Azerbaijan GP: Leclerc grabs pole after chaotic end to Q3

Charles Leclerc claimed a second successive shock Formula 1 pole as Azerbaijan Grand Prix qualifying ended in similarly bizarre circumstances to Monaco when a late Q3 stoppage prevented final improvements.

Azerbaijan GP: Leclerc grabs pole after chaotic end to Q3

The Ferrari driver led the way after the first runs in Q3, but Yuki Tsunoda crashing with just a few seconds of the session remaining – and Carlos Sainz also hitting the barriers just behind the AlphaTauri – secured Leclerc's pole ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.

The session had already been heavily disrupted and delayed by three other red flags, caused by Lance Stroll and Antonio Giovinazzi crashing in Q1 and Daniel Ricciardo doing likewise in Q2.

Leclerc's 1m41.218s initial lap in Q3 came as he led the pack around, but crucially picked up a significant tow when he caught up with Hamilton – completing a second warm-up lap running behind teammate Valtteri Bottas – in the closing stages of the track.

This boosted Leclerc to a 0.232s advantage over Hamilton when the Mercedes drivers did complete the first of what should have been two runs in Q3, with Bottas ending up down the order as he had towed Hamilton.

Red Bull, the favourite for pole, ended up with Verstappen in third as he could not match Leclerc on the opening Q3 runs despite being towed by teammate Sergio Perez.

Pierre Gasly took fourth as the AlphaTauri drivers completed their first Q3 laps in the middle part of the segment when the rest of the top 10 were in the pits preparing for the final goes that were ultimately aborted.

Tsunoda towed Gasly around – the rookie's lap ending up being good enough for P8, with Bottas shuffled down to 10th.

Along with the rest, he never got the chance to improve as Tsunoda – who had stayed out for a second go following a cool-down lap where the AlphaTauri drivers became mixed in with the rest of the pack, now preparing for their final runs – crashed at Turn 3 – the 90-degree left at the end of the back straight early in the first sector.

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.

Behind the polesitter, Hamilton, Verstappen and Gasly came Sainz, Lando Norris and Perez, while Fernando Alonso was sandwiched between Tsunoda and Bottas in P9.

Norris faces a post-qualifying investigation for a possible red flag procedure infraction during Q1.

Q2 ended 90 seconds early after Ricciardo locked up his front left and slide straight into the wall on the outside of Turn 3.

The McLaren's right front was knocked off in the impact and the middle segment was not restarted, which meant several drivers – including Ricciardo – were eliminated based on their initial run times.

Sebastian Vettel was vocally livid to miss a Q3 spot by 0.029s as he ended up P11, ahead of Esteban Ocon, who had clipped the wall with his right rear exiting the same corner as where Ricciardo, who qualified 13th, would later crash.

Kimi Raikkonen was 14th ahead of George Russell, who maintained his 100% progression from Q1-Q2 for Williams in 2021.

This came after he missed the opening minutes of Q1 as his team worked to switch him back to a previously used engine as the new one he had been running in FP3 suffered a water pump leak and had to be removed.

In Q1, the incidents involving Lance Stroll and Antonio Giovinazzi meant the opening segment lasted over 40 minutes.

Both drivers hit the wall at the fast Turn 15 left – the turn heading downhill at the end of the second sector where Leclerc and Verstappen crashed in FP2 and FP3 respectively – with Stroll's occurring first just three minutes into Q1.

The Aston Martin driver struck the wall nearly square-on with his right front after sliding to the incident with understeer.

The impact snapped the suspension and he pulled over to the inside of the track's final real corner, with the red flags brought out when only Leclerc had completed a timed lap, as he had been running at the end of pack.

After a 12-minute delay, the session restarted, with the Mercedes pair switched from mediums to the softs that the rest of the field were running, but proceedings only lasted a further five minutes before Giovinazzi hit the wall.

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.

The red flags returned with the Mercedes drivers among those still yet to set a time, although Hamilton eventually took his used softs to the fastest time in the opening segment.

When Q1 eventually finished, Nicholas Latifi and the Haas duo were eliminated, with Mick Schumacher leading Nikita Mazepin, who had to take to the escape road at Turn 4 on his final flying lap – where he was running just in front of Hamilton.

