The Saturday in F1 Azerbaijan GP was all about Red Bull and Ferrari at the front for pole, while Mercedes found itself in the clutches of lower Top 10.
As was seen during practice session, the Saturday qualifying in F1 Azerbaijan GP was all about Red Bull and Ferrari in the pole battle with Charles Leclerc eventually edging out Sergio Perez in an intense battle where Max Verstappen was only third.
Carlos Sainz started Q3 with a bang on lap but a moment on his final run saw him in fourth when his teammate stepped up to take F1 pole. They are clearly ahead of the pack behind where Mercedes found itself in the fight against Pierre Gasly.
The race pace is still to be seen especially with how the races pan out at Baku. Both of the teams fancy their chances but it will certainly be a close fight between the two teams and four drivers, while Mercedes will have to fend of Gasly and co.
Leclerc: “It didn’t feel like I left much on the table. Turn 2 I was losing all the time and on my final lap I just released the brakes and prayed that it was okay. I think it was a pretty close one there. And then the last corner was a bit trickier but I think it was more wind related. So overall, I was very happy with the lap. The race pace looked strong in FP2. Whether it’s strong enough compared to the Red Bull, this we will see tomorrow. I think since we have the new package we’ve tried different things. And from my feeling it feels better in the race. But we still need to confirm it tomorrow. So tomorrow we will have the answer for that. But the feeling is there and it’s good. So I’m optimistic for tomorrow.”
Perez: “I think when you look back at it, it looks quite big. You know, to gain three tenths is probably too much. Probably realistically I don’t think pole was achievable today, but certainly we could have been a quite a bit closer, you know, but I was on my own and that seemed to be quite costly around here, especially on the back straight. Not having a tow from the cars ahead, I could just see my delta, losing lap time through it. Basically through all the straights I was losing quite a bit of time. But I mean, P2, I think we can still race from here. I think we should be strong tomorrow in the race. And hopefully we can keep Charles under pressure.”
Verstappen: “To be honest, just consistently a bit off. So, just a bit tricky to find, again, a good balance front-to-rear throughout the weekend, qualifying… and yeah, basically that just continued every session the same until the flag. The plan is, of course, as a team, to optimise the results. So that’s what we’ll try to do. The run to Turn 1 is super-short, so there’s not a lot you can do there. But yeah, like they said, it’s a long race, Baku has shown that a lot of things happen. And yeah, we just need to stay calm and focus on having a good race car.”
Hamilton: “We’re not even racing those guys at the front, they’re in a completely different league. So, it seems that these guys are miles ahead, and then there is this pack that we’re in. I don’t think [today was] damage limitation. I guess you could say that George is pole and I’m third and that’s the real race. There’s lots to look forward to tomorrow! It’s a tricky and chaotic race with lots that can happen. It was a difficult qualifying session because we’re constantly pushing. We have a very, very small window where we can work this car, and everything we try doesn’t give us what we want.
“We’re making lots of changes, but we still encounter the bouncing which loses us a lot of performance. All of the performance is when you get the car low so we’re getting lower and lower but it’s bouncing more than the other cars and putting pressure on our bodies. But we’re still there! We’re just very slow on the straights, which might be a struggle tomorrow in the race. We’re going to give it everything and maybe we’ll have, I hope, better race pace.”
Gasly: “It’s best quali of the year, which comes at the right time I would say. To split the two Mercedes boys is definitely a really good job. I’m happy for the team because we’ve had quite a lot of things happening in the last few weekends and the main mindset going into this race weekend was about trying not to make any mistakes, trying to keep things simple and that’s what we did. We managed to show a very strong performance today so happy with that.”
The Top 10 also had the likes of Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel and Alpine’s Fernando Alonso, with the former making it in Q3 despite looking a bit off in the practice session. The German has dragged the car into Top 10 on few occasions, even beating faster cars.
Alonso is one of the car that he has managed to beat who looked much better in Baku but fell apart a bit in FP3. The Spaniard made it in the Top 10 but was accused of driving erratically especially by Williams’ Alexander Albon, who was knocked out in Q1.
The Q2 saw the departure of the McLaren and Alfa Romeo pair, where the former were a bit dejected especially on Lando Norris’ side. His teammate Daniel Ricciardo found some pace in qualifying after low-key practice, while Alfa Romeo just didn’t have enough pace.
Vettel: “I am pretty happy with ninth position – another half-a-tenth and I could have jumped Yuki, but, overall, I think it was a good session for us. In Q2, I locked up into Turn 15 – I was not sure if I could make it, then I thought I could, then I decided the best option was just to go in straight and risk damaging the front wing. That worked and I managed to crash wisely! The race will be all about controlling the tyres, and they will be tricky to manage tomorrow. It will be a lot hotter than qualifying was, but I am looking forward to it. I have been around a while, so I think I can benefit from all the experience I have.”
Alonso: “I am happy with the day even though we were maybe expecting more after showing decent competitiveness yesterday. We seemed to lose some of that competitiveness today so we need to look into that together. There was a lot of frustration for everyone at the end of Q1 and I understand some of the complaints, but a lot of cars were making mistakes that caused yellow flags, with a lot of cold brakes and tyres after everyone was trying to take track position. We even saw some drivers hitting the walls and when I went wide there was nothing I could do. It will be a challenging race, and anything can happen here in Baku. The points are scored tomorrow and I’m looking forward to see what we can do especially with our lower downforce setup.”
Norris: “It’s a little bit frustrating to miss-out on Q3 by such a small gap, but I think we did a decent job today. We’ve been struggling a bit more with the car here on this track and we were close. I don’t think we were miles off getting into Q3. I’d put it down to a couple of smaller mistakes by me and maybe not getting the ideal strategy for the tyres in the final few laps but I don’t think we expected a lot more today anyway. It’s still a decent position, we’re not far away from the points. The job now is to try and move forward tomorrow.”
Bottas: “Qualifying was a bit strange and we’re definitely not where we wanted to be. Tyre temperature was a key factor this afternoon, and I struggled to get the softs to work in the first push lap; in the second one, the feeling was a lot better, but unfortunately the yellow flag at the end of Q2 meant I didn’t even get to give it a try. I reckon I would have improved, but it was not to be. Nevertheless, our race pace was good yesterday and we know anything can happen in the race: it’s all to play for, I am positive we can do some good overtaking tomorrow and climb up the grid.”
Albon: “I think we had a good qualifying session and, as a team, we maximised everything we could. We did everything right; we had a decent car, and we did the best job we could. Getting into Q2 looked difficult today but, with the red flag, we found ourselves fighting on the heels of it again. It’s frustrating to be so close to it and miss out – I am 99% sure that if I didn’t make a mistake in the last corner, I would have benefited from the slipstream that I had chosen to take, and we would have got into Q2. It’s one of those things, but I think procedurally and how we went about it; we couldn’t have achieved much more today. There’s hope here as there’s always a little bit of action and chaos, so we need a little Baku madness to happen! ”
Here’s how F1 Azerbaijan GP qualifying panned out