What the teams said - Qualifying in Azerbaijan
Mercedes were 1.5s off the pace of Ferrari in final practice and it looked as if their form had deserted them. But come qualifying, once again they pulled off something special, with their third front-row lock-out of the season. Bottas benefitted from a tow to pip his team mate by the narrowest of margins, but the main talking point is that once again the Silver Arrows are ahead of their rivals in red at a circuit not expected to favour them. Now they need to complete the job tomorrow, which will be easier said than done at a track where the pole position sitter hasn’t finished on the podium in the past two seasons...
Lewis Hamilton, 2nd, 1:40.554
"We didn't think we'd be quick enough to lock out the front row here, Charles in particular had been very strong all weekend. We've made improvements and we thought we'd get within one or two tenths, but not quite make it. So I'm really proud of everyone in the team that we did it. This is one of the toughest, most challenging Qualifying sessions and circuits of the season, but I really enjoy the challenge. I've struggled at this track in the past, so I'm grateful to be on the front row. I was really close to getting pole today, my first lap in Q3 was actually quite good, but on my second lap I lost three tenths in the first two corners and while I did make most of it up, it wasn't enough for pole in the end. So I'm happy in one respect, but on the other hand I'm disappointed because I could have taken pole today. I'll try and make a difference tomorrow - the start is going to be important, our long run pace looked good, but there are usually lots of Safety Cars here, so lots can happen in the race."
Valtteri Bottas, 1st, 1:40.495
"This pole feels really good, the entire team did a great job today. We saw early on in the Qualifying that the Ferraris were very quick, as they were all weekend, but by the time we got to Q3 we were able to extract the maximum from our car and the tyres. As the track was evolving and cooling down, our car was behaving better and better, so it was good that it all came together when it really counted. It's nice to start from the front, but nothing is done yet - tomorrow is what counts. As we've seen in the past, anything can happen around this track, so staying out of trouble is going to be important. Race pace is going to be crucial as well as it is relatively easy to overtake on this track. I think it's going to be an exciting race tomorrow, the top teams all looked very close on long run pace, so it should be fun. I have a bit of unfinished business here in Baku from last year, so I'll give my best tomorrow."
James Allison, Technical Director
"We absolutely love coming to Baku, but boy, oh boy, is it stressful! Last night at the end of FP2, looking at a one and a half second gap to the Ferrari of Leclerc in front, today's front-row lockout in Qualifying felt very distant. We were reasonably sure that the car had good lap time in it, but persuading the tyres into a state where they were willing to give their best in a flying lap was not at all easy for the team and far harder still for the drivers. The Qualifying session today showed just how difficult this track is with a number of people finding themselves casualties of the unforgiving walls, so we were very grateful to finish the session with our drivers having managed it immaculately, able to get the car flying and finally to have the 1-2 and we're really pleased that both cars are in good shape for the race tomorrow."
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"The longer the Qualifying session took today, the better our performance looked. It's really tricky to get the tyre temperatures in the right window and we were struggling with that all weekend long, but when the ambience and track temperatures dropped towards the end of the session, our car was behaving much better than it had all weekend long. We gained relative performance the longer the session went on and by the time we got to Q3, the competitive order had changed. We didn't expect so many cars going out right with us at the end of Q3, so we were bunched up behind them and both Lewis' and Valtteri's outlaps were compromised. As a result, both of them struggled and Lewis lost quite a bit of time in the beginning of his final lap, but it was enough to lock out the front row for us. It's relatively easy to overtake in Baku, so race pace is going to be key tomorrow."
Leclerc topped FP3 by a comfortable margin from his team mate, was quick in Q1 and to all intents and purposes looked nailed on for pole. But he pushed too hard in Q2, made a small mistake and it proved costly indeed, with the youngster ploughing into the barriers and writing off more than just his front wing. “I am stupid,” was his immediate, honest response. That left Vettel to fly the flag for the Scuderia, and somewhat surprisingly given Ferrari’s strong showing in practice, he couldn’t match the might of Mercedes, coming home a disappointed third.
