Qualifying was interrupted by a total of four red flags, with the final one disrupting all the drivers' final runs of Q3.

With no driver able to complete their second efforts in the top-10 shootout due to separate incidents for Yuki Tsunoda and Carlos Sainz at the same corner, it was Leclerc who claimed a surprise pole for the second weekend running.

Leclerc gained a tow from Lewis Hamilton in the final sector and shot onto provisional pole with a 1m41.218s - a lap time that ultimately proved to be enough to secure his ninth career pole when Q3 was prematurely ended by crashes for Tsunoda and Sainz.

Seven-time world champion Hamilton also benefitted from having a tow from teammate Valtteri Bottas as he completed a remarkable recovery effort by Mercedes to seal a spot on the front row of the grid, just 0.232s shy of pole.

Both Mercedes drivers looked to have a real fight on their hands just to make into Q3 after struggling for pace all weekend around the streets of Baku, but Hamilton’s performance will give the team confidence heading into the race.

Importantly, Hamilton was able to outpace main title rival and current championship leader Max Verstappen, who was third-quickest for Red Bull. The Dutchman had been up on Leclerc in the first two sectors of his final lap before he was forced to abort due to the red flag.

Pierre Gasly matched his best-ever qualifying result in an impressive fourth for AlphaTauri, with the Frenchman within four-tenths of Leclerc’s pole time.

Carlos Sainz had already set a time good enough for fifth on the grid before he crashed his Ferrari at Turn 3, moments after Tsunoda had made exactly the same error at the same corner.

McLaren’s Lando Norris was sixth-fastest but faces an investigation for a potential red flag procedure breach in Q1.

Despite his crash, Tsunoda qualified eighth in what marked his first Q3 appearance in F1.

Alpine’s Fernando Alonso was ninth, while Bottas was 10th after effectively sacrificing his first lap to provide Hamilton with a tow.

A crash for Daniel Ricciardo at the end of Q2 prevented Sebastian Vettel from progressing into the top-10 shootout for Aston Martin, while it also hampered Esteban Ocon who could only take 12th in his Alpine.

Ricciardo looked like he could be able to compete for a spot in Q3 but after slamming into the Turn 3 barriers, the Australian will start the race from 13th.

Kimi Raikkonen was 14th for Alfa Romeo while George Russell took 16th in his sixth consecutive Q2 appearance of 2021 after a herculean effort from his Williams crew enabled him to contest qualifying following an engine change after his stoppage in final practice.

Nicholas Latifi was two tenths away from joining his Williams teammate in advancing to Q2 as the Canadian finished 16th, ahead of Haas’ rookie pairing of Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin in 17th and 18th.

Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi will form the back row of the grid after both drivers crashed at Turn 15 on their opening Q1 runs, causing two separate red flag periods.

Full qualifying results for the 2021 F1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix.