Charles Leclerc looked nailed on to take pole in Baku, but when he crashed his Ferrari, qualifying suddenly opened up. And as the temperatures started to drop, and the field left the pits tightly bunched up, it was Valtteri Bottas who got everything right to take his second successive pole position in 2019…
Sebastian Vettel was the first to cross the line in the final runs, the German not doing enough to better provisional polesitter Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton crossed next, but he had lost too much time in the first sector and that left realistically only Bottas who could challenge – and he snatched the opportunity.
The Finn ended up just 0.059s clear of Hamilton, with Vettel a quarter of a second further back. It was something of a surprise, with Mercedes chief Toto Wolff admitting: “Charles should have been on pole and I think if he had made it to Q3, he probably would have been, but 'would haves' don’t count in Formula 1”.
As a result, Bottas will start Sunday’s race from pole, having outqualified a team mate in Baku for the first time in his career. “I’m really happy,” said Bottas. “It was a nice feeling to get it on the last lap. Ferrari have been really strong. Obviously Charles was out by a mistake and as a team, we did really good to be where we are now after such a difficult practice.
“It’s all about small margins and I did get a good tow in the last lap. Of course, the corners I had to drive as well, but it’s all about fine details and I managed to hit the sweet spot.”