Sebastian Vettel, 3rd, 1:40.797
“It was a tough call in the end. When the track temperature dropped the car balance changed and getting the tyres to work for that one lap, especially after such a long straight before starting the lap, was not easy. With the clock ticking down, everybody was banking on the last run and getting a tow so at some point I had to make the call; do I prioritise my tyres or the tow? Which would have meant compromising the outlap and I didn’t have the feeling that I could afford that and I wanted to have a clean shot. My first Q3 run was ok, but on the second run I didn’t have anybody to tow me along, so I dealt with it just focusing on my lap and obviously I lost quite a lot, about four tenths, compared to the previous lap. But that’s what happens at this track. It was a tricky session. I saw Charles in the barrier and realised qualifying was over for him. It was a shame to lose one of our cars. In the end, we are one team and everybody is working extremely hard no matter which side of the garage you are on. Anyway, we need to turn the page as tomorrow is a new day and it’s a long race where anything can happen. As a team we can recover and put our rivals under pressure. Overall I feel we have a strong car so we can go and race hard and should have some fun.”
Charles Leclerc, 10th, No time set in Q3
“I am disappointed with myself. Our pace was good all weekend and we expected to have a positive qualifying result. My first lap in Q2 was very good considering we were on Mediums, but then I made a driving error on the second lap. I just didn’t do the job. The team and all the people supporting us out there deserved much more. Tomorrow is a new day. I will stay positive and push to do the best job possible in the race.”
Mattia Binotto, Team Principal
“We are not happy about the outcome of qualifying. I think our car was performing well today and we could have certainly achieved a much better result. The upgrades we brought here worked well and we are happy with the way they are behaving. Sebastian improved run after run and found the best feeling with the car right on his last attempt. This is such a peculiar track and had he found a better feeling before he could have done a better job. Charles will be one of the very few of the top ten starting on Medium tyres and he can still have a great race. He was very fast today and can be very fast tomorrow as well. It has been a real shame that his qualifying ended at turn 8, but these things happen when you push to the limit.”
Gasly knew he was to start from the pit lane after his weighbridge infringement yesterday, and thus sat out of Q2 to save tyres for the race. That left Verstappen to fight it out at the front. After topping the second segment, the Dutchman looked right in the mix, but opted for just the one run in Q3. He was parked in the Red Bull garage as the others improved late on and had to settle for fourth, but will fancy his chances of a podium tomorrow in a race known for throwing up more than its fair share of incidents.
Max Verstappen, 4th, 1:41.069
“We were positively surprised that we were so competitive in qualifying and the second row of the grid is not bad. Everything was going quite smoothly, but in Q3 we were running a different strategy as I only had one set of tyres so I was on my own. Around this track it is very painful to be on your own and you of course lose lap time to others who have a tow. Even compared to my own lap in Q2 I was losing around two and a half tenths on the main straight. You can also gain a tenth or two on the other straights having a car six or seven seconds ahead as you get sucked in and these cars have so much drag. I pushed everything I could out of my final lap and it was pretty good. I think we could have fought for pole if we were in that train of cars, but at least we know the car is working well. It’s always a crazy one here and for sure the race won’t be won at Turn 1. It’s all pretty close and from fourth we can still fight for the race.”
