What the teams said - Qualifying in Azerbaijan
They played down expectations coming into this weekend, but make no mistake – the Scuderia are fast. Both drivers were right up there in every session, leaving them firmly in the hunt for pole. In the end it was fortuitous for Leclerc, as his lap was greatly aided by an accidental tow from Hamilton. But he still didn’t make any mistakes, which made the difference. As for Sainz, he was unlucky to crash at the end of Q3 after reacting to Tsunoda hitting the barriers in front of him. The Spaniard will face a nervous wait to find out if his gearbox is intact overnight.
Charles Leclerc, 1st, 1:41.218
"I am very happy. I tried to take things step by step and only push in Q3 today. It seems to have worked out pretty well. I had good references – I knew where I could gain and where I could push more, and that’s what I did.
"After the first lap, I was reasonably happy but I did lose quite a bit at Turns 4-5-6. On the second timed lap I was quite a lot stronger, but then the session was stopped by the red flag. But it’s pole anyway, so I am very happy with that. Our race pace is not as strong as that of our competitors ahead of us in the championship, so I believe it will be very difficult to keep them behind in the race. The straights are very long here, and it is easy to overtake. We will give everything, and hopefully we can have another positive surprise tomorrow."
Carlos Sainz, 5th, 1:41.576
"A very frustrating qualifying for me again today. I am disappointed we couldn’t extract all the potential of the car due to the circumstances. I was improving my lap time on the last attempt when the AlphaTauri crashed in front of me. I saw the smoke from the lock up but hoped he had continued. When I saw the crash it was too late and I ended up touching the barriers. At these speeds, the outcome could have been much worse, but the car seems to be OK.
"On the positive side, our pace was strong, even more than we expected before coming to Baku. Congrats to Charles for putting it on pole. Overall it’s a great result for the team. Now we’ll start preparing for the race and I will do my absolute best to recover tomorrow."
Laurent Mekies, Racing Director
"Another pole for Charles, which was even more unexpected than the one two weeks ago in Monaco. We arrived in Baku believing that this would be a much more complicated weekend than the last race, but in fact our performance level was better than expected right from the start of practice, even though theoretically this track should be less suited to our car.
"The team and the drivers did a great job over these past two days, improving the car for every session. Our qualifying performance, the best of any team if you look at the pair of results, is a fitting reward for that.
"Carlos’ crash? He was caught off guard by the smoke from Tsunoda ahead of him. These things happen and anyway, it didn’t affect his result given that, because of the yellow flags, he would have had to slow down at that point on the track. We can expect a very tough race tomorrow. Pole is not as important here as in Monaco, given that overtaking is commonplace. Yesterday, we saw that Red Bull and Mercedes were very quick over a long run. Tyre degradation will be a key factor, especially in the first stint. We will have to be ready for any eventuality, given that this race usually has all sorts of unexpected twists and turns."
With Mercedes seemingly still off the pace in FP3, they looked to have an up-hill battle in qualifying to even make the top 10. But some hard work by the crews between the sessions enabled two slightly more competitive cars to take to the track. Bottas towed his team mate in the first runs in Q3 and that proved crucial, with Hamilton grabbing a somewhat surprising second on the grid. The Finn though didn’t get a clean lap in of his own thanks to the red flags and had to make do with P10.
Lewis Hamilton, 2nd, 1:41.450
"Given the difficult circumstances, I'm just overwhelmed and really happy to get that lap in. We definitely weren't expecting that, and this is such a monumental result for us because we've been struggling like you couldn't believe all weekend. We kept our composure and continued to have difficult conversations in the background, challenging one another and just never taking "no" for an answer.
"Today was the biggest jump we've been able to make between FP3 and qualifying. We discovered something at the end of FP3 and we continued to push in that direction. It's been so difficult and there was so much work back at the factory overnight and today - I hope everyone's happy but we've still got a job to do tomorrow.
"Our race pace is a lot better than our single lap pace, we're miles off on a single lap and a lot closer in race pace. We don't understand why, but I'd like to think we can take the fight to the other teams tomorrow."
