Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Baku City Circuit, 2023

Leclerc claims sprint race pole ahead of Red Bull pair despite last-lap crash

2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix sprint race qualifying

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Charles Leclerc took his second pole position of the weekend in Azerbaijan, putting the Ferrari driver in the top spot for today’s sprint race.

His first flying lap in SQ3 was good enough to beat the Red Bulls to sprint race pole position as neither Perez nor Verstappen could beat the Ferrari driver on their second attempts. That proved essential, as Leclerc’s skidded into the turn five barriers on his final flying lap, and returned to the pits with a broken front wing.

He will start ahead of the Red Bull pair, however Sergio Perez will start ahead of Max Verstappen, the pair having reversed their positions from yesterday’s qualifying session.


The first ever sprint race qualifying session began in bright, sunny conditions with teams dashing out onto the circuit with only 12 minutes available in the first phase. As per the regulations, all drivers headed out on medium compound tyres.

The yellow flags flew early when Oscar Piastri disappeared down the escape road at turn three, and had to carefully reverse back out to continue on his way. That affected the first flying lap attempts of both Aston Martins of Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll, who came across the double yellow flag zone and had to slow down.

Max Verstappen went to the top of the time with a 1’43.563, but he was beaten by Charles Leclerc – already the pole winner for tomorrow’s grand prix – by just under two tenths of a second. After crashing at turn three in Friday’s qualifying, Nyck de Vries emulated Piastri by slipping down the escape road of turn three, briefly bringing out the yellow flags for a second time.

With three minutes remaining, the drop zone consisted of Yuki Tsunoda, Pierre Gasly, De Vries and the Alfa Romeos of Zhou Guanyu and Valtteri Bottas. Zhou improved to move into safety, but was still on the bubble in 15th. This pushed Lando Norris into danger of elimination, but the McLaren driver easily moved into the top 10, returning Zhou to the drop zone.

However, the drivers in the bottom five would never get an opportunity to attempt a final run at the end of the session as with under a minute remaining, Logan Sargeant hit the barrier at turn 15. The Williams driver, who blamed the Ferrari pair for getting in his way on the approach to the corner, heavily damaged his right-rear suspension and triggering the red flags. That ruined the laps of Bottas and Tsunoda, who were improving on their final efforts.

That brought the first phase of sprint race qualifying to a close, with both Alfa Romeos of Zhou and Bottas eliminated. Also knocked out were Tsunoda, Gasly and De Vries, the slowest of the 20 drivers.

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SQ1 result

116Charles LeclercFerrariSF-231’42.8205
21Max VerstappenRed BullRB191’43.2880.4685
344Lewis HamiltonMercedesW141’43.5610.7416
455Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariSF-231’43.6220.8025
563George RussellMercedesW141’43.7630.9436
614Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’43.7890.9696
711Sergio PerezRed BullRB191’43.8581.0386
818Lance StrollAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’43.8791.0596
94Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’43.9381.1186
1023Alexander AlbonWilliams-MercedesFW451’43.9871.1676
112Logan SargeantWilliams-MercedesFW451’44.0421.2226
1220Kevin MagnussenHaas-FerrariVF-231’44.1011.2816
1381Oscar PiastriMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’44.1791.3596
1431Esteban OconAlpine-RenaultA5231’44.4331.6136
1527Nico HulkenbergHaas-FerrariVF-231’44.8432.0236
1624Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’45.1772.3576
1777Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’45.3522.5326
1822Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Red BullAT041’45.4362.6166
1910Pierre GaslyAlpine-RenaultA5231’46.9514.1313
2021Nyck de VriesAlphaTauri-Red BullAT041’48.1805.3606

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After Sargeant’s Williams was cleared and the minor damage to the barriers at turn 15 was repaired, the second segment of qualifying began alightly behind schedule. The Red Bulls of Perez and Verstappen led the field out for the 10-minute session with 14 drivers taking to the track, Sargeant’s wrecked car rendering him unable to participate.

Verstappen went half a second quicker than his team mate on his first flying lap attempt which was also four tenths quicker than Leclerc’s first lap of the session. Perez was third with Carlos Sainz Jnr fourth in the second Ferrari ahead of the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Georege Russell.

After the initial runs, the drivers in danger were Norris, Alexander Albon, Piastri and Nico Hulkenberg – the latter having lost time when he went up the escape road at turn seven. Both McLarens improved their times, which dropped Esteban Ocon and Kevin Magnussen into danger, before Albon moved into the top ten, dropping Russell into the drop zone, threatening a repeat of his early elimination yesterday.

