Charles Leclerc took his second pole position of the weekend in Azerbaijan, putting the Ferrari driver in the top spot for today’s sprint race.
His first flying lap in SQ3 was good enough to beat the Red Bulls to sprint race pole position as neither Perez nor Verstappen could beat the Ferrari driver on their second attempts. That proved essential, as Leclerc’s skidded into the turn five barriers on his final flying lap, and returned to the pits with a broken front wing.
He will start ahead of the Red Bull pair, however Sergio Perez will start ahead of Max Verstappen, the pair having reversed their positions from yesterday’s qualifying session.
The first ever sprint race qualifying session began in bright, sunny conditions with teams dashing out onto the circuit with only 12 minutes available in the first phase. As per the regulations, all drivers headed out on medium compound tyres.
The yellow flags flew early when Oscar Piastri disappeared down the escape road at turn three, and had to carefully reverse back out to continue on his way. That affected the first flying lap attempts of both Aston Martins of Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll, who came across the double yellow flag zone and had to slow down.
Max Verstappen went to the top of the time with a 1’43.563, but he was beaten by Charles Leclerc – already the pole winner for tomorrow’s grand prix – by just under two tenths of a second. After crashing at turn three in Friday’s qualifying, Nyck de Vries emulated Piastri by slipping down the escape road of turn three, briefly bringing out the yellow flags for a second time.
With three minutes remaining, the drop zone consisted of Yuki Tsunoda, Pierre Gasly, De Vries and the Alfa Romeos of Zhou Guanyu and Valtteri Bottas. Zhou improved to move into safety, but was still on the bubble in 15th. This pushed Lando Norris into danger of elimination, but the McLaren driver easily moved into the top 10, returning Zhou to the drop zone.
However, the drivers in the bottom five would never get an opportunity to attempt a final run at the end of the session as with under a minute remaining, Logan Sargeant hit the barrier at turn 15. The Williams driver, who blamed the Ferrari pair for getting in his way on the approach to the corner, heavily damaged his right-rear suspension and triggering the red flags. That ruined the laps of Bottas and Tsunoda, who were improving on their final efforts.
That brought the first phase of sprint race qualifying to a…
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