Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Baku City Circuit, 2023

Leclerc beats Red Bull pair to put Ferrari on pole for Azerbaijan Grand Prix

2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix qualifying

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Charles Leclerc seized pole position for Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, beating both Red Bulls to put Ferrari ahead for the first time this year.

Leclerc and Max Verstappen went into the final pole position shoot-out tied on lap times which were identical to three-thousandths of a second. However he lowered his best to a 1’40.203 on his final run, leaving him almost two-tenths of a second faster than his rival.

Sergio Perez will line up behind them in third on Sunday and Carlos Sainz Jnr starts fourth in the second Ferrari.


A large queue developed at the end of the pit lane ahead of the start of the opening phase of Friday qualifying. With a high level of track evolution expected following only an hour of practice, drivers were eager to get out on circuit. After his hydraulic problem in practice had left his Alpine on fire, Pierre Gasly was sent out at the start of the session after his team successfully repaired his car in time.

Zhou Guanyu ruined Fernando Alonso’s first flying lap attempt at the first corner, the Alfa Romeo driver spinning lightly into the barrier before resuming. Others in the session would not be so fortunate.

Verstappen set the early benchmark for Red Bull, two-tenths of a second ahead of Charles Leclerc with Alonso eventually going third-fastest with his first timed lap of the session. The stewards noted the Red Bull driver had a problem with his headrest at one point, but ruled the team had sent his car out of the pits in a safe condition and no investigation was needed.

Pierre Gasly, Alpine, Baku City Circuit, 2023
Gallery: 2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix qualifying day in pictures
With just over 10 minutes remaining, Nyck de Vries locked up under braking for turn three on his first push lap and slammed into the barrier on the outside of the turn. With the front end of his AlphaTauri heavily damaged and the car stuck in the TecPro barrier, the session was suspended with a red flag.

The clean-up job took almost 15 minutes, following which Q1 resumed with just over 10 minutes left on the clock. However, before any of the 19 remaining drivers could complete a flying lap, the session was stopped for a second time when Gasly carried too much speed into the same corner that caught out De Vries, clipping the barrier and wrecking the rear of his recently-repaired Alpine.

After another delay, the session resumed for a second time with around seven minutes remaining. Sergio Perez jumped to the top of the times before his team mate improved to go ahead at the top by over three-and-a-half-tenths.

Entering the final minutes of the session, both Gasly and De Vries were guaranteed to be eliminated, leaving only three drivers to join them in being knocked out. That soon became two as Kevin Magnussen was brought into the pits by his Haas team who reported a problem with his car. The Haas driver had been frustrated by technical problems all day long, and the latest fault left him 18th.

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The final two elimination spots were filled by the Alfa Romeos of Valtteri Bottas and team mate Zhou. Logan Sargeant was on the verge of elimination in 15th but improved to jump up to the top 10, securing a place in Q2 for the first time. At the chequered flag, Bottas moved into safety, which knocked Nico Hulkenberg down into the drop zone. Zhou also improved but not by enough, leaving him still in 16th and the first car out.

With all drivers having completed their runs, Zhou was joined by Hulkenberg, Magnussen, Gasly and De Vries who had crashed in the earlier stage of the session.

Q1 result

116Charles LeclercFerrariSF-231’41.26910
21Max VerstappenRed BullRB191’41.3980.1298
314Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’41.7200.45110
411Sergio PerezRed BullRB191’41.7560.48710
563George RussellMercedesW141’42.0730.80411
644Lewis HamiltonMercedesW141’42.1130.84411
74Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’42.1540.8859
823Alexander AlbonWilliams-MercedesFW451’42.1710.90211
955Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariSF-231’42.1970.92811
1022Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Red BullAT041’42.2340.9659
112Logan SargeantWilliams-MercedesFW451’42.2420.97311
1281Oscar PiastriMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’42.4551.18611
1318Lance StrollAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’42.5241.25511
1477Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’42.5821.31311
1531Esteban OconAlpine-RenaultA5231’42.6221.35311
1624Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’42.6421.37311
1727Nico HulkenbergHaas-FerrariVF-231’42.7551.48610
1820Kevin MagnussenHaas-FerrariVF-231’43.4172.1489
1910Pierre GaslyAlpine-RenaultA5231’44.8533.5846
2021Nyck de VriesAlphaTauri-Red BullAT041’45.2824.0133

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The second phase of qualifying began with all 15 remaining drivers taking to the circuit on soft tyres. While the Mercedes pair headed out on used rubber, Red Bull, Ferrari and Aston Martin all opted for new softs for their first runs.

Perez set the fastest time of the early runs with a 1’41.131, a few hundredths quicker than team mate Verstappen with Leclerc also under a tenth behind in third. Russell and Hamilton could only manage seventh and tenth, respectively, on their first attempts and soon headed back out on fresh tyres. Hamilton used his new Pirellis to move ahead of his team mate, the Mercedes pair sitting in eighth and ninth.