Russell’s next lap was good enough to move him safe, with Ocon dropping out into 11th place and in danger. However, the Alpine driver did not start a final flying lap in the final minute, ensuring that he would be eliminated from the session. Piastri did improve on his final effort and looked as if he had made it through at the expense of Stroll. However, with the benefit of a slipstream from team mate Alonso at the chequered flag, Stroll just slipped into eighth, which ended Piastri’s session in 11th.

Hulkenberg was also eliminated in 12th, with Ocon and Magnussen being knocked out along with the Haas driver. By virtue of crashing out of SQ1, Sargeant was the final driver to be culled in 15th place.

SQ2 result

11Max VerstappenRed BullRB191’42.4178
216Charles LeclercFerrariSF-231’42.5000.08310
355Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariSF-231’42.9090.49211
411Sergio PerezRed BullRB191’42.9250.50810
514Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’42.9760.55911
644Lewis HamiltonMercedesW141’43.0610.64412
763George RussellMercedesW141’43.1120.69513
818Lance StrollAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’43.3750.95812
923Alexander AlbonWilliams-MercedesFW451’43.3760.95912
104Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’43.3950.97812
1181Oscar PiastriMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’43.4271.01012
1227Nico HulkenbergHaas-FerrariVF-231’43.8061.38912
1331Esteban OconAlpine-RenaultA5231’44.0881.67111
1420Kevin MagnussenHaas-FerrariVF-231’44.3321.91511
152Logan SargeantWilliams-MercedesFW45No time6

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Just eight minutes remained to determine the top 10 positions for the sprint race grid and once again it was Red Bull who won the race to the end of the pit lane first. Albon headed out in the Williams ahead of the Mercedes of Hamilton and Russell, with Albon defending his track position from an eager Hamilton behind him.

Once again, Verstappen appeared to get the better performance out of the Red Bull on his opening effort, but over the second half of the lap Perez pulled out a quarter of a second over his team mate to set the initial provisional sprint pole time. Sainz could not match the Red Bulls and moved into third, half a second behind, before Leclerc stormed into provisional pole position with a lap just under two tenths ahead of Perez’s previous best.

All drivers remained out on track, building up for a final attempt at the end of the session. Perez once again led the field over the line, but struggled to find more speed in the opening sector. His run through the middle sector was stronger, however, and he improved his time at the line, but was unable to displace Leclerc.

Verstappen also failed to beat his team mate’s time – and Leclerc’s – and was forced to settle for third behind Perez. Leclerc’s sprint race pole was assured, but the Ferrari driver made an error on his final effort and speared into the barrier at turn five, breaking his front wing. With the Ferraris at the end of the field, Leclerc’s mistake compromised only the final lap of team mate Sainz, who ended up falling to fifth place after being pipped by Russell’s Mercedes on the final lap. “Sorry for Carlos,” he said on his radio.

Hamilton secured sixth in the second Mercedes ahead of Albon in the Williams. The two Aston Martins of Alonso and Stroll took eighth and ninth on the grid, having experienced more DRS problems during the session. Norris will line up tenth on the grid for the sprint race after not participating in the final phase of sprint race qualifying due to not having a new set of soft tyres available.

SQ3 result

116Charles LeclercFerrariSF-231’41.69714
211Sergio PerezRed BullRB191’41.8440.14715
31Max VerstappenRed BullRB191’41.9870.29013
463George RussellMercedesW141’42.2520.55518
555Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariSF-231’42.2870.59015
644Lewis HamiltonMercedesW141’42.5020.80517
723Alexander AlbonWilliams-MercedesFW451’42.8461.14917
814Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’43.0101.31316
918Lance StrollAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’43.0641.36717
104Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL60No time12

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2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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    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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    19 comments on “Leclerc claims sprint race pole ahead of Red Bull pair despite last-lap crash”

    1. Yellow Barron
      29th April 2023, 10:41

      Did the start time change? I was sure it was listen as 10:30am UK time

      1. Same here Baron.
        I just listened to it on 5 Live a half hour behind the actual action.

        I always get my times from RaceFans so ……?

      2. I was also confused about the times and missed the sprint-quali entirely!

      3. Sky Sports F1 EPG showed 0900 programme start, 0930 session start since last night, BST :/

      4. Even my DVR missed the correct start time.

    2. Somehow Russell got within 3 tenths of the Red Bulls. Though no fan of this new format.

    3. If AM can’t fix their new wing/DRS issues for the races they’re going to be absolute toast. Worse, if they couldn’t fix overnight from Friday to Saturday, it’s doubtful they’ll be able to fix it for Sunday.

