AZERBAIJAN GP – Charles Leclerc takes back to back poles in a disrupted qualifying

Testing & Race Reports

Charles Leclerc has taken back to back pole positions after going two tenths faster than Sir Lewis Hamilton an interrupted qualifying session for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. The session was interrupted by four red flags after many drivers struggled to keep their cars out of the walls.

Leclerc took pole on his first run after the final red flag saw all the drivers forced to abort their final runs when Yuki Tsunoda and Carlos Sainz both locked up and crashed their cars after locking up into Turn Four. The session resulting in four red flags, a joint record with Budapest 2016.

Hamilton appeared to make a step forwards after struggling on Friday appearing to challenge for pole, he was a tenth quicker than his title rival Max Verstappen. However was unable to finish his final attempt, after giving Leclerc a tow earlier in the session.

Mercedes looking to have the pace to challenge Red Bull, after making a series of setup changes to their car. They had looked to be at serious threat of being knocked out in Q2 after FP2, Hamilton taking a very different setup to Bottas going for a low downforce rear wing allowing him to gain m

Verstappen appeared frustrated by being a tenth behind Hamilton.

Red Bull looked to be the team to beat going into qualifying on single lap pace, but the disrupted session allowed Ferrari and Mercedes to go faster, there has been a turn around given the difficulties Hamilton had on Friday. Mercedes however appeared to change their performance with several set-up changes.

Leclerc said “It was quite a s*** lap I thought. There were like two or three corners I did mistakes, but then of course, I had the big tow from Lewis in the last sector which helped me a little bit. Overall I think we would have been there or thereabouts for pole without the slipstream.”

Hamilton added: “We definitely weren’t expecting that, and this is such a monumental result for us because we’ve been struggling like you couldn’t believe all weekend. You know, you can see it. We kept out composure and continued to have difficult conversations in the background and challenging one another and just never taking ‘no’ for an answer.”

Pierre Gasly had a brilliant qualifying putting himself fourth going a hundredth ahead of the second Ferrari of Sainz, the Frenchman’s best qualifying of his career. Again showing there is some performance in the Alpha Tauri and meaning there could be a really interesting battle in the midfield.

The anti-climax to the session meant all of the drivers failed to improve when the Spaniard locked up trying to avoid Tsunoda into Four running into the back of the Japanese driver.

Lando Norris was sixth for McLaren, however, the Englishman will start ninth after the stewards gave him a three-place grid penalty for not pitting immediately when  Antonio Giovinazzi crashed in Q1.

Norris was in touching distance of the pit lane but given the call to come in, but felt it was too late to comply at the time. He did an extra lap, but the stewards decided “Although the team ordered him immediately to enter the pits, it was too late and NOR crossed the finish line one more time. The Stewards assume that if a red flag is not respected during qualifying, a drop of 5 grid positions is appropriate.

“However, if you consider that the driver only had a very short time to react due to his position on the track, a drop of 3 grid positions is sufficient as an exception.” He will start the race from ninth and has now eight points on his licence putting him four away from a race ban.

Tsunoda starts eighth after going a tenth and a half faster than the Alpine of Fernando Alonso, with Valtteri Bottas starting tenth. He braked too late and locked his left-front, which sent him nose-first into the barriers.

With Sainz “losing the focus” as he followed Tsunoda’s lock-up and crashed, the Ferrari’s rear swinging around and its front wing being knocked off against the wall on the inside of the Turn 3 run-off area.

Sebastian Vettel appeared frustrated after missing out by two hundredths on a place in Q3 he starts ahead of Esteban Ocon, the session also ending in a red flag.

Daniel Ricciardo another driver to get caught out by Turn Three, clipping the wall with the right rear. The Australian losing this right front, leaving former teammate Sebastian Vettel frustrated after missing out on a place in Q3 by four-thousandths of a second.

Ricciardo was looking to secure his place in Q3 when he took too much speed into the corner which caused damage to his front wing and front right suspension. A disappointing session after he appeared to make progress in Monaco in understanding his McLaren

Esteban Ocon was two tenth faster than Ricciardo, the Alpine driver starting twelfth. Kimi Raikkonen was fourteenth ahead of George Russell. Following a water pump leak the Englishman was a huge benefactor from the forty-minute red flag in Q1 cased by Lance Stroll and Antonio Giovinazzi having separate crashes at Turn Fifteen knocking them both out in Q1 without setting a time.

The Alfa Romeo driver locked his left-front and went further into the barriers than Stroll, with Giovinazzi stopping immediately with the right-side of his car heavily damaged. While Stroll clouted the wall on exit breaking his front suspension.

It appeared as if the Canadian had a snap of oversteer going through the final corner, before locking up and causing his rear to slide into the wall, there will be questions whether he could have done more to avoid contact and bailed down the escape road.

However, it didn’t affect Nicolas Latifi and the two Haas’s of Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin failing to get out of Q1.

tifi and the two Haas’s of Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin failing to get out of Q1.

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