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F1 Azerbaijan GP: Leclerc beats Red Bulls for grand prix pole

Charles Leclerc chalked up pole for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, beating efforts from Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez to book his place at the front of Sunday's Formula 1 grid.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

The Ferrari driver secured his first pole of the year on his final effort of the session, a 1m40.203s, having ratcheted up his pace from a strong opening run in the last part of qualifying to prove unassailable for the two Red Bull drivers.

On their first flying runs of Q3, Verstappen and Leclerc set identical times - both crossing the timing line with a 1m40.445s apiece, with Perez a tenth behind. Leclerc had the edge over Verstappen in the opening sector, but the Dutchman could fight back over the remaining sectors.

Leclerc was the first of the trio to begin his final hot lap, crucially flipping the Red Bull's advantage in the second sector to go over two tenths faster than his first run.

Perez went quicker in the first sector than Leclerc, but was comparatively slower in the second sector and could only match the Monegasque in the final part of the lap.

Verstappen's final sector was quickest, but the second sector once again proved to be the difference; the reigning champion could not find enough time over the remaining parts of the lap to overturn that disadvantage.

A 1m40.391s was enough for Verstappen to beat Perez to the front row, however, and the latter will start Sunday's race next to Carlos Sainz.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Photo by: Andrew Ferraro / Motorsport Images

Sainz had been unable to improve on his first lap, a 1m41.016s, but it was enough to keep a second-row slot away from Lewis Hamilton.

The Mercedes driver had improved in Q3 having come perilously close to being knocked out in Q2, with the W14 matching the leaders' pace in the final sector.

He starts alongside Fernando Alonso on the grid for the grand prix, the Aston Martin driver losing time in the middle sector relative to his former McLaren team-mate.

Lando Norris led the line for McLaren, which had got two cars into the final part of qualifying having been bolstered by new updates, with the Somerset-born racer qualifying seventh ahead of an impressive Yuki Tsunoda.

Lance Stroll struggled with an unresponsive DRS and could only manage ninth on the grid, ahead of Oscar Piastri - who completed the top half of the field.

George Russell was the biggest casualty of Q2, having been disposed of through late laps from Piastri and Tsunoda, and the Briton was not able to improve on his own fastest lap to break back into the top 10.

He crucially remained clear of Esteban Ocon, who reported a brush with the wall in a messy session for the Alpine team, while Alex Albon could not break out of the drop zone despite impressive straight-line pace in his Williams. Valtteri Bottas and Logan Sargeant were the other casualties from Q2.

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Nyck de Vries buried his AlphaTauri in the Turn 3 exit wall half-way through Q1 to bring out a red flag, without a representative lap on the board. The Dutchman had to be pushed back into the garage while preparing to get out on track, citing a brake by wire issue.

After the session resumed, Pierre Gasly - having barely factored in practice after suffering a hydraulic leak - was next to produce a stoppage having also swiped the wall at Turn 3, tearing off his right-hand sidepod and part of his rear wing.

Carlos Sainz had his own near miss in the meantime, enduring a slide on the exit of Turn 1 but managed to keep his car out of the wall.

Both Haas cars were kicked out in the first part of qualifying, Kevin Magnussen having suffered with an engine issue earlier in the session. Although the Dane reported that the car felt fine, his team told him not to risk it and pulled him into the garage, leaving him unable to better his time from the opening phase of the session.

Nico Hulkenberg was on the brink of the drop as Alfa Romeo pair Zhou Guanyu and Bottas occupied the elimination zone, and the German's poor first sector effectively killed off his chances of evading an early bath.

The Alfa pair initially escaped the bottom five, but Piastri's final effort was enough to push Zhou back into 16th, two-hundredths of a second off Ocon.