      In fact, unless they fly out a newly made wing w/a fix, they might be better reverting to the old wing and starting from the pit lane because there’s a much better chance even from there vs just being passed like sitting ducks on the straights.

      1. Doesn´t look good yeah, Alonso definetly could have been 4-th yesterday and today was even worse in SQ3.

    4. That was brilliant fun! What is there not to like? Amazing entertainment.

      1. There will be comments like this:

        “I work on Fridays and qualifying is my favorite part!” I find this comical in the day and age where everything is available to stream immediately after or even during. And I don’t buy anyone who might claim they can’t avoid having the results spoiled before watching.

        The other will be “I like hours of Friday practice so I can walk around and see different angles,” which is funny when you can buy seating packages that put you at a different turn each day. Besides, beyond the fact that so many areas are restricted in movement, the trackside is usually blocked intentionally by advertising, security screening, etc. that you can’t just wander along the fence at all or get to good areas that don’t have people ten deep already.

        1. You can get seating packages for different places each day but it’s not the same as having the time and freedom to walk the track and watch from different places.

          Thats something myself and everyone i know that has attended a race weekend (Or the regular test sessions back when they were a thing) have always done and it’s a big part of the enjoyment of the weekend for us.

          Been stuck in a seat in 1 place all day for 3 days just isn’t as fun. It’s finefor qualifying and the race when you want to focus on and follow whats going on more but for practice i want to walk the track because thats by far the best part of the weekend for me, Always has been.

          You get to fully appreciate every aspect of the cars performance. At Silverstone for example the high speed turn in at Copse then the direction change at maggots/becketts/chapel and the speed down the straight and then the grip they have into stowe and the braking into vale and acceleration out of club. Then the mechanic grip through the technical section at the new loop and end of lap.

          Been stuck in a seat at 1 place you get to see one aspect of the cars performance. By walking and spending a few minutes at key points you get to fully appreciate every aspect of what makes these cars so incredible.

          I can only assume it’s something you’ve never done because if you had you would know that and why it’s something so many of us more dedicated and knowledgeable fans enjoy doing.

        2. Definitely, I don’t have the work excuse, but I have a very weird sleep schedule that keeps cycling, that means sometimes I watch races live and sometimes delayed, even because their times also change a lot because of the country they’re in, and generally I can always avoid spoilers, I just don’t open this site or check anything f1 related till I watch, if I know I’m not able to watch a session live.

          In this particular case I wasn’t sure about the times, checked on tv8, a free italian channel that shows some races live and some delayed, noticed they were already having the sprint race, turned off tv without seeing or hearing anything position wise, then watched on an english website that has replays for all recent races, first the sprint quali ofc.

          Occasionally, since I don’t have sky, if the live time is better for me than the tv8 replay time, I end up watching free streams since there’s still many websites doing it.

    5. Not sure whether two qualifying sessions in less than 24 hours make any sense… but I’ve liked this format itself. I’m even considering it would be great to have this “cut-to-the-chase” shorter Q for normal weekends. Just 1 set per round, no need to box, and they seem to have achieved the Holy Grail: all cars lapping during the whole session. I’ve liked it.

      But two qualifying sessions… maybe too redundant.

      1. Obviously, fix the Norris-Tsunoda sutff by just adding one line to the regs.

        And, of course, there is still reasonable doubt about the strict time frame if there is any red flag. But still, I’ve liked it.

    6. This weekend schedule is so confusing and there’s too much variation in start times whenever there’s a sprint race. I really hope they would stop doing these.

      In my view the Sunday Grand Prix is losing it’s value with these arcade events among with having too many races in a season.

      1. Is there still a race on Sunday? Missed everything so far. What are they doing!?

    7. Yeah, when I logged into to the streaming app, it was super tough to find the schedule and each past and future session. It literally required me to look at the screen for more than .25 seconds!

      1. To be fair though, it’s indeed confusing with all these different sessions at different times, even in a regular sprint race weekend the times can vary a lot compared to what you expect in a normal weekend.

    8. Gotta take a moment to celebrate an excellent performance by Alexander Albon there. I think he might struggle to stay there in the race but I think its fair to say he’s doing an excellent job and getting everything he can out of the Williams.

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