Brilliant qualifying performance by Leclerc in Baku
Charles Leclerc secured Ferrari’s initial pole position for the 2023 Formula 1 season by outpacing Max Verstappen during the qualifying round of the F1 Azerbaijan GP.
Despite a difficult beginning to 2023, Ferrari entered the Baku F1 weekend with optimism due to a recent set-up breakthrough at the Australian race, which they believed would transfer well to another track with similar characteristics of being relatively smooth and low-energy for the tires.
Leclerc dominated in Q1, but was 0.2 seconds behind Verstappen in Q2. In Q3’s first attempts, Verstappen held a provisional pole with a 1m40.445s lap time, which Leclerc matched precisely to the thousandth of a second.
On his last attempt, Leclerc pushed himself and recorded a 1m40.203s lap time, snatching the pole position from Red Bull. Verstappen improved his time as well, but expressed dissatisfaction with his tire preparation on the out-lap, ultimately finishing 0.188 seconds behind Leclerc’s top time.
Sergio Perez was also vying for pole position in the second Red Bull car but ultimately finished third, just a tenth behind. The top three had a significant lead over the rest of the field. Carlos Sainz took fourth place in the second Ferrari, although he was more than eight-tenths slower than Leclerc and just 0.161s ahead of Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes.
Sainz experienced an eventful session, including a spin at Turn 1 and overshooting Turn 3, leaving him with only one set of new tires for Q3. Fernando Alonso secured the sixth position driving the leading Aston Martin, trailing Hamilton by less than a tenth, while both upgraded McLarens made it to the top 10 – Lando Norris finished an impressive seventh, and Oscar Piastri completed the top 10.
Yuki Tsunoda ranked an outstanding eighth for AlphaTauri, three-tenths behind Norris but ahead of Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin by a mere 0.03s. Stroll’s time was identical to Piastri’s McLaren in Q3.
George Russell was the most notable driver eliminated in Q2, missing out on Q3 by a slim 0.004s to his Mercedes teammate Hamilton.
“We just don’t have the pace this weekend, guys,” Russell lamented.
Late improvements from Piastri’s McLaren and Tsunoda’s AlphaTauri pushed Russell down to 11th on the grid.
Esteban Ocon’s Alpine and Alex Albon’s Williams were also excluded, with Albon expressing frustration over being held up behind Sainz’s Ferrari as Sainz recovered from taking the escape road at Turn 3.
Valtteri Bottas didn’t pose a threat to the top 10 in his Alfa Romeo, and Logan Sargeant was the slowest among Q2 drivers, clocking a lap time 0.153s slower than his Q1 performance.
Zhou Guanyu, Nico Hulkenberg, Kevin Magnussen, Pierre Gasly, and Nick de Vries were all eliminated from Q1, a session twice interrupted by red flags.
De Vries, who had clocked an impressive sixth-fastest time during practice, triggered the first stoppage by braking too late into Turn 3 and slamming his AlphaTauri into the barriers.
“Oh my God! Aaaaaagh,” de Vries exclaimed, as his AlphaTauri team seemed to be dealing with a brake issue before the session started.
Once the session resumed following a barrier repair delay, Gasly crashed his Alpine in the same spot – entering the left-hander too fast and smashing the car’s right-rear corner into the wall.
“I’m sorry, I locked the front,” Gasly informed his team. “I couldn’t stop the car.”
After the session restarted, Magnussen was brought into the pits due to an intermittent engine issue. Haas told him they “couldn’t risk” continuing on track. After his first run placed him within the top 15, Magnussen fell to 18th as others improved their times.
Sainz, Russell, Tsunoda, and Ocon were all in danger of elimination before the red flags, while Hulkenberg seemed secure within the top 15. However, in the end, he was eliminated after posting a time 0.133s slower than Ocon’s Alpine, which narrowly advanced after also brushing the barrier.
Sainz, Russell, and Tsunoda all moved on with ease, leaving Zhou’s Alfa Romeo just 0.02s short of making it to Q2.
These are the outcomes of the qualifying session held on Friday for the fourth round of the F1 2023 world championship, which is the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
|02||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||1:41.398||1:40.822||1:40.391|
|03||Sergio Pérez||Red Bull||1:41.756||1:41.131||1:40.495|
|06||Fernando Alonso||Aston Martin||1:41.720||1:41.370||1:41.253|
|09||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||1:42.524||1:41.576||1:41.611|
|14||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo||1:42.582||1:42.259|
|16||Guanyu Zhou||Alfa Romeo||1:42.642|
|20||Nyck de Vries||AlphaTauri||1:55.282|
f1 Azerbaijan Gp 2023 f1 Azerbaijan Gp 2023 f1 Azerbaijan Gp 2023 f1 Azerbaijan Gp 2023
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