it was difficult to see anything.

    “But overall, our race pace has done a step up since we brought the upgrade. So tomorrow it will be very interesting whether it will be the case here too.”

    Leclerc sits just nine points behind Verstappen in the drivers’ standings, with the gap he had built at the start of the season quickly reversed by the reigning champion despite suffering early reliability issues.

    Sainz will line up fourth for tomorrow’s race, with George Russell in fifth for Mercedes hoping to continue his run of top five finishes in every race so far this season.

  3. Red Bull’s Sergio Perez commented that the Formula 1 engine problem lost him a tow for final Q3 lap. provides the news story.

    Sergio Perez says an engine problem moments before his final qualifying run denied him a tow and the chance to fight for pole position for Formula 1’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

    The Red Bull driver was delayed leaving his garage for the final Q3 laps due to an engine refuelling issue, meaning he could not give a tow to teammate Max Verstappen.

    Due to the Baku track characteristics and its long main straight, drivers can find a chunk of laptime with the aid of a slipstream, which many teams had used to good effect during qualifying.

    But Red Bull lost the option ahead of the final Q3 run when Perez was stuck in the garage as he and Verstappen were scheduled to head out, with the Mexican feeling he lost out on a stronger chance to fight for pole because of the issue.

    “It was not an ideal qualifying because at the end, we just had a problem with the engine. We couldn’t turn it on,” Perez said after qualifying in second place behind Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc by 0.282s.

    “And that meant that we lost [time], I was basically on my own. And that’s very powerful around here.

    “Who knows if enough for pole, but certainly we lost a few tenths. But I think Charles has a very good lap.”

    Perez added in the post-qualifying press conference: “I need to speak with the guys, the car wouldn’t turn on, so I think there was a miscommunication.

    “But we just lost too many seconds and we got out in a rush as it was tough getting there to make the lap.”

    Verstappen also clarified he hadn’t expected to gain the tow from his Red Bull teammate for the final Q3 run due to their pre-qualifying run plan, after being heard on team radio asking about Perez’s issue.

    “No, we have a given [plan], one weekend Checo is ahead out of the box then I am ahead,” he said.

    “So I asked what happened there and they said there was a little issue that they had to resolve, so that’s why it took a bit longer for Checo to come out of the box.”

  4. Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton refutes Baku Formula 1 stewards’ call for alleged slow driving. has the details.

    Lewis Hamilton says he was well within his delta time after being called to the Formula 1 stewards’ office for driving unnecessarily slowly in Azerbaijan Grand Prix qualifying.

    McLaren driver Lando Norris was also called up for a similar offence, as the stewards noted an “alleged breach by cars 44 and 4 of Article 33.4 of the FIA Formula One sporting regulations and non-compliance with race director’s note; driving unnecessarily slowly at 18:59”.

    Those notes say that “in order to ensure that cars are not driven unnecessarily slowly during all laps of the qualifying sessions or during reconnaissance laps when the pit exit is opened for the race, drivers must stay below the maximum time set by the FIA between the safety car lines shown on the pit lane map”.

    After qualifying at the Spanish GP, the stewards noted that there were 55 such violations by 18 drivers, but the most serious offenders were Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher, both of whom received a warning.

    Speaking before his meeting with the stewards, Hamilton insisted that he had kept to the delta and had also been off the racing line.

    “We’re one of the slowest on the straight,” he said when asked about the incident by “So I needed a tow. The rule is you have to be within your delta time from the safety car one line to two line.

    “I was within my delta. I slowed down and pulled offline, completely offline, to let other cars go. But they didn’t want to go by.

    “So the interesting scenario is when we were in Barcelona, there were cars that just completely ignored the delta, and drove ridiculously slow. I think one or two of them got penalised, like a reprimand.

    “But in going as slow as they did, they were like way, way, way slower. They would have gained at least five degrees of tyre temperature cooler.

    “And that’s why they were so quick. And I remember when they were going slow, I went around them, so I didn’t have any problems.

    “But anyways, today I wasn’t below my delta. I was offline, it wasn’t unsafe.”

    Asked if he thought he would avoid sanction, Hamilton said: “I don’t think it’s wrong. They had the choice to go by, they didn’t. I was within my delta. So if I was below my delta I could understand, but I wasn’t.”

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