Sebastian Vettel will start the Azerbaijan Grand Prix from pole position after topping Formula 1 qualifying at the Baku City Circuit on Saturday, benefitting from a mistake for Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen.

Vettel was able to take pole with a fastest lap time of 1:41.498, posted with his first flying lap in Q3 as a mistake in the first sector meant he was unable to improve on his second effort.

The error opened the door for Raikkonen to try and capture only his second pole position of this decade, with the Finn running two-tenths of a second up on Vettel’s time entering the final sector.

A mistake at Turn 16 saw Raikkonen kick out the rear end of his Ferrari, meaning he was unable to improve his lap time, leaving him a lowly sixth on the grid for tomorrow’s start.

Lewis Hamilton bounced back from a difficult Friday to emerge as Vettel’s closest challenger in Q3 as he finished less than two-tenths of a second back, with Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas taking third.

Red Bull struggled to convert its impressive practice pace into a challenge for pole as Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen finished fourth and fifth, finishing four-tenths off Vettel’s pole time.

Force India emerged as the clear leader in the midfield, with Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez qualifying seventh and eighth respectively, both running over half a second clear of Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz Jr. in P9 and P10.

Williams enjoyed its strongest qualifying of the season to date as Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin both made it through to Q2, ultimately qualifying 11th and 12th. Stroll was unfortunate not to make it through to Q3, finishing just one-tenth back from Ricciardo in P10.

Fernando Alonso’s streak of Q2 exits continued as he qualified 13th in Baku, finishing more than half a second back from a top-10 berth. Teammate Stoffel Vandoorne’s afternoon was all the more difficult as he dropped out in Q1, finishing 16th following a late improvement from Stroll.

Charles Leclerc scored his best F1 qualifying result for Sauber, making Q2 for the first time before finishing 14th ahead of Haas’ Kevin Magnussen. The Monegasque racer finished 1.8 seconds clear of teammate Marcus Ericsson in Q1, who qualified 18th.

The big drama in Q1 came at Toro Rosso as teammates Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly - just two weeks after contact in the Chinese Grand Prix - nearly crashed at high speed on the run to Turn 15.

Crawling with a puncture, Hartley failed to get out of the way quickly enough, forcing Gasly to dodge to the right. The two made light contact regardless, and Gasly ran straight on into the run-off area before turning the radiowaves blue as he vented his anger.

Hartley apologised, but the result of the incident was that both drivers dropped out in Q1, finishing 17th and 19th respectively.

Romain Grosjean’s recent run of bad luck continued as he was sidelined early in Q1 by a gearbox issue, parking up in the run-off area at Turn 3 and abandoning his car. The Frenchman is due to line up last on Sunday.

 

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