Pierre Gasly, 15th, No time set in Q2
“It was nice to end Q1 in P1 but knowing we’re starting from the pit lane tomorrow, the most important thing was just to get a feel of the car on low fuel. It felt really good and it’s probably the first time this year I’ve felt that good in the car, so I’m really happy. I felt confident and I’m always working and trying to adapt myself, and it’s working step by step. I think we’re going in the right direction and overall it was a positive qualifying session. We didn’t expect that kind of pace because we didn’t turn the power unit up, we went into race mode to save some engine mileage and in the end the performance was good. I think we have a good car here and I was hoping Max would get a good result in Q3. This race track is just insane with all the things that can happen so I will race flat out until the last lap. We have a car good enough to recover and score good points tomorrow, so I will push for it.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“It was an interesting qualifying today after several red flags and Pierre did a very good job to go fastest in Q1. Max unfortunately flat spotted a tyre so needed to run again in Q1, which reduced the number of tyres available to him later in qualifying, but nonetheless we finished Q1 first and fourth. In Q2, we elected not to run Pierre as he will start tomorrow’s race from the pit lane due to his weighbridge penalty, but Max was able to go quickest during the session. After the delay following Leclerc’s incident, Q3 finally got underway and with one set of tyres available, the best approach was quick-slow-quick which put Max out of sync with the drivers that had two sets remaining. Whilst he had the benefit of having a clear lap, he unfortunately didn’t have a tow as it would have been impossible to synchronise the different run strategies from the other teams. Overall, it was a strong qualifying with Max starting on the second row and Pierre’s time in Q1 would have put him sixth on the grid. A really encouraging display from Pierre and we now look forward to tomorrow’s race.”
Toro Rosso looked nailed on for two Q3 berths, but Albon clipped the wall on his final run in Q2 and missed out. Kvyat though, atoned for his crash yesterday and managed to grab sixth on the grid - despite also having his own brush with the wall. After a torrid race last time out in China, the Russian has bounced straight back and will be looking for a big haul of points to round off his birthday weekend in style.
Daniil Kvyat, 6th, 1:41.681
“It was a good qualifying, I had a great lap in Q3 - it gives you great satisfaction to put in a good lap, especially at a track like this as it’s a circuit for brave drivers. Conditions were not ideal for anyone because we missed out on track time yesterday, but I generally don’t need a lot of laps to find good pace. I brushed the wall on one of my laps, but you need to have big balls around this track to get the best time. Tomorrow’s a long race and we’ll try and put everything together - I think we have a chance for a strong result. The race can be very unpredictable, so I’ll keep a cool head and do the best job I can.”
Alex Albon, 13th, 1:42.494
“It was a bit of a frustrating end to qualifying. We had the pace for Q3 the whole weekend, just not when it mattered. I was struggling with the tyre temperatures and trying to get them in the right range, especially after the big temperature drop near the end of the session. Maybe I didn’t get the warm up lap right, because I struggled for confidence when the track was cold and the car started to slide around a bit. Tomorrow’s a new day and anything can happen here, we’ve seen how chaotic it can be so it’s all to play for.”
Jody Egginton, Technical Director
“Both drivers reported a reasonable balance during FP3, as such, the changes for qualifying were limited to ensure that tyres and run length were optimised to the track and ambient conditions. In Q1, the time set on the first lap of the second run was sufficient to see both cars through to Q2. However, the red flag resulted in the session being delayed and, subsequently, we ended the session in cooler temperatures than expected, which presented an extra challenge for the drivers and engineers. Dany was able to make it into Q3 but unfortunately Alex, although having been very competitive so far in Baku, was not able to do so on this occasion. To try and deal best with the cooler temperatures, we elected to continue with a push-cool-push approach for Q3, with Dany putting in a very good lap to secure sixth on the grid for the race, which is a great reward for the team’s effort. We now switch our focus to the race and, with the pace shown so far this weekend, scoring points with both cars.”
Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director
“This was a very complicated qualifying with two red flags but Daniil did well to be sixth quickest to give Scuderia Toro Rosso its first top ten qualifying result of the season. It is a positive result with which to go into tomorrow’s race. This result is down to all the hard work from everyone at Honda and our partner teams, as together we have produced two strong car packages for this event. Alex who will start from 12th place, having qualified 13th did not get a clean lap in Q2 because of traffic and he brushed the wall, but with the strong pace he showed all weekend, he can move up the order tomorrow. Our aim has to be to get all four cars home in the top ten with plenty of points.”
