Valtteri Bottas has beaten Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton by five-hundredths of a second to take pole in another crazy qualifying session for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. The Silver Arrows pulled out a lap putting themselves three tenths ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
Mercedes had struggled this weekend to unlock the performance of the car and have trailed Ferrari throughout most of the limited running. However, the five times champions once again managed to pull it out the bag pushing Vettel down to third. The German ahead of the Red Bull of Max Verstappen.
Bottas appears to have benefited from a slipstream along the main straight and that allowed him to outpace his teammate. But it appeared risky, as the team delayed their final run and allowed themselves room to use a huge slipstream along the final straight as the rest of the cars created a hole in the air for them to benefit from the slipstream.
Bottas said “Ferrari have been really strong. Charles was out by a mistake and as a team, we did a really good job after such a difficult practice. It’s all about small margins and I got a good tow on the last lap. The corners I had to drive as well but it’s fine details and I hit the sweet spot.”
Hamilton added “This is a massively great result for us. We came here without an upgrade, the Ferraris looked particularly quick and also Max – for us to lock out the front row in the circumstances I’m really grateful for and puts us in a fighting position tomorrow.”
Baku the land of fire, proved once again to be a challenge for all the drivers as the session was interrupted multiple times by red flags and damage to the circuit. Verstappen was left with only a single run in Q3 after Charles Leclerc crashed the Ferrari into the castle wall the second driver in the session to do so.
It will be seen as another afternoon where Ferrari’s potential has failed to materialise when it matters, and not for the first time this season. Vettel couldn’t unlock his teammate’s pace and take the fight to Mercedes. Leclerc may have called himself “stupid”, but he wasn’t the only victim this weekend or in qualifying.
He told Sky Sports “I don’t want to say anything stupid but I think after FP1, FP2 and FP3 and Q1, pole was possible today and I throwed all the potential in the bin. I’m very disappointed and will come back stronger from this.”
“I braked as much as I did on the softs but I was on the mediums and locked up. It’s no problem with the tyres it’s just myself. For the next three or four hours I will be beating myself up.”
Earlier in the session, Williams’s Robert Kubica slammed the car into the wall and out of qualifying. The incident adds to an already costly weekend for the British team, after teammate George Russell crashed heavily into the wall on Friday.
The Pole walked away from the wreckage unharmed, but it rounded off a disappointing session for the 34-year-old after he set a time 0.4s off teammate George Russell in nineteenth.
That left the Red Bull with only a single run in Q3 putting Max Verstappen fourth, three tenths off Vettel but over half a second ahead of the Racing Point of Sergio Perez. The Dutchman failed to bring through the power his car had shown in Q1 and Q2. While teammate Pierre Gasly chose to sit out the rest of the session, knowing he would start from the pit lane for failing stop at the weighbridge at the end of Friday practice.
The Frenchman was also excluded from the session, after his Red Bull car breached fuel flow rules. The stewards’ decision will make no difference to the grid because Gasly was already destined for a pitlane start as a punishment for missing a call to the weighbridge at the end of Friday practice. Gasly and Red Bull’s breach of the fuel flow limit of 100kg per hour have been found in qualifying.
Daniil Kvyat was sixth fastest, the Toro Rosso two hundredths faster than the McLaren of Lando Norris. The Bristolian continued his qualifying form getting into the final part of qualifying for the third time this season.
However that was at the expense of teammate Carlos Sainz, he was pushed into the drop zone missing out by one-hundredth of a second. That put him ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and Alex Albon, with the British-Thai driver clipping the wall in Q2.
Both Alfa Romeo’s made it into Q3 for the first time this season, with Antonio Giovinazzi out qualifying the more experienced Kimi Raikkonen. However, a ten-place grid penalty sees him start nineteenth.
It was a disappointing session for Haas, Kevin Magnussen only fourteenth and teammate Romain Grosjean seventeenth. Things were slightly better for there main rivals Renault with Daniel Ricciardo twelfth, but his teammate Nico Hulkenberg was only eighteenth.
Lance Stroll failed to match teammate Perez, for the fourth time this year the Canadian was knocked out of Q1 by Ricciardo. The Australian positioned himself behind Stroll for his final lap, benefitting from the tow both in the first and last sectors to take the position by a tenth and a half.