Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc secured his 9th career pole position this afternoon at the chaotic Baku City Circuit.
It was a dramatic Qualifying session this afternoon with four red flags and plenty of trips into the barriers for a number of drivers at the highly technical circuit.
After struggling once again for grip and speed, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton finally clicked with his W12 enough to ensure he joined Ferrari on the front row, while Max Verstappen will be in P3 on tomorrow’s grid.
AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly also enjoyed a successful qualifying session today and will be taking off from P4 tomorrow, ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz in 5th and McLaren’s Lando Norris in 6th.
The second Red Bull of Sergio Perez finished the day 7th quickest and will line up on the grid tomorrow afternoon in front of AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda in P8, Alpine’s Fernando Alonso in ninth, and Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas closing out the top ten for lights out tomorrow.
After a blunder in FP3 saw Red Bull’s Dutch driver retire to the pits, Verstappen was back out on track straight away in Q1.
Just minutes in, Lance Stroll had wrecked his front-right wheel and was out of Qualifying already.
He hit the wall at Turn 15 and had to park up, ending his day and summoning the first of many red flags this afternoon with only one time on the board by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc – 1:42.532.
The delay was welcomed by the Williams team who were continuing Russell’s power unit change – and so they were ready to hit the track straight after the red flag.
With 9 minutes left, Antonio Giovinazzi became the next victim of turn 15 and went into the wall ending his session and summoning the second red flag.
🏁 ELIMINATED IN Q1 🏁
Giovinazzi#AzerbaijanGP 🇦🇿 #F1 pic.twitter.com/XQWK6g1X0q
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 5, 2021
Lewis Hamilton found himself in fourth after his first lap once racing resumed, and was 0.4s off Verstappen but safely through to Q2 – meanwhile, Valtteri Bottas was in eighth, and half a second further back.
Williams’ Nicholas Latifi, the Haas duo of Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher, Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, and Alfa Romeo’s Giovinazzi were all out of Q1.
The third red flag of the day was summoned with just 1:29 remaining in Q2 after Daniel Ricciardo crashed his McLaren at Turn Three – and was out of qualifying in P13.
Joining Ricciardo in the elimination zone was Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel, Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen, and Williams’ George Russell, who will all start tomorrow’s race towards the back of the field.
Then in the final shootout this afternoon, Mercedes and Ferrari seemed to come alive to battle with Red Bull for the top spot, which was ultimately claimed by Charles Leclerc.
On Tsunoda and Sainz’s final laps, disaster struck, and both ended up in the barriers.
The incidents which brought qualifying to an end ❌
Both Tsunoda and Sainz were okay following Turn 3 troubles 💥#AzerbaijanGP 🇦🇿 #F1 pic.twitter.com/0Hnm1PbSQR
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 5, 2021
Tsunoda crashed on his final attempt and then Sainz, who was believed to be distracted by the AlphaTauri ahead of him, then found himself in the run-off area with damage to his front wing.
Round six of the 2021 season will see another battle among a shuffled top field tomorrow afternoon, as Max Verstappen will continue his fight to remain ahead in the driver’s standings.