Valtteri Bottas, 10th, 1:42.659
"My pace has been suffering all weekend and I feel like ultimately, something is wrong because I'm on the limit but so far off the pace - if I push harder, I'm in the wall. We alternate and this weekend was Lewis' choice to decide who goes first out the garage so obviously in the first run on Q3 he had my tow and in the second run I tried to get tow from Charles but there was the red flag which stopped my flying lap.
"Tomorrow will be a challenge but I know anything can happen in this race - I've been here before one lap down and finished back at the front. So you never know and for sure, we'll keep trying and I'll just try to understand everything I can tonight and fight tomorrow."
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"The job that has been done back in Brackley and Brixworth, and from the engineers here, is fantastic - they designed an incredible programme which we went through line-by-line. We made a series of experiments - some were useful, others not but we were able to gain answers to our questions and then produce a car that was good.
"Yesterday our long runs looked good and we were on a similar pace to the Red Bulls so I think we have a decent shot at a good result tomorrow."
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
"We didn't really expect to have a car on the front row going into the session but Lewis made the most of what he had and was able to put in pretty impressive laps throughout. He'd managed to get a better feel for the front end in the morning session and managed to build on that in qualifying which was encouraging. Valtteri has had a tough weekend from the word go. We need to pick through his car to try and understand where the issue is as he's just not got the grip that Lewis has had, regardless of where we have put the setup.
"The race should be interesting tomorrow; we had a reasonable long run on Friday and the race is as much about pace and degradation as it is track position. It's also one where anything can happen with a high probability of safety cars and red flags but hopefully we can move forward with both drivers."
For the second qualifying session in a row, it just wasn’t to be for the Bulls. Verstappen had already crashed in FP3 so the day was hardly going to plan, but the Dutchman had put that behind him and was looking quick when it mattered. But that first run in Q3 wasn’t perfect and on a day when a yellow or red flag was never far away, those tiny mistakes made all the difference. As for Perez, he made a couple of small errors to lose lap time on his first and only run.
Max Verstappen, 3rd, 1:41.563
“Of course I’m not that happy as I was very confident we could fight for pole here as we have felt good throughout the weekend but qualifying was pretty scrappy with all the red flags and the one at the end of Q3 stopped us all improving. It is what it is and it’s unfortunate but it’s a fast street circuit and these things can happen. Of course I would have liked to start further ahead but P3 isn’t so bad. We know we have a good car so it’s still all to play for and we can fight from there. As you can see from qualifying a lot of things can happen around this circuit so let’s hope we can have a clean start and then put the pressure on. With three different teams at the front it should also be a pretty interesting race strategy wise as well and it is also about keeping your tyres alive. We are still up there so let’s see what we can do tomorrow.”
Sergio Perez, 6th, 1:41.917
“Today was a big shame as we’ve shown all weekend we have very good pace but today we didn’t put the lap together when it really mattered. There was so much more on offer and we obviously expected more but it is what it is. On my first Q3 run I locked up into Turn 4 and then I was chasing the time for the rest of the lap. On my second run, I was on for a great lap and then the red flag came out for Yuki and Carlos and that was that. I don’t remember there being so many red flags in a session but tomorrow is when it counts and anything can happen around this track. I think there are lots of positives to be taken so far from this weekend, the pace every single session has been there and we’ve shown good progression so we can be pleased with that. Tomorrow is a long race and there is plenty to play for so we need to get our heads down and make sure we deliver. I think we have a very strong car underneath us so a podium has to be the target.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
"It was frustrating not to get that last run in Q3 as Max was improving and in with the chance of a tow at the end of the lap but that’s life and it was the same for everyone. Likewise for Sergio, he was banking on his second Q3 lap to show the pace he’s had here all weekend but we’re still in good shape starting P3 and P7. Our car has been quick here this weekend and overtaking is possible at this track so it should make for an exciting Grand Prix and strategy will be key. It’s still all to play for and I’m sure Checo will make progress quickly in the race so that we’re able to make the most of the opportunities in front of us tomorrow."
AlphaTauri started the day strongly when Gasly topped FP3, and they continued that form as both cars then made it to Q3 for the first time this season. They ran a different tactic to everyone else, coming out between the first and second runs when the track was clear. Tsunoda gave his team mate a tow, which helped Gasly to a sensational fourth place, just 0.002s shy of Verstappen’s third. But then the rookie crashed at Turn 3, bringing out the red flags and marring what had up until then, been a very decent day for the team.
