Bottas leads Merc front row in lengthened crash-strewn qualifying

Baku, Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan Grand Prix – Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas has taken pole position at the end of a very long qualifying session, due to red flags for crashes.

Bottas stole pole position for Sunday’s race, right as the chequered flag fell to end the lengthy qualifying session in Baku. With the sun all but set, the Finn put in 1:40.495 to eclipse his teammate Lewis Hamilton by just 0.059 seconds. The Mercedes drivers will thus start from P1 & P2.

Third place went to Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. After the red cars set some eye-opening times in FP3, the Ferrari challenge faded during qualifying. Charles Leclerc made an unforced error through the castle section at Turns 8 & 9 during Q2, crashing into the barriers and knocking himself out ahead of Q3. Leclerc had looked the quicker of the two Ferraris, with Vettel struggling to find initial pace on the Medium tyres that Ferrari sent their two drivers out on. Once the barriers were repaired and Q2 resumed, Vettel switched to the Soft tyre and escaped the drop zone to make it into Q3.

Max Verstappen will start from P4, having set a time just 0.2 behind Vettel’s, while Sergio Perez was best of the rest as he claimed P5 for a resurgent Racing Point. The Mexican driver was just a second off the pole time, and a tenth clear of Daniil Kvyat, who put his Toro Rosso into P6 – a great recovery from his practice crash on Friday.

Lando Norris claimed P7 for McLaren, while Antonio Giovinazzi not only made it into Q3 for the first time, but also outqualified Kimi Raikkonen for the first time. Giovinazzi qualified P8, with Raikkonen in P9, separated by 0.6 seconds. However, Giovinazzi will be forced to start from P18 as he has a ten place grid penalty due to engine component changes for this weekend. Charles Leclerc qualified P10, although it remains to be seen where he will start from once Ferrari evaluate his car’s damage.

Carlos Sainz was P11 for McLaren, feeling unhappy afterwards as he thought the MCL34 had the pace to get into Q3, while Daniel Ricciardo finished P12 for Renault. Alex Albon was P13 in the second Toro Rosso, ahead of Kevin Magnussen’s Haas. Pierre Gasly was P15, having elected to not bother trying to get through Q2 as he will start from the pitlane on Sunday due to missing a mandatory FIA weighing on Friday.

The bottom five is made up of Racing’s Point’s Lance Stroll, Haas’ Romain Grosjean, Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and the two Williams drivers of George Russell and Robert Kubica. The Polish driver added to the Williams’ team’s disastrous weekend by crashing in Q1, causing damage to the barriers at Turn 8 in a 21g shunt. The delay was almost half an hour before Q1 resumed.

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Thomas Maher

Co-owner, Chief Editor and a journalist for - Ireland's only accredited F1 & Formula E website.

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