A mixed bag at Racing Point, with Perez finding some pace in his RP19 and dragging it into the top 10 in qualifying. That looked to be a surprise, but the Mexican showed that he was genuinely quick, grabbing a best-of-the-rest P5 for Racing Point’s best qualifying of the season. Stroll struggled by contrast, enduring yellow flags on his opening run in Q1, he then couldn’t extract enough on his second go to escape. He exited in the first segment of qualifying for the eighth consecutive race.
Sergio Perez, 5th, 1:41.593
“It was a great qualifying, the team did a tremendous job in terms of the strategy. We reacted really well and got all the decisions right - when to go out and when not to go out. It was a long session, the track cooled down a lot but I think we did a good job and we were able to get more out of the car. This is a very unique track, it pushes the driver to the maximum. You need to be on the limit every lap without making any mistakes and that takes a lot of commitment and confidence. It will be a long race, we have some very fast cars around us but anything can happen here in Baku. A single mistake can cost you a lot. It is important to stay cool and I think if we are able to finish the race we should be able to score good points.”
Lance Stroll, 16th, 1:42.630
“It was a challenging day and it’s a shame to go out in Q1. I did what I could with the limited running we could do yesterday. FP3 was a good session and I kept building my confidence up, but in the end we didn’t have enough laps. I had to abort my first lap due to the yellow flags, so I only had one attempt. In the end, the lap just wasn’t good enough so all we can do is look ahead to tomorrow. The potential of the car is good, as Sergio has shown, and the race can be very unpredictable here. If we come up with a good strategy and make the most of any opportunity we can still come up with a good result, so let’s see what happens.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO
“It was a very interesting session, especially as the track temperatures dropped the longer the sessions went on. As we were expecting, the midfield is very tight: Lance was very unlucky to miss out on Q2 by such a small margin. On the other hand, Sergio got into a good rhythm early on and did a very good job to maximise the performance of the car in each of the sessions. To end up as the fourth quickest team here is very satisfying, but there are no points on offer on Saturday. Tomorrow is when it matters so we will need to be ready to make the most of the race. Our pace on long runs looked good and we believe we have a good car, so points with both cars is our target.”
McLaren once again showed their strong qualifying form, with Norris not just making the top 10 shoot out, but grabbing P7 ahead of the Alfa pair. Given how drastically the smallest mistake is punished at this track, it was a composed display from the rookie. Sainz was unlucky in narrowly missing out on Q3 in P11, but with free tyre choice, McLaren will surely target a double points finish here in Baku.
Carlos Sainz, 11th, 1:42.398
“A frustrating situation one more time in quali. I don’t have much to say. The session was going well, I was lapping in the 1m41.9s – 1m42.0s in Q1, which would have got us easily from Q2 into Q3. The Haas made a mistake in front of me and that meant yellow flags in Turn Two ruined my last attempt. It’s not the best way to finish qualifying today.
“Right now I’m far from happy, but tomorrow I’ll be more positive and 100 per cent focussed on the race. I have a free choice of tyre, and I start from P10 instead of P11 – but the fact is I’m not happy at all.”
Lando Norris, 7th, 1:41.886
“It was obviously a decent quali – in the end – in terms of the result. I managed to stay out of danger, didn’t make any silly mistakes and capitalised a bit on others who did. It was having that clean qualifying that made it pretty good for us.
“It could maybe have gone a little better if I’d nailed the lap but I’m still happy with seventh. I think we maximised today overall and I’m pretty pleased with how it’s gone. It’s going to be a long one tomorrow though. The starting position doesn’t decide the whole race here like it does at some other tracks.”
Gil De Ferran, Sporting Director
“I guess it’s a good sign when you are mildly frustrated after the results we had today. In general, this is a very difficult session to manage given the red flags and the importance of track position in order to achieve your maximum potential.