Pierre Gasly, 4th, 1:41.565
“Honestly, it’s been a pretty incredible day. Topping the session in FP3 meant I was super excited coming into qualifying. The pace was clearly there today, and we felt strong, we’ve pushed all weekend and I’ve just really clicked with the car here in Baku. I’m really pleased with our quali performance, I think at the end we were still in a position to fight towards the front but P4 is great and the margins to the front row were so tight. It was a fantastic effort by the whole team, and I think we can be very proud of the progress we’re making.
"I’ve tried to build it up every lap here, session after session and push the limit each time and I think I’ve done that well this weekend. I’ve managed to put everything together in Q3 and we’re in a really strong position starting tomorrow’s race. Obviously Yuki’s day didn’t end as planned but he’s done really well here so far this weekend, he’s worked hard on building up his pace through the sessions and today he made it through to Q3 for the first time so he should be really pleased with that.”
Yuki Tsunoda, 7th, 1:42.211
“It’s a really mixed feeling today, I’ve made good progress here in Azerbaijan through the weekend, which has been really positive and then I made it through to Q3 for the first time. I think there was the potential to be starting the race in a higher position, but I was just pushing too much, and it didn’t pay off today, so obviously I’m disappointed and I just want to apologise to the team. Tomorrow is a new day though and I think, compared to Monaco, overtaking is a lot easier here so that, combined with a good tyre strategy, could be good for us in the race.”
Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer
“This track is often one which can throw up surprises and today was no exception. We showed a good performance yesterday so the changes to the cars for FP3 were more fine tuning, trying to account for the hotter track temperatures that we would face in FP3 and then react for a cooler qualifying. We saw an improvement from the alterations we made and FP3 showed that we had a car capable of fighting towards the front of the tight midfield.
"We headed into quali believing we had a chance to get both cars into Q3 if we could put it all together. Qualifying was a very busy and intense session with multiple red flags and aborted laps, which meant we had to change our plan, but both the team and drivers adapted really well to this, particularly in Q1. Yuki put in a fantastic lap in Q2 and both drivers made it through to Q3 for the first time this season. They both put in a great performance today, with Pierre ending in P4 and just two thousands behind Max in P3.
"Yuki’s first lap put him in P8 but unfortunately, he pushed a bit too hard on his second lap, meaning he locked up and has sustained damage to the front suspension from the impact. It’s part of the learning experience though and the rest of this weekend he has kept his head down, built up the pace and showed a very good performance. There’s some work to do on his car tonight and we’ll also work on preparing both drivers ahead of the race, so we can aim to keep both cars in a point scoring position.”
McLaren seemed to be there or thereabouts, but Ricciardo didn’t nail his first run in Q2. Under pressure, he pushed too hard on his second run to bring out the red flags and end the session early. Norris had made it into the top 10 by then, but without a tow from his team mate, could only manage sixth. He was also investigated for a red flag infringement, and found guilty which led to a three-place grid drop sending him from P6 down to ninth.
Daniel Ricciardo, 13th, 1:42.558
“Obviously not the way I wanted to end the session. This track can certainly bite, and it did. Crashing never feels good and I feel for the crew who have to do the work, but that’s what happens when trying to find the limit on a street circuit, and we can still take positives from today. We took a good step in getting more out of the car and understanding it, but it’s still proving tricky to put it all together.
“We’ll keep working and tomorrow’s a long race. A lot of things will happen and, as you saw in quali, there’s probably going to be a bit of chaos. Hopefully we’ve got our trouble out of the way today, so we can push on tomorrow and get after it. We’ve got a free tyre choice, so we’ll see how we can make some opportunities there. It’s all still open, so I’ll just learn from the mistake and progress from here.”
Lando Norris, 9th, 1:41.747
“Chaotic quali, as I’m sure it was for everyone. Finishing P6 on track was ok on a used set of tyres. In the end, we definitely had the potential to do more. I was already up on my final lap on the new tyre before the red flag came out. “I’m disappointed to be starting P9 after being given a penalty. It’s a tough one to take as I felt I took the safest possible action. That will make things more difficult tomorrow, but we can still fight for good points given the overtaking opportunities in Baku, so let’s see what we can do.”
