RACE DEBRIEF

    For the second race in a row, Charles Leclerc took a surprise pole position in astonishing fashion as red flags flew in Baku, but this time it wasn't he who crashed at the end of Q3. Instead, the Monegasque survived the mayhem to grab P1, even if he conceded afterwards that his pole position lap was far from optimal…

    In Monaco, Leclerc brought qualifying to a premature end by crashing into the Swimming Pool barriers. Here in Azerbaijan, it was AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda who brought out the session-ending red flag – just before Leclerc’s Ferrari team mate Carlos Sainz crashed.

    That secured the Ferrari man P1 ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen - a surprise not least to the man himself, who was less than complimentary about a lap he said was somewhat salvaged by getting a speed-boosting slipstream from Hamilton on the run to the line.

    READ MORE: Leclerc takes shock pole in dramatic Baku qualifying session as FIVE drivers crash out

    “It was quite a s*** lap, I thought," he said bluntly. "I mean, there were two or three corners where I did mistakes but then of course I had the big tow from Lewis in the last sector, which helped me a little bit.

    "Overall I think we would have been thereabouts for pole anyway without the slipstream. So it’s a good day. I did not expect to be as competitive as we were today. I think I was improving again with the red flag, but it’s like this. On the pole, I’m happy anyway.

    2021 Azerbaijan GP Qualifying: Leclerc takes pole position as Tsunoda and Sainz crash

    "Hopefully, it’s all good for Carlos; I haven’t seen the crash. I have no idea, I hope it’s all OK for the team," he added.

    Leclerc's team mate, Sainz, who finished on the podium in Monaco, crashed at the end of today's qualifying session at Turn 3, spinning off past the stricken car of Tsunoda and crashing into the barriers in the run-off area.

    The pole-sitter may not have damage to worry about (having failed to start the Monaco GP because of his Q3 crash), but said that he'd rather not have taken a second pole of 2021 under red flags once again. He also warned that the threat from Mercedes and Red Bull will be far more significant here than it would have been at Monaco.

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    Leclerc took his ninth F1 pole position on Saturday

    "It definitely feels very good. On the other another hand its with a red flag again. I wish we had it on a normal lap but in the end, a pole is a pole.

    "Yes, the car felt quite OK, but I believe Mercedes and Red Bull have something more than we have in the race especially," continued Leclerc.

    F2: Ferrari junior Shwartzman claims Baku Sprint Race 1 win from Ticktum

    "We’ve seen that in FP2, so it’s going to be very difficult because here it’s not like Monaco – they can overtake – so I’ll try to do the best job possible and hopefully we can keep that first place. It’s going to be difficult."

    With Leclerc's ninth career pole position, Ferrari have put themselves back in the top three on the grid after a drought in 2020 – and we have a bona-fide battle between the Scuderia, Red Bull and Mercedes to look forward to on Sunday.