Azerbaijan Grand Prix: Leclerc beats Verstappen to pole position

129540874 leclerc


The Azerbaijan Grand Prix is live on 5 Live and the BBC Sport website

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc became the first non-Red Bull driver to take a pole position this year with a stunning lap at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Leclerc beat Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by 0.188 seconds. Sergio Perez was third in the second Red Bull ahead of Leclerc’s team-mate Carlos Sainz.

Lewis Hamilton took fifth ahead of Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso.

Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate George Russell failed to make it into the final session and will start 11th.

Leclerc, who excels at street tracks, has now set pole position at the Baku street circuit for the last three years and this one could be the best of the lot.

Underlining the quality of his performance, he was 0.813secs quicker than Sainz in fourth place.

Leclerc said: “For sure I’m surprised. We came into the weekend thinking it would be a great weekend if we are in front of Mercedes and Aston in qualifying and in the end we are on pole. I was very happy with the lap.

“We must not forget our race car is still behind the Red Bulls so it will be difficult to keep the lead but that is the target.”

Asked whether it was his best pole position in F1, Leclerc said: “I feel like whenever you have the excitement of pole you want to say: ‘Yes.’ I feel like 2021 it was even more of a surprise but it was definitely a really good lap.”

Perez described it as a “tremendous lap” by Leclerc, and it was a welcome boost for a Ferrari team who have had a difficult start to the season, especially for Leclerc, who has retired from two of the first three races.

Verstappen and Leclerc had set the exact same time on their first runs, but the Dutchman was classified ahead because he posted it first.

But he brushed the wall on his final lap at Turn Two and could not make up the time over the remainder of the circuit.

He said: “It is always tough to put a lap together and on the second run we tried something different on the out lap which I think didn’t help.

“But we know we have a very good race car so all in all it is not bad.”

This is the first ‘sprint’ weekend of the year and it runs to a new format. This qualifying session decided the grid for the grand prix on Sunday.

Saturday is a whole separate day, starting with a qualifying session – known as the ‘sprint shoot-out’ – that sets the grid for the shorter ‘sprint’ race later on.

Hamilton’s fifth place was a strong result in the end for a Mercedes team who had appeared to be struggling for speed until the final session of qualifying, the Baku track exposing the car’s weaknesses.

Hamilton had been 0.3secs slower than Alonso in second qualifying but he snuck ahead of his old rival by 0.076secs.

Hamilton said: “Timing and getting into the rhythm is not easy on this track. In Q2, I struggled. Q3 run one was a really sweet lap. Just matched it on the second run, needed a little more time to get ahead of the Ferrari.”

Russell said Mercedes “just weren’t fast enough this weekend” and that he had made a mistake on his final lap in the second session, from which Hamilton only just progressed.

Lando Norris impressed in the heavily updated McLaren to line up seventh, and there was an upset from Yuki Tsunoda, who put the Alpha Tauri eighth, by far their best performance of the season so far.

Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and Norris’ team-mate Oscar Piastri completed the top 10.

Tsunoda’s team-mate Nyck de Vries crashed early in the first session at Turn Three, bringing out the first of two red flags, and qualified last. Shortly after the first session resumed, Alpine’s Pierre Gasly did the same, causing another stoppage.

It made for a trying day for Alpine, who had spent the time between practice and qualifying repairing Gasly’s car and fitting a new engine and gearbox after a major fire.


Source link

What do you think?

Leave a Reply

GIPHY App Key not set. Please check settings


    Musk Cut Off OpenAI’s Access to Twitter Data Over Payment: NYT

    q9ABPxVhJeBT723xh7WK3e 1200 80

    Beyond Good and Evil 2: Everything we know so far