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal
“A difficult afternoon for the team with a qualifying session dominated by on-track incidents and red flags. Unfortunately, Daniel made a mistake in Q2, crashing in the barrier at the exit of Turn Three, which caused an early end to his qualifying session. It was a great shame after the good step forward he has taken this weekend, in terms of feeling comfortable in the car. On Lando’s side, we managed to get through the various incidents up to the last run in Q3, where the final red flag unfortunately cost him the opportunity to use his new tyres. “We now switch our focus to the race tomorrow, which is when the points are handed out. We should have two strong race cars which will allow us, again, to fight for good positions.”
With Ocon was another driver unluckily eliminated in Q2, losing his chance of a second run to red flags, Alonso did manage to make the top 10 shootout for the first time in Baku. But he had to complete his first run on used tyres, and then didn’t get a lap time in on his fresh set. The Spaniard was frustrated by the number of crashes, but at least gained a place after Norris was penalised.
Esteban Ocon, 12th, 1:42.273
“It wasn’t our session clearly. Q1 went well but into Q2 there were a lot of incidents. I got impeded into Turn 3 on my first run and hit the wall because of that, then on the second run the red flag came out so I couldn’t go again. It’s a bit frustrating as the car looked as though it was capable of getting well into the top ten so we will look to convert that tomorrow. Plenty is possible with our pace; I am definitely looking forward to the race, which is always a crazy one.”
Fernando Alonso, 8th, 1:42.327
“It was a bit of a messy session today and it was difficult to get into any kind of rhythm during qualifying. Unfortunately, we were unable to exploit the full potential of the car as every time we fitted fresh tyres a red flag came out. But it’s the same for everybody, so we have to take the positives away from today. It’s my first time in Q3 here so that’s good and we can see what is possible tomorrow. ”
Davide Brivio, Racing Director
“It was a very tricky session with so many red flags, it was difficult to get into a rhythm and I think we didn’t use our potential. Fernando was comfortable in the car and we can be happy to get into Q3, but we could have done better with the last laps to extract the final lap time we knew was there. Esteban improved this morning but we were so unlucky with the red flag roulette; we just paid the price with him. This track is quite unpredictable so we will do our best for tomorrow. We know the pace is there so we need to stay focussed on our race.”
Stroll was the first into the walls in qualifying. He crashed near the start of Q1 without setting a lap time, a small lock up costing him dear. That left Vettel to fly the flag and he might well have done all the way to Q3, but he was forced to abort his last flying lap in Q2 due to red flags. Starting 11th, the German does have free tyre choice at a venue that is seeing high levels of tyre wear…
Sebastian Vettel, 11th, 1:42.224
“We had good pace today. I was being patient and waiting to unleash the lap time at the right moment. Unfortunately, I took a bit too much risk on my best lap in Q2 and locked up going into Turn 15. I was lucky to continue, with a big flat spot, but it probably cost me about four tenths. That is what cost me a place in Q3. It is a tricky corner, downhill and bumpy, and it channels the wind. I am disappointed because we easily had the pace to go through to Q3. Then, with the early red flag, there was no opportunity to recover. Anyway, we are starting just outside of the points, but I think we can improve during the race with a nice rhythm and some good race pace.”
Lance Stroll, Not time set in Q1
“It was my mistake, and I have apologised to the team. Turn 15 is a challenging corner, as we have seen all weekend. It is off-camber and you brake over to the right, which means it is easy to lock up the front-right tyre under braking. With a tailwind like today, you can be caught out. I came into the corner too hot and locked up the tyre after I was already committed. I am obviously frustrated with myself, but the focus is on bouncing back tomorrow. You can overtake in Baku, so we will try to work our way up the field as much as we can in the race.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO
“Sebastian was very unlucky not to have a chance to push for a Q3 place, denied that opportunity by Daniel’s [Ricciardo] Turn 3 shunt with a couple of minutes of Q2 still to run. The session was then red-flagged, at which point Sebastian was 11th-quickest, just three-hundredths of a second shy of the Q2 cut-off. However, mitigating his ill fortune, he will start tomorrow’s race from P11, the best-placed runner able to select his own choice of tyres on which to begin the race. Lance hit the wall at Turn 15, sadly for us in Q1, which means that he will start the race from the 10th row. Points will be hard to get from back there, but you can be well sure that Lance will give it his all and, with a clever strategy and his strong race pace, points may be possible for him.”