Carlos Sainz Jnr had a moment under braking for turn three and took to the escape road, but did not interrupt any of his rivals on flying laps behind him. He reversed his Ferrari out of its predicament and continued on his way untroubled, though the stewards took note of the incident.

In the closing minutes of the session, the drop zone consisted of Esteban Ocon, Yuki Tsunoda, Oscar Piastri, Bottas and Sargeant. Ocon improved to bump Albon out of the top ten, but Piastri and Tsunoda both posted better times to knock Ocon back into elimination. Russell also fell into the drop zone and a poor middle sector for the Mercedes driver on his final lap spelled an end to his participation. He was eliminated in 11th place, only four-thousandths of a second slower than Hamilton.

Joining Russell out of Q2 were Ocon, Bottas in the sole remaining Alfa Romeo and the Williams pair Albon and Sargeant.

Q2 result

11Max VerstappenRed BullRB191’40.82214
216Charles LeclercFerrariSF-231’41.0370.21515
311Sergio PerezRed BullRB191’41.1310.30915
455Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariSF-231’41.3690.54718
514Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’41.3700.54817
64Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’41.4850.66314
722Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Red BullAT041’41.5690.74717
818Lance StrollAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’41.5760.75418
981Oscar PiastriMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’41.6360.81419
1044Lewis HamiltonMercedesW141’41.6500.82818
1163George RussellMercedesW141’41.6540.83218
1231Esteban OconAlpine-RenaultA5231’41.7980.97619
1323Alexander AlbonWilliams-MercedesFW451’41.8180.99619
1477Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’42.2591.43719
152Logan SargeantWilliams-MercedesFW451’42.3951.57319

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The top 10 shoot-out to determine the grid for Sunday’s grand prix began with Red Bull the first to take to the track with Perez ahead of team mate Verstappen, followed by the two Ferraris of Leclerc and Sainz behind.

Perez’s initial effort was a 1’40.545 but that was beaten by Verstappen to the tune of a tenth of a second. Sainz could not match the Red Bulls with his first effort of the session.

Then Leclerc came across the line to complete his first lap and posted an identical time to Verstappen to within a thousandth of a second – Verstappen sitting ahead of the Ferrari by virtue of setting the time first.

Hamilton took a provisional fifth place after his first run, seven tenths behind Verstappen and Leclerc, with Norris sixth for McLaren ahead of Lance Stroll, Yuki Tsunoda and Fernando Alonso.

With less than five minutes remaining, drivers began to head back out onto the track for the final time in the session. This time it was the Ferraris out first with Leclerc leading Sainz ahead of Perez and Verstappen, the last of the top four set to complete a time.

Leclerc took almost a quarter of a second out of his and Verstappen’s pole time to take sole ownership of provisional pole position. Sainz could not get within eighth tenths of a second of his team mate, throwing the gauntlet down to the Red Bull drivers to take the top spot of the grid from him.

Perez could not secure a front row start on his final effort and had to settle for third place, leaving Verstappen the only driver who could deny Ferrari pole. Despite improving, Verstappen could not match Leclerc’s best and was almost two tenths slower than the Ferrari driver, securing a first pole position of the season for Leclerc and Ferrari.

Leclerc will have both Red Bulls of Verstappen and Perez line up behind him on the grid with Sainz fourth and Hamilton fifth for Mercedes. Alonso took sixth for Aston Martin, a second slower than Leclerc’s pole time, with Norris seventh and Tsunoda eighth. Stroll and Piastri will complete the top ten on the grid for Sunday’s grand prix.

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Q3 result

116Charles LeclercFerrariSF-231’40.20321
21Max VerstappenRed BullRB191’40.3910.18820
311Sergio PerezRed BullRB191’40.4950.29221
455Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariSF-231’41.0160.81324
544Lewis HamiltonMercedesW141’41.1770.97424
614Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’41.2531.05023
74Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’41.2811.07820
822Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Red BullAT041’41.5811.37823
918Lance StrollAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’41.6111.40823
1081Oscar PiastriMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’41.6111.40824

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2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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    Author information

    Will Wood
    Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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    33 comments on “Leclerc beats Red Bull pair to put Ferrari on pole for Azerbaijan Grand Prix”

    1. That was an amazing lap.

    2. Exciting end to Q3 but the TV directors did their best to ruin it! Frustrating and not the first time..
      Does no one in that room of theirs actually follow what’s going on?

    3. Looked like Charles got his tyres better in the warmup lap. This will probably mean he will have greater def during the race.

      1. AntonioCorleone
        29th April 2023, 1:10


    4. Aston Martins q3 was a bit dissapointing, expected Alonso to be 4-th actually.

      1. Astons are losing the development race. Basically, they had no updates in two months and four races. What do you expect? Even McLaren already got them.