“Carlos was really unfortunate to come across a yellow flag on what would have been his ‘qualifying lap.’ On the positive side, he’s in a good grid position and with free choice of tyres for tomorrow, which may end up being a very important factor for the race. Lando did an absolutely brilliant job improving every time and put himself in a very deserving P7.
“Tomorrow is another day, as was underlined by today’s session. I’m sure we’ll again have to contend with many unpredictable situations, which unquestionably will make our job on the pit-wall very complex as well as for the drivers in the cockpit. At the same time, I’m sure it will provide a very exciting race for the fans.”
Two cars in the top 10 shoot out was a solid performance for Alfa, albeit tinged with the disappointment of Giovinazzi having a ten-place grid drop thanks to the new Control Electronics part being fitted to his car for this weekend. Nonetheless, the Italian managed to out-qualify his team mate for the first time this season in a confidence-boosting performance.
Kimi Raikkonen, 9th, 1:43.068
“Quite disappointing as I couldn’t put a decent lap together in the last part of qualifying. For the last try I was to close to the Mercedes so my lap was more or less over before it had even started. My expectations for the race? I don’t have any, as anything can happen here.”
Antonio Giovinazzi, 8th, 1:42.424
“To be in Q3 for the first time makes me really happy. My pace was already very strong in yesterday's FP2. We got the maximum out of our car today, and even if I've been given a 10-place penalty I hope to score some points here. It's been a chaotic race for the last two years and we can’t predict how it will be tomorrow, so we will do our best to have a good race and fight our way forward.”
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal
“Overall, the qualifying was a good one as we have both cars in the Top Ten for the first time. While Antonio showed a very strong performance, it's a shame we didn't show our potential during Q3 with Kimi. We struggled with the outlap in the traffic. Our pace has been promising so far and we are confident to have a good result in the race.”
Renault looked off the pace yesterday, and couldn’t find the optimum set-up today either. Hulkenberg exited in disappointing fashion in Q1 and while Ricciardo did make Q2, he struggled to make an impression and wound up 12th. The good news for the Aussie is thanks to grid penalties, that becomes P11 and with free tyre choice to boot and a car usually stronger on race pace, he still has every chance of bringing home some much-needed points for the team.
Nico Hulkenberg, 18th, 1:43.427
“I’ve been missing the harmony between myself and the car all weekend. We couldn’t find that sweet spot with the car or the tyres. Things didn’t quite go our way in qualifying with a yellow flag hampering my first fast lap and then I locked up and went in too deep on my second. The race, however, is not written off. We know it will be difficult but we know what’s happened here in the past. You have to be in it, and we’ll race hard tomorrow.”
Daniel Ricciardo, 12th, 1:42.477
“Considering how the weekend has gone so far, we probably lowered our expectation for today. Twelfth isn’t ideal. This weekend we’ve been a little bit off the pace and small things make a big difference. We’ve made changes from yesterday and certainly made progress. You never know what will happen here. I’m right in the midfield for the start and it can be crazy at this place. We have to keep it clean, keep chipping away and aim to come through the field.”
Alan Permane, Sporting Director
“It wasn’t a particularly good qualifying for the team today with both drivers missing out on Q3. The weekend has been difficult and a little intermittent, but that’s the same for all teams and that’s part of the challenge of racing in Baku. Nico has struggled with confidence in the car, while Daniel was slightly happier and managed to get through to Q2 and very close to a shot at the top 10. We know anything can happen here as we’ve seen in the past couple of years, so we’re not counting anything out for tomorrow’s race.”
Haas had been the only midfield team to get both cars into Q3 at every race this year, but that run ended when Grosjean exited in Q1. The Frenchman had struggled to get his tyres in the right window all weekend, and will have his work cut out in the race. Magnussen made a mistake in Q2, running straight on at Turn 2 and could only manage P14 in a disappointing performance for the American outfit.
