Charles Leclerc clinched pole position with a stunning lap in qualifying for the 2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, while Sergio Perez took first place in P2.
Leclerc set the ultimate benchmark of 1m 41.359s, passing more than two tenths faster than Sergio Perez in a biting Q3 session. Despite taking provisional pole before that, Carlos Sainz couldn’t hang his last effort and finished fourth – behind Max Verstappen.
George Russell completed the top five for Mercedes, with Pierre Gasly sharing third row with him with a strong performance for AlphaTauri. Unsatisfied throughout qualifying, Lewis Hamilton took seventh place and will share fourth row with AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda.
Sebastian Vettel took 9th place for Aston Martin with Alpine’s Fernando Alonso completing the top 10.
Running of the red bulls
Running of the red bulls
Q2 saw the two McLarens and the two 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 pilot, Esteban Ocon.
Haas’ Kevin Magnussen was left behind 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 in Q1 and will start a provisional P19 on the grid ahead of Haas’ Mick Schumacher in 20th.
Qualifying Highlights: Azerbaijan Grand Prix
HOW IT HAPPENED
Q1 – Red flag creates late mayhem as drivers jostle for space
Long shadows crept over the Baku circuit for Saturday night’s qualifying session, with Perez having led two of the previous three practice sessions – Leclerc leading in Friday’s FP2.
But it was Verstappen, with a tow from his teammate, who set the benchmark for Q1 with a time of 1m 42.772s, Perez losing just 0.011s in P2. Ferrari was not far behind, Leclerc 0.143s down in third and Sainz another tenth in P4. In the drop zone with time ruthlessly ticking away, Williams, Alfa Romeo’s Bottas – who halted his first race – then Stroll and Schumacher.
A red flag would follow, halting the session with two minutes and 30 seconds remaining after a series of errors by Stroll; the Aston Martin driver locked out and tapped his front wing into Turn 7. But on the next lap he made a session-ending error, with the Canadian crashing into the Turn 2 barriers.
WATCH: Stroll double crash ends in red flags in Baku qualifying
Cue a mad scramble for track position at the end of Q1, Mercedes leading the line of cars out of the pits, with many drivers being told to push on their exit laps – producing a race to the start line and finish line as the pilots began their side-by-side lap flight.
Azerbaijan GP 2022 qualifying: Stroll crashes twice in a row
Despite starting his round alongside Latifi, Bottas managed to climb out of the bottom five, claiming 15th place with a 0.165 margin over Haas’ Magnussen.
Drivers Williams Albon – furious that Alonso compromised his lap – and Latifi were eliminated 17th and 18th respectively, while Stroll remained 19th after his crash and Schumacher completed the P20 classification for Haas.
Gasly jumped into P5 to drop Aston Martin driver Vettel to sixth place, while AlphaTauri teammate Tsunoda took Mercedes’ P7 and Russell P8. A strong performance from Zhou puts the Alfa Romeo ninth ahead of Alpine’s Ocon.
Hamilton finished 11th while Alonso took 12th, the Alpine driver having entered Turn 15 on his final lap – this action forced Albon to back down cautiously and infuriated the Williams driver in the process. The McLaren drivers were next, Norris 13th and Ricciardo 14th, Bottas being the last to enter Q2.
Eliminated: Magnussen, Albon, Latifi, Stroll, Schumacher
Azerbaijan GP 2022 qualifying: Russell complains about Verstappen in first quarter
Q2 – Perez responds in a dramatic session
Hamilton, Ocon and Ricciardo struggled after the opening laps, while Alfa Romeo failed to emerge. At the start of Q2, Sainz was in the lead a tenth clear of Leclerc – who made a mistake on the exit of the final corner – while Verstappen and Perez were only a few hundredths behind the Monegasque.
Vettel, like Stroll in Q1, had a huge lock-up at Turn 15 and went squarely into the barriers with seven minutes to go to bring out a brief yellow – reiterating the strength of those Aston Martin front wings.
The order was eventually mixed up with Perez leading with a time of 1m 41.955s, Leclerc 0.091s behind while Sainz was ultimately 0.133s behind the Mexican. Verstappen, fourth, was 0.139 seconds behind his team-mate – while Gasly completed the top five.
In P6 was Mercedes’ Hamilton, visibly frustrated after repeated attempts to catch 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 exit lap as he encountered a sluggish Hamilton, Norris forfeited his last flying effort and was out of Q2 by just 0.022 seconds to AlphaTauri’s Tsunoda. His teammate Ricciardo also came out 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.
Eliminated: Norris, Ricciardo, Ocon, Zhou, Bottas
Azerbaijan GP 2022 qualifying: Vettel slips into barrier at turn 15
Q3 – The Sainz watches drawn at the inaugural pole slip away
There was barely a shadow in sight for the third term, so low was the sun. Temperatures had also dropped, with the riders able to do more than one fast lap with their soft tyres.
Gasly set the tone early on for Russell and then Hamilton, but the Red Bulls and Ferraris had yet to emerge. And when they did, it was Sainz who set the provisional pole time with a 1m 41.814s, Leclerc at 0.047s with a slide out of turn 12. Perez was next, 0.126s behind Sainz, and Verstappen fourth by an additional five hundredths. The Scuderia had gone for a second consecutive double in qualifying…
A problem for Perez kept him in the garage a bit longer than his teammate, leaving him without a trailer. And with Sainz looking to hold on to pole, there would be no tow for or from Leclerc either.
The Spaniard nearly hit the barriers on the exit 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 proved to be a sufficient lap for pole position as he set the benchmark of 1m 41.359s.
Verstappen briefly took second place but Perez eclipsed him by eight hundredths, for second place on the grid. And, cursing the extra centimeters he took on exiting Turn 2, Sainz settled for fourth.
Russell completed the top five for Mercedes, 1.353 seconds off pole, while Gasly took sixth for AlphaTauri.
Troubled by porpoising, Hamilton took seventh place for Mercedes, just over two-tenths behind Russell, while Tsunoda was just over a tenth behind Hamilton en route to P8.
Vettel was still 0.04 seconds behind Tsunoda in ninth and in P10 was Alonso, the Spaniard 0.08 seconds behind the four-time champion.
The key quote
“Feels good, that one. Obviously all the pole positions feel good, but this one I probably didn’t expect because I thought Red Bull were stronger, especially in Q1 and Q2, j really struggled to see that we were faster, but then on the last lap it all came together and I managed a good lap, so extremely happy…I’m really excited for tomorrow” – Charles Leclerc , Ferrari
Perez and Leclerc clash in the front row as Verstappen and Sainz chase. The Azerbaijan Grand Prix is due to start on Sunday at 3:00 p.m. local time. Head to the RACING HUB to see how to enter the action.