Cla Driver Chassis Time Gap
1 Monaco Charles Leclerc
Ferrari 1'41.218
2 United Kingdom Lewis Hamilton
Mercedes 1'41.450 0.232
3 Netherlands Max Verstappen
Red Bull 1'41.563 0.345
4 France Pierre Gasly
AlphaTauri 1'41.565 0.347
5 Spain Carlos Sainz Jr.
Ferrari 1'41.576 0.358
6 United Kingdom Lando Norris
McLaren 1'41.747 0.529
7 Mexico Sergio Perez
Red Bull 1'41.917 0.699
8 Japan Yuki Tsunoda
AlphaTauri 1'42.211 0.993
9 Spain Fernando Alonso
Alpine 1'42.327 1.109
10 Finland Valtteri Bottas
Mercedes 1'42.659 1.441
11 Germany Sebastian Vettel
Aston Martin 1'42.224 1.006
12 France Esteban Ocon
Alpine 1'42.273 1.055
13 Australia Daniel Ricciardo
McLaren 1'42.558 1.340
14 Finland Kimi Raikkonen
Alfa Romeo 1'42.587 1.369
15 United Kingdom George Russell
Williams 1'42.758 1.540
16 Canada Nicholas Latifi
Williams 1'43.128 1.910
17 Germany Mick Schumacher
Haas 1'44.158 2.940
18 Russian Federation Nikita Mazepin
Haas 1'44.238 3.020
19 Canada Lance Stroll
Aston Martin
20 Italy Antonio Giovinazzi
Alfa Romeo
shares
comments

Related video

Live: Follow Azerbaijan GP qualifying as it happens
Previous article

Live: Follow Azerbaijan GP qualifying as it happens

Next article

Verstappen rues "stupid qualifying" after missing Baku pole

Verstappen rues "stupid qualifying" after missing Baku pole
Load comments
The remarkable qualities that propelled Kubica’s F1 comeback Prime

The remarkable qualities that propelled Kubica’s F1 comeback

It’s easy to look at Robert Kubica’s second Formula 1 career and feel a sense of sadness that he didn’t reach the heights for which he seemed destined. But as Ben Anderson discovered, performance and results are almost meaningless in this context – something more fundamental and incredible happened…

The humbling changes Ricciardo made to deliver for McLaren Prime

The humbling changes Ricciardo made to deliver for McLaren

From being lapped by his own teammate in Monaco to winning at Monza, it’s been a tumultuous first season at McLaren for Daniel Ricciardo. But, as he tells STUART CODLING, there’s more to the story of his turnaround than having a lovely summer holiday during Formula 1's summer break...

Formula 1
Nov 26, 2021
The potential benefits of losing the F1 constructors' title Prime

The potential benefits of losing the F1 constructors' title

As the battle continues to rage over the F1 2021 drivers' championship, teams up and down the grid are turning their attentions to the prize money attributed to each position in the constructors' standings. But F1's sliding scale rules governing wind tunnel and CFD use will soften the blow for those who miss out on the top places

Formula 1
Nov 25, 2021
The invisible enemy that's made Hamilton's title charge tougher Prime

The invisible enemy that's made Hamilton's title charge tougher

After winning his past few Formula 1 titles as a canter, Lewis Hamilton currently trails Max Verstappen by eight points heading into the final double-header of 2021. Although Red Bull has been his biggest on-track challenge, Hamilton feels that he has just as much to grapple with away from the circuit

Formula 1
Nov 24, 2021
Why F1's inconvenient penalties have to stay Prime

Why F1's inconvenient penalties have to stay

OPINION: Quibbles over the length of time taken by Formula 1's stewards over decisions are entirely valid. But however inconvenient it is, there can be no questioning the importance of having clearly defined rules that everyone understands and can stick to. Recent events have shown that ambiguity could have big consequences

Formula 1
Nov 23, 2021
The mistakes Red Bull cannot afford to repeat in F1 2021's title fight climax Prime

The mistakes Red Bull cannot afford to repeat in F1 2021's title fight climax

OPINION: Red Bull has had Formula 1’s fastest package for most of 2021, but in several of the title run-in events it has wasted the RB16B’s potential. It cannot afford to do so again with Lewis Hamilton motoring back towards Max Verstappen in the drivers’ standings with two rounds remaining

Formula 1
Nov 23, 2021
Qatar Grand Prix driver ratings Prime

Qatar Grand Prix driver ratings

Qatar was a virtual unknown for most as Formula 1 made its inaugural visit to the Gulf state, and tyre management quickly emerged as an even more critical factor than normal. Perhaps then it should come as no surprise that two of the championship's elder statesmen produced standout drives

Formula 1
Nov 22, 2021
How Hamilton dominated in Qatar despite missing a key Mercedes advantage Prime

How Hamilton dominated in Qatar despite missing a key Mercedes advantage

There was simply no stopping Lewis Hamilton on Formula 1's first visit to Qatar. The Mercedes driver eased to pole position and led every lap to secure an utterly dominant victory - even without a key Mercedes weapon in his arsenal to increase the heat on Red Bull heading into the final two races of the gripping 2021 title race

Formula 1
Nov 22, 2021