Romain Grosjean, 17th, 1:43.407
“It’s been complicated since the beginning of the weekend to be fair. The feeling in the car is not quite there. It got better in qualifying, we did a good job, so I was quite shocked to see the lap time, and what was missing, first to get into Q2, and then against my teammate. We need to analyse everything, as this hasn’t been our best weekend so far. We haven’t generated the grip, so there’s still more work to be done there. The qualifying feeling was okay, so I’m just surprised to be that far off.”
Kevin Magnussen, 14th, 1:42.699
“Obviously it wasn’t the best qualifying for us – just not really fast enough today. It wasn’t a perfect Q2 either. I was overtaken just before the last corner to start the lap, so I was right behind the Renault and in its dirty air, I locked up unfortunately. I didn’t get a last go at setting a time. I needed a lot of lap time from that lap, but I don’t think it was really there. It’s slightly disappointing, but hopefully, well – the first two races we’ve been good in qualifying, then not so good in the races, hopefully it’s the other way around this weekend.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“An exciting day I’d say, but not in the right direction. We came here knowing that this track would not suit us, but we tried to do our best. Romain (Grosjean) just didn’t quite get a feeling in the car, so went out in Q1, and Kevin (Magnussen) got a little bit further reaching Q2. It’s one of the tracks where I’m slightly less worried starting in our positions, it’s a complete lottery here with what happens in the race. It doesn’t mean we’re staying out of trouble. You never know what can happen. Last year we started last with Romain and worked our way up to fifth – until we had a crash. So, anything is possible here, and we’re not giving up on points. We look forward to tomorrow.”
After Russell’s crash yesterday, Williams had hoped for a quieter day today. It was not to be, with Kubica clipping the wall in Turn 8 and crashing into the barriers, wrecking the front of his FW42. That ended his involvement in qualifying and left the team a lot of work to repair his car ahead of the race...
Robert Kubica, 20th, 1:45.455
"At this track you pay a high price for a relatively small mistake. I knew it before I came here and unfortunately that’s just how it is. It was not a huge impact, but the doctors had to do the usual precautions and I am okay. I turned in too soon and clipped the wall at Turn 8, which launched me to the outside of the next corner which is the narrowest point on the Formula One calendar. The temperature is not helping us, but this was a driver mistake and we will evaluate the car for damage."
George Russell, 19th, 1:45.062
"I went into qualifying quite blind after missing all the running yesterday. Baku is a circuit that requires a lot confidence for you to maintain your momentum. From a personal perspective, I felt comfortable during qualifying and got the most out of the package. It’s been a tough weekend and will be a long race tomorrow, but we must stay positive and keep making the most of the situation."
Dave Robson, Senior Race Engineer
"Although we gathered only limited data from yesterday’s running, we were able to make some improvements to the car overnight. Furthermore, with the mechanics having done an excellent job of getting the spare chassis ready for George, we were able to use both cars to conduct some further experiments in FP3. Applying the learning to the cooler conditions of evening qualifying is never straightforward. Overall, we were able to make further progress and George was able to make up for the time he lost yesterday, getting the most out of the car during his runs in Q1. Unfortunately, Robert touched the wall at Turn 8 on his final flying lap, and this lost him the opportunity to maximise his qualifying performance. We are assessing the damage on Robert’s car but expect to be able to make the necessary repairs ahead of tomorrow’s race."
Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing
“Track temperatures were quite cool today once more. The surface was very slippery, leading to a few lock-ups and flat spots, and we saw the soft tyres used nearly from start to finish of qualifying: Ferrari on the medium in Q2 being the only exception. In theory, because tyre wear and degradation are not significant here, this should be a one-stop race. But with the number of incidents and potential safety cars, it’s difficult to make an accurate prediction: especially as there is a very wide pit stop window. The numerous delays meant that track temperatures dropped quite dramatically during the session, which ended at nearly 7pm local time, so the drivers were presented with a very different surface compared to what they had started with, influencing tyre behaviour and strategy.”