Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc hopes to break the bad spell that has plagued him for a few races after clinching the lead position in the qualifying session of the Azerbaijan Formula 1 Grand Prix on Saturday.
Leclerc recorded a time of one minute and 41.359 seconds on the Baku street circuit. He clenched his sixth leading position this season in F1 and his fourth in a row.
“Ah, it’s wonderful!” exclaimed the main interested party. I didn’t expect to set the fastest time because the Red Bulls were very fast, but I’m satisfied.
I can’t wait for tomorrow (Sunday); tire management will be very important here. We have increased our pace on track, so the race will likely be very interesting.
The Monegasque took 0.282 seconds off Red Bull driver Sergio Perez’s time, while overall leader Max Verstappen followed in third place, more than three-tenths of a second behind.
“I had a good start to the lap, but I made a few small mistakes. However, we will have a good opportunity to win tomorrow, as our team will start from second and third places on the grid,” said Verstappen, the reigning world champion.
The Mexican said that a technical glitch had prevented him from dislodging Leclerc in the final moments of the qualifying session.
“Yeah, I gave it my all in Q3, and I touched the barriers a few times,” Perez said.
And towards the end, I experienced engine problems, which we could not eliminate, and I was alone without the suction phenomenon.
Who knows how much time (I lost)? Would that gap have allowed me to get the top position? Who knows?
Leclerc’s Ferrari teammate, Carlos Sainz Jr., won the fourth time, ahead of Mercedes driver George Russell.
Pierre Gasly, driving his Alpha Tauri, took sixth place, ahead of seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton. The Briton conceded 1.565 seconds to Leclerc’s time because of the Silver Arrows’ “porpoiseage” problems.
Yuki Tsunoda (Alpha Tauri) followed in eighth place on the grid, ahead of Sebastian Vettel, who missed Turn 7 in Q2 and brushed the wall at the wheel of his Aston Martin without inflicting any damage on his car.
Fernando Alonso, at Alpine, completed the top-10.
Perez, who triumphed in the last event in Monaco, set the fastest time in the last free practice session earlier in the morning.
Verstappen leads the drivers’ standings with 125 points, nine better than Leclerc. Perez is third at 110, ahead of Russell (84) and Sainz Jr. (83).
Nightmare session for Stroll
It was another tough qualifying session for Lance Stroll.
While trying to improve his time in the final moments of Q1, the Quebecer pushed his Aston Martin a little too much and was the victim of a track exit similar to that of his teammate Vettel at Turn 7.
Stroll still managed to back off and get back on track. However, a few turns further, he hit another safety barrier head-on.
This time, the spoiler and right front suspension took most of the shock, preventing it from completing the session.
“I am frustrated by the turn of events. After blocking the wheels (at Turn 7), my car still looked in good condition, and I was aware that we were going to run out of time (in Q1), which explains my decision to continue and try another lap started.
Then, I think I braked too late at Turn 2,” said the Mont-Tremblant driver.
“It’s unfortunate, but there are many opportunities to overtake in Baku, and, as we have already seen here, anything can happen,” he added.
Stroll is expected to start on the 19th on Sunday, provided his team can repair his car in time for the race.
For his part, Toronto’s Nicholas Latifi did a little better. The Williams driver settled for the 18th time.
The two representatives of the maple leaf will therefore start from the bottom of the grid.
Only Haas driver Mick Schumacher did worse than them in qualifying, which means he will start at the back of the pack.
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