Charles Leclerc will start on pole for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix ahead of Lewis Hamilton after a chaotic qualifying session which saw four red flag stoppages.
Leclerc’s second consecutive pole position was secured following a double accident in the closing minutes of qualifying when Yuki Tsunoda and Carlos Sainz Jnr both hit the barriers at turn three in separate incidents.
Lewis Hamilton will start second on the grid, ahead of championship rival Max Verstappen with Pierre Gasly fourth.
The session was eventually resumed with 14 minutes remaining with only Charles Leclerc having been able to set a representative lap time.
George Russell was able to join the session after Williams completed a power unit change in his care following problems in final practice.
Max Verstappen set the early pace ahead of Red Bull team mate Sergio Perez and the two Ferraris of Carlos Sainz Jnr and Charles Leclerc.
But before most of the field had been able to set a time, the session was stopped for a second time when Antonio Giovinazzi became the second driver to crash at turn 15 in an almost identical accident to Stroll’s.
Lando Norris failed to enter the pit lane immediately when the red flags flew for the second time and continued to start another lap. The stewards announced he would be investigated for failing to adhere to red flag procedures after the session.
When the session resumed for a second time, Lewis Hamilton was able to draw more pace from his Mercedes for the first time to set the quickest time of the session.
With Giovinazzi and Stroll both eliminated, the question became which driver would be knocked out along with the two Haas drivers of Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mezepin.
George Russell was able to improve to 11th to put him safely through to Q2, while Lando Norris was within a tenth of falling into the drop zone. Ultimately, it would be Nicholas Latifi who would be eliminated with the lowly Haas cars.
Drivers eliminated in Q1
|19||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||No time|
|20||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin-Mercedes||No time|
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There were no risks taken by any of the teams as the second session of qualifying began, with soft tyres chosen across the board.
Sebastian Vettel almost collided with Sergio Perez in the pit lane as the pair left the garage, much to the Red Bull driver’s bemusement.
Perez was able to put his annoyance aside to set the fastest lap of the early running, ahead of the two Ferraris and team mate Verstappen.
Lewis Hamilton’s first effort put him with four thousandths of a second of Perez at the top of the times, before Verstappen improves to go quickest, mere thousandths faster himself. Yuki Tsunoda went fourth fastest in the AlphaTauri, further demonstrating the team’s pace.
In the final minutes, the session was halted when Daniel Ricciardo crashed into the wall on the exit of turn three, bringing out the red flags. That ruined Sebastian Vettel’s final lap, dooming him to be eliminated from qualifying in 11th place, to the Aston Martin driver’s audible frustration.
Esteban Ocon was also eliminated in 12th, with the crashed Ricciardo in 13th. Kimi Raikkonen was knocked out of the session in 14th, with George Russell the last driver in 15th.
With only a minute-and-a-half remaining in the session, the session was not restarted.
Drivers eliminated in Q2
|11||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin-Mercedes||1’42.224|
|14||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||1’42.587|
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The battle for pole initially looked like a straight shootout between the two Red Bulls and Hamilton’s Mercedes.
But after the first flying laps, Leclerc who took provisional pole. The Ferrari took advantage of a slipstream down the long pit straight to lap three tenths faster than Verstappen, Sainz and Norris after
Mercedes chose to wait to set their first competitive lap times, with Hamilton managing the second fastest time, just over two tenths behind Leclerc.
AlphaTauri were the last team to set a lap time, with Pierre Gasly jumping to fourth and Tsunoda in eighth place as the rest of the field set back out for their second and final runs of the session.
As the final runs began, Bottas ground to a near-halt in a bid to force other drivers to pass him so he could get a tow, causing a traffic jam. Eventually, the drivers began their final laps before qualifying came to an abrupt end.
Tsunoda arrived too fast into turn three and crashed into the barriers. Meanwhile Carlos Sainz Jnr locked up under braking for the same corner and spun his Ferrari, collecting the barriers in a separate accident.
The red flags came out for the fourth and final time, guaranteeing that Leclerc would be on pole, just as they had in Monaco when the Ferrari driver crashed.
Hamilton secured a front row start with second on the grid, ahead of championship rival Verstappen. Pierre Gasly will start fourth for AlphaTauri, with Sainz fifth and Norris sixth – albeit under investigation. Sergio Perez will start seventh on the grid ahead of Yuki Tsunoda. Fernando Alonso and Valtteri Bottas will round out the top ten starters.
Top ten in Q3
|3||Max Verstappen||Red Bull-Honda||1’41.563|
|5||Carlos Sainz Jnr||Ferrari||1’41.576|
|7||Sergio Perez||Red Bull-Honda||1’41.917|
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2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix
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