F1 – Azerbaijan GP – Qualifying
Salam, MiniFans! We left a street circuit to come straight into another one. We’ve landed in Baku, home of the Azerbaijan GP, a track that mixes an insanely long straight and very tricky corners that turned last year into a nail biting finale.
Yellow flags started to be shown early into the session, but nothing that is unusual in a track of these characteristics, and it was soon green flagged again. The Red Bulls were the first cars to set the pace, with Verstappen leading over Pérez and only Leclerc being able to breathe down the Mexican’s neck. At least until Ferrari woke up and started to pull insanely fast laps as well.
At the back, the usual suspects were the ones occupying most of the danger zone positions, but the surprising one out of it was Zhou, who was the best of the rest, up in fifth. One more scare came courtesy of Stroll, who couldn’t brake in time, and impacted the tecpro barriers. It all seemed fine until he crashed again, this time leaving his front wing on the track and prompting a red flag as his teammate settled in front of Zhou by half a second, inheriting the best midfield car title.
With less than two and a half minutes to go, cars made a train out of the pitlane. Everyone managed to make it to the finish line before the checkered flag was waved, but it was clear that very few clean laps would be done. The biggest change came courtesy of Bottas, who made it through and doomed Magnussen. The eliminated drivers in Q1 were Magnussen (P16), Albon (P17), Latifi (P18), Stroll (P19) and Schumacher (P20).
Q2 started for Ferrari with old soft tyres, trying to save one of the fresh sets for Sunday, but it still was enough for them to push Red Bull out of the first two places. On the opposite side, halfway through the session, Alfa Romeo had yet to set a lap, when Vettel crashed. Luckily, he could make it out with his car and Q2 wasn’t stopped. The eliminated drivers in Q2 were Norris (P11), Ricciardo (P12), Ocon (P13), Zhou (P14) and Bottas (P15).
Q3 started in a calmer way, with cars having enough space to do fully clean laps. In the first run, Ferrari settled on top, with Sainz barely edging Leclerc out of first place. Red Bull, in their attempt to get past, saw Pérez touching the walls, luckily without serious consequence. However, the second stint saw the Spaniard dropping three places, to his teammate and both Red Bulls, while his good friend, Alonso, couldn’t climb up from 10th.
Baku has been home to surprise wins and podiums, but not so much pole positions. It seemed as if this year would be the one, with Sainz having snatched first place halfway through, but Leclerc and Red Bull burst his little bubble of happiness, relegating him fourth. However, there’s no doubt that this only fuels the Spaniard, who keeps looking for his first pole position and victory in F1.