        1. I see no reason why they should be getting outdeveloped by mclaren…they seemed to be very good in q2

      2. Is it just my perception or is Stroll slowing with respect to Alonso?
        Does somebody need to re-break his wrist to speed him up again?

      3. Alonso had a scruffy last lap and had some issues, looking at his onboard. His engineer told him they would have been fourth without those, for what it’s worth.

    5. So now we have to wait until Sunday, but we’ll already know by then if the Ferrari has what it takes to battle the Red Bulls over a stint.

      1. But knowledge is power so we’ll be watching the GP more powerful.

    6. Lets not get our hopes up we know RB will smoke Leclerc by lap 1

    7. And a day off tomorrow. Total turn-off for the GP. This Friday quali thing just does not feel right. Too far from the GP.
      They should just scrap the events unfolding tomorrow, put todays sessions on a Saturday and that’s it.

      1. I think, since sprint races are here to stay, a day-swap would make sense: sprint quali and sprint race on friday, quali on saturday and race on sunday as it’s always been, who needs practice? So sprint replaces practice, only leaving 1 session of it.

    8. I didn’t expect a Ferrari pole, although Leclerc will most likely get overtaken by both Red Bulls in the race, given their superior race pace.
      Russell’s elimination was surprising, although given Mercedes’ clear lack of performance this weekend, they’ll probably also struggle in the race.
      Gasly could also have a hard time making up positions, while De Vries disappointed yet again. He needs to improve to avoid ending up under threat for next season at the current rate.

    9. I like the sprint race, but personally i think it should be:

      Friday: FP1 am + Sprint Shootout/quali pm
      Saturday: Sprint Race am + Quali pm
      Sunday: Grand Prix pm

      Would you rather have two extra practice sessions or a sprint quali and a sprint race? Its extra entertainment that we didnt have before. I just think they have it in the wrong order.

      1. @shakenbake I’d much rather the normal format and not have these silly sprint gimmick races.

        As a fan I enjoy watching 3 hours of practice, Especially when attending the races as it gives time to walk the track and watch from different places. You just don’t have time to do that with this awful sprint format so it immediately for me makes attending a sprint weekend less worthwhile. And then consider that under this revised format people attending on Saturday are going to see an hour or so less track action than under a normal format yet ticket prices are no lower.

        And having the sprint race itself just devalues the main race. Partly because we’ve seen a full race build-up but also because it’s effectively taking the opening stint of the GP and moving it to the day before which takes away some of the excitement. It additionally takes away many of the unknowns we usually go into the opening stint of a GP having as we have a better idea of what starts will be like, How tires will act, What everyone’s race pace is & how easy/difficult passing is and that just makes that opening stint of the GP far less interesting.

        And of course these awful sprints also introduce the fact that some race weekends become more valuable than others due to more points been on offer. Why should the 6 weekends chosen this year for sprints have more points available? What makes Baku this weekend more deserving of extra points than other race weekends?

        It’s just an awful format and altering the timetable will do nothing to improve it.

        1. 100% in agreement

        2. Lynn-m I agree with your comments. it is astounding to realise that people paid $-millions make such stupid decisions.
          I switched off at the second red flag situation in Q1.
          It is awful to have to endure five more of these idiotic race weekends this season.

      2. Yes, pole already feels too early.
        They could get a second practice in before the rootin’ tootin’ shootout as well, if they wanted.

    10. I missed this because I didn’t even realise it was proper qualifying today until it had already happened! Thanks F1!

      1. Same!

        I’m still in work and have just realised that I missed it. Thanks very much, Liberty!

        1. And we’re the sort of people who comment BTL on Racefans! How does anyone else have any hope.

    11. Got to love a quick, on edge run by Leclerc. What a great guy to watch!

      That is… when it eventually shows up on YouTube and isn’t broadcast during normal business hours on a weekday.

    12. Awesome job by Leclerc, but Sainz really needs to step up his game a deficit of 8 tenths in the pole-setting car is embarrassing.

      1. He never recovered from the mess that others caused with red flags in Q1. It wasn’t Sainz finest hour but getting 4th was actually a huge save despite the deficit.

    13. The three key takeaways for me was that Charles beat the two Red Bulls while Junior was nowhere near, both Mclarens in the top 10 and Alpine sliding backwards.

    14. Is this quali for sprint or for the race?

      1. It’s for the race. Though I don’t like the 2 days distance, I’d prefer if this quali was on saturday and the sprint stuff on friday, would make more sense to me.

    15. Ferrari should pray the conditions on race day isnt hot, their car is quick but will chew up the tyres quickly too. The RB struggles in cold temps cause it takes longer to warm the tyres up but that makes it a good race car.

    Comments are closed.