Leclerc blazes to Baku pole as Perez joins him on the front row in Azerbaijan Grand Prix qualifying
Charles Leclerc took pole position with a stunning lap in qualifying for the 2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, as Sergio Perez put himself on the front row in P2.
Leclerc set the ultimate benchmark of 1m 41.359s, going over two-tenths faster than Sergio Perez in a nailbiting Q3 session. Although he had provisional pole before that, Carlos Sainz couldn’t hook up his final effort and ended up fourth – behind Max Verstappen.
George Russell rounded out the top five for Mercedes, Pierre Gasly sharing the third row with him with a solid showing for AlphaTauri. Unhappy throughout qualifying, Lewis Hamilton took seventh and will share row four with AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda.
Sebastian Vettel took P9 for Aston Martin with Alpine’s Fernando Alonso rounding out the top 10.
FORMULA 1 AZERBAIJAN GRAND PRIX 2022
|1 Charles Leclerc LEC Ferrari
|2 Sergio Perez PER Red Bull Racing
|3 Max Verstappen VER Red Bull Racing
|4 Carlos Sainz SAI Ferrari
|5 George Russell RUS Mercedes
Q2 saw both McLarens and both Alfa Romeos eliminated: Lando Norris 11th and Daniel Ricciardo 12th; Zhou Guanyu 14th and Valtteri Bottas 15th. Between those orange and red pairs was the blue Alpine driver, Esteban Ocon.
Haas’s Kevin Magnussen was left in Q1, taking a provisional P16 on the grid, Williams drivers Alex Albon 17th and Nicholas Latifi 18th.
Aston Martin driver Lance Stroll crashed out of Q1 and will start a provisional P19 on the grid ahead of Haas’s Mick Schumacher, 20th.
AS IT HAPPENED
Q1 – Red flag makes for late chaos as drivers scramble for space
Long shadows crept across the Baku City Circuit for Saturday evening’s qualifying session, Perez having led two of three preceding practice sessions – Leclerc at the top in Friday’s FP2.
But it was Verstappen, with a tow off his team mate, who set the benchmark for Q1 with a time of 1m 42.772s, Perez going just 0.011s off in P2. Ferrari weren’t far off, Leclerc 0.143s off in third and Sainz another tenth away in P4. In the drop zone with time ticking mercilessly away were both Williams, Alfa Romeo’s Bottas – who aborted his first run – then Stroll and Schumacher.
A red flag would follow, pausing the session with two minutes and 30 seconds remaining after a brace of errors from Stroll; the Aston Martin driver locked up and tapped his front wing going into Turn 7. But on the following lap came his session-ending error, the Canadian clattering into the barriers at Turn 2.
Cue a mad scramble for track position at the end of Q1, Mercedes leading the line of cars out of the pits, numerous drivers being told to push on their out-laps – producing a race to the start-finish line as drivers began their flying laps side-by-side.
Despite beginning his lap alongside Latifi, Bottas managed to just make it out of the bottom five, claiming P15 with a margin of 0.165s over Haas’s Magnussen.
Williams drivers Albon – furious that Alonso had compromised his lap – and Latifi were eliminated in 17th and 18th respectively, while Stroll stayed 19th after his crash and Schumacher rounded out the standings in P20 for Haas.
Gasly jumped to P5 to drop Aston Martin driver Vettel down to sixth, while AlphaTauri team mate Tsunoda took P7 and Mercedes’ Russell P8. A solid showing from Zhou put the Alfa Romeo ninth ahead of Alpine’s Ocon.
Hamilton finished 11th while Alonso took 12th, the Alpine driver having gone into the Turn 15 run-off on his final lap – that action causing Albon to back off under caution and infuriating the Williams driver in the process. McLaren’s drivers were next, Norris 13th and Ricciardo 14th, with Bottas the last to make it into Q2.
Knocked out: Magnussen, Albon, Latifi, Stroll, Schumacher
Q2 – Perez hits back in a dramatic session
Hamilton, Ocon and Ricciardo were in trouble after the opening laps, while Alfa Romeo had not emerged. Early in Q2, Sainz was top by a tenth ahead of Leclerc – who made a mistake coming out of the final corner – while Verstappen and Perez were just a few hundredths behind the Monegasque.
Vettel, like Stroll in Q1, had a huge lock-up at Turn 15 and went square into the barriers with seven minutes left to bring out a brief yellow – reiterating the strength of those Aston Martin front wings.
The order eventually shuffled with Perez going top with a time of 1m 41.955s, Leclerc 0.091s behind while Sainz was eventually 0.133s off the Mexican. Verstappen, fourth, was 0.139s behind his team mate – while Gasly rounded out the top five.
In P6 was Mercedes’ Hamilton, audibly frustrated after repeated attempts to make it up from P11 before getting a useful tow from Russell (P8). Between the Mercedes was Vettel in P7, and behind them was Alonso in P9.
With a compromised out-lap as he came across a slow-going Hamilton, Norris backed out of his final flying effort and was out of Q2 by just 0.022s to AlphaTauri’s Tsunoda. Team mate Ricciardo was also out in 12th, while Ocon was 13th. Alfa Romeo’s Zhou finished 14th, Bottas 15th.
The session would end with Hamilton under investigation for driving too slowly.
Knocked out: Norris, Ricciardo, Ocon, Zhou, Bottas
Q3 – Sainz watches shot at maiden pole slip away
There was barely a shadow in sight for Q3, so low had the sun dropped. The temperatures had dropped too, drivers able to eke out more than a flying lap from their soft compounds.
Gasly set the pace early on from Russell then Hamilton, but the Red Bulls and Ferraris were yet to emerge. And when they did, it was Sainz who set the provisional pole time with a 1m 41.814s, Leclerc 0.047s off with a slide out of Turn 12. Perez was next, 0.126s off Sainz, and Verstappen fourth by another five-hundredths. The Scuderia were on for a second straight one-two in qualifying…
An issue for Perez kept him in the garage just a bit longer than his team mate, leaving him without a tow. And with Sainz looking to keep his pole, there would be no tow for or from Leclerc either.
The Spaniard almost hit the barriers coming out of Turn 2 as he pushed the limits and lost almost half a second on his effort. Leclerc however improved in the first sector, and again in the second… and it turned out to be a lap good enough for pole position as he set the benchmark of 1m 41.359s.
Verstappen briefly shot to second but Perez eclipsed him by eight-hundredths, for second on the grid. And, cursing the extra inches he took leaving Turn 2, Sainz settled for fourth.
Russell rounded out the top five for Mercedes, 1.353s off pole, while Gasly took sixth for AlphaTauri.
Perturbed by porpoising, Hamilton took seventh for Mercedes, just over two-tenths behind Russell, while Tsunoda was just over a tenth behind Hamilton on his way to P8.
Vettel was another 0.04s behind Tsunoda in ninth and in P10 was Alonso, the Spaniard 0.08s behind the four-time champion.
The key quote
“It feels good, this one. Obviously all pole positions feels good, but this one I probably did not expect it, because I thought Red Bull were stronger, especially in Q1 and Q2, I really struggled to see that we were faster, but then in the last lap, everything came together and I managed to do a good lap, so extremely happy… I’m really excited for tomorrow” – Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
Perez and Leclerc face off from the front row as Verstappen and Sainz chase. The Azerbaijan Grand Prix is set to start at 1500 local time on Sunday. Head to the RACE HUB to see how to catch the action.