Leclerc on pole for Baku F1

Leclerc will start ahead of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen of Red Bull after the one-hour qualifying session, which is split into three segments with five cars each being knocked out in Q1 and Q2 before the top-10 shootout of Q3. Multiple crashes caused four red flags.

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What happened in Q1?

The first session was halted early on when Lance Stroll crashed his Aston Martin into the wall at Turn 15. Only Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc had managed to set a laptime before the red flag, setting the benchmark at 1m42.535s.

After the green flag, Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari grabbed the top spot with a lap of 1m42.121s, which was quickly eclipsed by Verstappen on 1m41.760s, with teammate Sergio Perez taking second. Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi caused the second red flag when he virtually mirrored Stroll’s crash at Turn 15.

At the third attempt, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton initially rose to fourth on used soft tyres (after being forced to abort his first two runs) but then rose to P1 on his second push lap with 1m41.545s.

The majority of the frontrunners didn’t run again, although McLaren’s Lando Norris improved to fifth. He will be investigated after the session for a red flag procedure infringement, when he missed the pit entry as the reds flew.

Falling at the first hurdle were Williams’ Nicholas Latifi and the Haas duo of Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin, plus the shunters Stroll and Giovinazzi.

What happened in Q2?

In Q2, the pole position-hunting protagonists eschewed the usual practice of running medium tyres – with all drivers sticking with the softs.

Perez set the early pace on 1m41.630, 0.029s faster than Leclerc. Sainz was third, with Verstappen only fourth after the first run.

Hamilton then jumped up to second, 0.004s off P1, despite a mistake on the exit of Turn 16. Verstappen stayed out for a second push lap, and took the top spot on 1m41.625s – the top five being covered by just 0.034s, among which Yuki Tsunoda was an impressive fourth for AlphaTauri.

Daniel Ricciardo caused the third red flag when he locked up and piled his McLaren into the Turn 3 barriers. That curtailed the session early.

Knocked out at this point were Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel (who missed Q3 by 0.029s), Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, Ricciardo, Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo) and George Russell (whose Williams team had to swap power units between FP3 and qualifying due to a water pump failure).

What happened in Q3?

In the top-10 shootout, Leclerc set the benchmark at 1m41.218s, thanks to a tow from Hamilton, 0.345s ahead of Verstappen.

After taking an extra warm-up lap, Hamilton received a tow from Bottas, his 1m41.450s being 0.232s off pole. Sainz was fourth, 0.358s off the pace, ahead of Norris and Perez. AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly then jumped to P4 on his single-run strategy, 0.347s off pole.

On the second runs, Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas was anxious to get a tow, being stranded in P10. But that was rendered academic as Tsunoda and Sainz went off independently at Turn 4.

That left the order as Leclerc, Hamilton, Verstappen, Gasly, Sainz, Norris, Perez, Tsunoda, Alpine’s Fernando Alonso and Bottas.

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