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Sebastian Vettel says he was relieved to hold on to pole position for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix after making a near-critical mistake on his final flying lap in the shootout at the end of Q3.

The Ferrari driver has clinched his third consecutive pole position and first at the Baku City Circuit after a storming first lap in the top ten shootout with a 1m 41.498s to lay down the marker for provisional pole.

Vettel saw his lap unmatched by his front-running rivals to see him keep hold of his 53rd career pole position in Formula 1 despite coming under intense pressure from Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen before the Finn made a critical error on his final lap.

The current F1 championship leader admits his Q3 session “wasn’t exactly perfect” after locking up at Turn 3 on his final lap but was delighted to keep in control to take pole position.

“I felt the car was good in Q1 and Q2 but in the last segment in qualifying I had the car which does what I want, not have it as in pole position but I could put a good lap together,” Vettel said. “The first lap I was really happy and there were two tiny bits where it wasn’t exactly perfect that I wanted to get right on the second run.

“I was a little bit down on the time, as in I was a little bit faster but I locked up, it caught me by surprise at Turn 3 and I wasn’t sure whether I would try to go straight or try to hang on to it, I tried to hang on to it but yes fortunately it was enough as I had a really good lap on the first attempt.”

Vettel is joined by F1 title rival Lewis Hamilton on the front row in Azerbaijan, marking a face-off a year on from their infamous clash in Baku, and the German driver is bracing for a tricky race but has faith in his SF71H as he hunts his third victory in the opening four rounds.

“I think it will be an intense race and anything can happen as a safety car is very likely,” he said. “I think the good job is that our car was very good this afternoon which should mean we are in a good place for tomorrow.

“I struggled a little bit for confidence and trust in the car which is important around here but when it clicks it keeps coming so it was really enjoyable.”

Azerbaijan GP F1 2018 Preview