F1 Azerbaijan GP - Qualifying results

Q3

Cla Driver Chassis Engine Time Gap Interval
1 Monaco Charles Leclerc Ferrari Ferrari 1'40.203    
2 Netherlands Max Verstappen Red Bull Red Bull 1'40.391 0.188 0.188
3 Mexico Sergio Perez Red Bull Red Bull 1'40.495 0.292 0.104
4 Spain Carlos Sainz Ferrari Ferrari 1'41.016 0.813 0.521
5 United Kingdom Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Mercedes 1'41.177 0.974 0.161
6 Spain Fernando Alonso Aston Martin Mercedes 1'41.253 1.050 0.076
7 United Kingdom Lando Norris McLaren Mercedes 1'41.281 1.078 0.028
8 Japan Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri Red Bull 1'41.581 1.378 0.300
9 Canada Lance Stroll Aston Martin Mercedes 1'41.611 1.408 0.030
10 Australia Oscar Piastri McLaren Mercedes 1'41.611 1.408 0.000

Q2

Cla Driver Chassis Engine Time Gap Interval
1 Netherlands Max Verstappen Red Bull Red Bull 1'40.822    
2 Monaco Charles Leclerc Ferrari Ferrari 1'41.037 0.215 0.215
3 Mexico Sergio Perez Red Bull Red Bull 1'41.131 0.309 0.094
4 Spain Carlos Sainz Ferrari Ferrari 1'41.369 0.547 0.238
5 Spain Fernando Alonso Aston Martin Mercedes 1'41.370 0.548 0.001
6 United Kingdom Lando Norris McLaren Mercedes 1'41.485 0.663 0.115
7 Japan Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri Red Bull 1'41.569 0.747 0.084
8 Canada Lance Stroll Aston Martin Mercedes 1'41.576 0.754 0.007
9 Australia Oscar Piastri McLaren Mercedes 1'41.636 0.814 0.060
10 United Kingdom Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Mercedes 1'41.650 0.828 0.014
11 United Kingdom George Russell Mercedes Mercedes 1'41.654 0.832 0.004
12 France Esteban Ocon Alpine Renault 1'41.798 0.976 0.144
13 Thailand Alex Albon Williams Mercedes 1'41.818 0.996 0.020
14 Finland Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Ferrari 1'42.259 1.437 0.441
15 United States Logan Sargeant Williams Mercedes 1'42.395 1.573 0.136

Q1

Cla Driver Chassis Engine Time Gap Interval
1 Monaco Charles Leclerc Ferrari Ferrari 1'41.269    
2 Netherlands Max Verstappen Red Bull Red Bull 1'41.398 0.129 0.129
3 Spain Fernando Alonso Aston Martin Mercedes 1'41.720 0.451 0.322
4 Mexico Sergio Perez Red Bull Red Bull 1'41.756 0.487 0.036
5 United Kingdom George Russell Mercedes Mercedes 1'42.073 0.804 0.317
6 United Kingdom Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Mercedes 1'42.113 0.844 0.040
7 United Kingdom Lando Norris McLaren Mercedes 1'42.154 0.885 0.041
8 Thailand Alex Albon Williams Mercedes 1'42.171 0.902 0.017
9 Spain Carlos Sainz Ferrari Ferrari 1'42.197 0.928 0.026
10 Japan Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri Red Bull 1'42.234 0.965 0.037
11 United States Logan Sargeant Williams Mercedes 1'42.242 0.973 0.008
12 Australia Oscar Piastri McLaren Mercedes 1'42.455 1.186 0.213
13 Canada Lance Stroll Aston Martin Mercedes 1'42.524 1.255 0.069
14 Finland Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Ferrari 1'42.582 1.313 0.058
15 France Esteban Ocon Alpine Renault 1'42.622 1.353 0.040
16 China Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo Ferrari 1'42.642 1.373 0.020
17 Germany Nico Hulkenberg Haas Ferrari 1'42.755 1.486 0.113
18 Denmark Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1'43.417 2.148 0.662
19 France Pierre Gasly Alpine Renault 1'44.853 3.584 1.436
20 Netherlands Nyck de Vries AlphaTauri Red Bull 1'55.282 14.013 10.429

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