Sebastian Vettel has beaten Lewis Hamilton to take pole by a tenth of a second for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. The Ferrari driver looked stronger than his Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen, who was on a good lap when a gust of wind blew him off course.
The German had looked slightly off the pace in practice on Friday, but came back stronger in both third practice and qualifying. Vettel set his best time on his first run in Q3, while Hamilton narrowed the gap to a tenth after being three tenths off on his first run.
However, the Finn could have beaten both drivers, after he went fastest in the first two sectors but made a mistake at fifteen costing him a second in the final sector. That means he will start fourth, behind fellow Finn Valtteri Bottas starts third after being three tenths off Vettel. Raikkonen will start sixth behind the Red Bulls.
Daniel Ricciardo was fourth fastest ahead of teammate Max Verstappen, as the team looked unable to match the pace of the top two teams when they turned up the engines.
Vettel said “I felt the car was good in Q1, Q2 and then in the last section I knew I had the car that does what I want. The first lap I was quite happy but there were maybe two parts where it was not exactly perfect.”
“I knew the track would ramp up and I went out to go quicker. I was little bit up but then I locked up into Turn Three. It will be an intense race. Anything can happen. Safety cars are likely. The important thing is the car is in a good place.”
Hamilton added “That was close. We did the best job we could. It was very close. They have been quick all weekend. We are in the mix. This is the fifth best track to overtake and I am going to try to give Sebastian a hard time tomorrow.”
Ricciardo wasn’t far off the pace of Bottas, the speed of the Red Bull’s Renault engine left the Australian unable to challenge the top two teams. However, he was ahead of Verstappen by eight hundredths off a second.
Force India had the best qualifying of their season, both Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez being seventh and eighth. The duo spilt by two-hundredths of a second and were three hundredths off the pace of Raikkonen.
The two Renaults rounded out the top ten, with Nico Hulkenberg ahead of his teammate Carlos Sainz by two tenths. But the German will drop to fourteenth because of a gearbox penalty.
Lance Stroll gave Williams their best qualifying of the season so far, the Canadian was a tenth off knocking Ricciardo out in Q2. However, he was ultimately a tenth slower than Red Bull driver’s supersoft pace and good enough for eleventh.
That put Stroll three tenths ahead of his teammate Sergey Sirotkin, who was under investigation for impeding Sauber driver Marcus Ericsson in Q1 without any action being taken. Fernando Alonso failed to improve on his final in Q2, meaning he dropped from ninth to thirteenth, ahead of an impressive performance from Charles Leclerc.
Kevin Magnussen will be disappointed to start fifteenth after two top ten appearances during practice did not translate into ultimate qualifying pace. His teammate Romain Grosjean also struggled with the Haas, failing to get out of Q1 and starts last.
Drama on the streets of Baku came courtesy of the two Toro Rosso’s. Brendon Hartley suffered a puncher in the second sector, with his teammate Pierre Gasly on a quick lap needing to take avoiding action ruining his lap.
“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 settle for nineteen as he was unable to set a proper lap while Romain Grosjean was twentieth after he stopped on track with a gearbox problem