Vettel on pole for Azerbaijan GP

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Photo by: www.kymillman.com/f1

After a troublesome Friday, the question of Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel’s pace was up for debate so qualifying had a lot to answer. Was Vettel simply struggling with the circuit rhythm as he said or were the Red Bull’s pace for real? Equally, was the Mercedes pace and Lewis Hamilton really struggling as much as Friday’s pace suggested?

The qualifying was a critical issue for Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg who walked in to the session with a grid penalty for a gearbox change.

Q1

The session began answering some of those questions as the Ferrari’s marched forward with Red Bull’s behind them in the early laps. It was the usual suspects at the top of the list with McLaren struggling to see the light of Q2. Fernando Alonso leapt up to 10th with three minutes left in the session.

The Toro Rosso teammates nearly collided with Brendon Hartley running slow and Pierre Gasly nearly clouting him forcing the Frenchman to run wide spoiling his last run. A great run by Charles Leclerc for taking his Sauber into Q2.

Gasly, Vandorne, Ericsson, Hartely and Grosjean were all out in Q1.

Q2

As expected, all the cars came out on Supersoft tire compounds. Even though the Ultrasoft seemed like a tire you’d want, the time differences between the Ultras and the Supers wasn’t as dramatic as the teams expected and the durability was quite a bit less.

Kimi Raikkonen struggled and ran wide on his initial runs on the Supersoft tires. A off and flat spot meant Ferrari had some serious decisions to make with the Finn as to what tires he would try to finish the session with and also start the race.

With two minutes left, the teams sent both cars out on Ultrasoft tires. Carlo Sainz out qualified his teammate, Hulkenberg, for the first time this season and made it into Q3. Raikkonen managed to go quickest of the session on his Ultrasoft compounds which set his race strategy on a tire that was a compound too far for the circuit.

Daniel Ricciardo narrowly made it in to Q3 by dinishing in 10th in the session dodging a bullet.

Alonso, Magnussen, Leclerc, Sirtokin and Stroll were all out in Q2.

Q3

The cars came out on the Ultrasoft compounds in their bid for pole position. Initial run found Sebastian Vettel on top followed by both Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas respectively. Both Red Bull’s were 4th and 5th and that betrayed the narrative about their pace on Friday being quicker than Mercedes.

The session also seemed to suggest that either the track flattered the Force India or that the team had solved many of its early season woes and were now fighting for best of the rest.

With three minutes left, the Mercedes were out on track while Ferrari and Red Bull left it to the last minute. Lewis followed Bottas on their final laps and presumably the Party Mode was engaged. Lewis set fastest first sector and looked to be hunting for pole but missed out by just 0.179s to Vettel.

Lewis and Valtteri slotted in nose to tail while Kimi Raikkonen was marching hard for pole setting purple sectors but ran wide and fell to 6th behind the Mercedes and Red Bulls.

Ferrari wasn’t banking on Kimi being off the front row and it will leave Vettel in the clutches of both Mercedes. Kimi looked strong all weekend long and his 6th place in qualifying was not where the team were expecting him.

Lewis said the team improved the car overnight and brought both Mercedes ahead of the Red Bulls. Sebastian secured his third pole position in a row while both Force India’s recovered to 7th and 8th followed by both Renault’s in 9th and 10th. Hulkenberg out qualifying Sainz again.

Results:

PosDriverCarTimeGap
1Sebastian VettelFerrari1m41.498s
2Lewis HamiltonMercedes1m41.677s0.179s
3Valtteri BottasMercedes1m41.837s0.339s
4Daniel RicciardoRed Bull/Renault1m41.911s0.413s
5Max VerstappenRed Bull/Renault1m41.994s0.496s
6Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1m42.490s0.992s
7Esteban OconForce India/Mercedes1m42.523s1.025s
8Sergio PerezForce India/Mercedes1m42.547s1.049s
9Carlos SainzRenault1m43.351s1.853s
10Lance StrollWilliams/Mercedes1m43.585s
11Sergey SirotkinWilliams/Mercedes1m43.886s
12Fernando AlonsoMcLaren/Renault1m44.019s
13Charles LeclercSauber/Ferrari1m44.074s
14Nico HulkenbergRenault1m43.066s
15Kevin MagnussenHaas/Ferrari1m44.759s
16Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren/Renault1m44.489s
17Pierre GaslyToro Rosso/Honda1m44.496s
18Marcus EricssonSauber/Ferrari1m45.541s
19Brendon HartleyToro Rosso/Honda1m57.354s
20Romain GrosjeanHaas/Ferrari
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subcritical71

Decent qualifying session. No real surprises. But I was soo pushing for Kimi to take pole. He had a good lap going until he over-cooked it.

Richard L Bunce

FIA seems to be on to something aero wise in Formula 2… will have to look into this further. Recommend the F2 race from earlier today (on ESPN website in US if you have credentials)

Could just be a Baku circuit effect though… slow speed corners.

MIE

The Mercedes powered teams were allowed to use the higher power modes for longer periods this weekend. Both customer teams have moved forward in qualifying as a result. Whether they can maintain those positions in the race depends on if they can continue to access the higher power when fighting with others down that long straight.

Jun

I’m not sold on a “Party Mode” exisitng over and above anything Ferrari has. If they had it, they’d use it.

All the manufacturers are probably recommending turning down the engines to make sure they last.

I can buy Mercedes being more cautious than the other manufacturer’s in what they expose on track.

As time moves on and they get more data on longevity, then you’ll see the engine that got it right move up in relation to the other power units.

sunny stivala

“I am not sold on a “party mode” existing over and above anything FERRARI has”. O course not, there is no doubt that Mercedes or any of the other two engine manufacturers has anything over and above what FERRARI has. but first as to “party mode”. the term “party mode” was Coined by the usual well known BULLSH**TER in tandem with his declared “wanting to wipe-out the smile of his face”. The so called term “party mode” is a reference to an engine mode that allows the extraction and use of maximum power output possible. in technical terms this engine… Read more »

The Captain

Ah that would explain Williams then.

jakobusvdl

Force India have been relatively strong all weekend, so I’m hopeful that their better performance is due to more than just some extra power.
Then again Williams had a couple of top 10 times during the FP sessions, so it might be just the power modes :-(

sunny stivala

According to what has been reported Mercedes has allowed its Mercedes powered teams the use of higher power modes for longer periods this weekend which means they weren’t allowed too in the past three races, of which it means that until this here fourth race of the season including the development time for this season’s power unit of which they claimed is all new, they are only now confident of its durability under higher power modes. that is strange to me considering that the present power unit was actually “born” with the higher power mode facility. even stranger when considering… Read more »

Carrizojim

Sadly, it looks like the Haas doesn’t work well on this street circuit…

jakobusvdl

Grosjean will need to get his mental coach back on board. This season has been poor for him, and he’s taken it into a real dead end at Buku.

arrow044

Well I guess that answers the question of which car is the strongest this year. Not surprising really as the Ferrari was the strongest last year. The only variable remaining to be answered is how they compare in the wet. Vettel didn’t give up the Championship lead until Rd.13 in Monza last year. Difference this year is Ferrari advantage has grown even more. Last year, and we saw it repeatedly, Ferrari drivers were making tiny mistakes that cost them poles. This year they are making those mistakes but the advantage is so big they have margin to still lockout from… Read more »

sunny stivala

FERRARI is mega fast, they have turned it round this year to be the most powerful and have the most downforce. the de-facto best car, best on all types of tracks and best on all tyres. Kimi S1 and S2 were insane, literally unbelievable. Some of those at SKY after sh***ing on FERRARI for using Kimi in China, and after coming out to destroy Bottas for failing to pass Vettel, now had no problem and no shame suggesting that Mercedes should have ruined Bottas and tried and boost their number 44 lap time. the best of objective journalism starts over… Read more »

The Captain

Man McLaren must be pissed/crying/bargaining with their god, behind closed doors right now.