After impressing yesterday and sounding confident of a strong result, Giovinazzi’s hopes of Q3 went up in smoke as he crashed at Turn 15 in Q1. That ended his session before he’d even set a time. Raikkonen at least saved the team’s blushes by making Q2, but he could go no further after losing his last flying run to red flags.
Kimi Raikkonen, 14th, 1:42.587
“We did a good laptime even though we only had used tyres left after all the red flags in Q1, and we could have got even more without the red flag at the end of Q2. We were on a good lap and we would have had a tow, and I think we could have gone through to Q3. It’s been a difficult qualifying with all the stoppages, but let’s see what we can do: we seemed to be faster and faster with every lap, the car felt better than at any other point in the weekend so it feels we are going in the right direction. Of course there are still things we need to improve but the feeling in qualifying is getting better. Tomorrow anything can happen: we need to stay out of any issue at the start and see what we can get out of this race.”
Antonio Giovinazzi, No time set in Q1
“It’s disappointing to do a mistake like this when we looked strong. I locked up in the middle of the corner and, when that happens in a turn like that, it’s very difficult to recover: I apologise to the team as we had it in us to do a good result today. At least, this is not Monaco and we can still recover and have a good race, especially if our pace is like today’s. We had the speed to get in Q2 and possibly even Q3, so we will not give up: everything is possible here in Baku and we’ll be ready to take the opportunity.”
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal
“This has been our best qualifying performance of the year: I know this sounds strange, with one car in P14 and the other unable to set a time, but our pure pace was the best it has been on a Saturday this season. Kimi, running on used tyres, was less than a second from provisional pole at the end of Q2 and little more than 0.02 from Ricciardo, on fresh rubber. He was on a good lap and would have had a tow on the final straight, so we are confident he would have been there or thereabout for the top 10. Antonio was unlucky to end his session so early after being in good form during yesterday’s sessions, but we can be confident in our pace for tomorrow. If today’s anything to go by, anything can happen tomorrow and we can fight for a good result.”
Russell pulled over at the end of FP3 with no gears, a water pressure leak proving to be the issue. That lead to a full PU change between sessions, with both crews working frantically to get his car out in time for Q1. Helped by the red flag periods, Russell was able to take to the track and made Q2 as a fitting thank-you to the team. Latifi wound up just behind in P16 after missing the chequered flag on his final run in Q1.
George Russell, 15th, 1:42.758
"Firstly, the mechanics did a fantastic job. I think that must be a record time for a full power unit change and getting everything sorted! Huge thanks to them. We then delivered when it mattered and I'm really happy to get into Q2. That was almost the maximum today; we capitalised on other people's mistakes so I'm happy with the overall performance.
"Tomorrow is going to be really interesting. Hopefully there is a bit of action and we can make the most of it."
Nicholas Latifi, 16th, 1:43.128
"For me, it felt like the tyres were at their peak on my first lap, which is when I set my quickest time. Unfortunately, I think we got unlucky when the red and yellow flags came out because we used our three sets of tyres that we have for qualifying, but in reality, I only got to do the one representative push lap. With this kind of circuit we know that there’s a high chance something like that will happen with flags, but you just don’t know when they will come out and unfortunately we weren’t at the right place at the right time. Overall, I think we had the pace to be faster and get through to Q2, so I’m a little disappointed, but opportunities always present themselves here, so hopefully we can take advantage of that."
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance
"The tests completed yesterday, and the analysis overnight was rewarded in FP3 where we showed a good improvement from FP2. The drivers were both much happier and Nicholas was very quickly back up to speed following his issue in FP2, completing two strong runs and showing ever improving pace. George had a good first run but was unable to show his true pace in FP3 due to a rare issue with the power unit water pump. Unfortunately, there wasn’t time before qualifying to change the pump on his power unit and so we refitted the unit that he ran in Monaco. No damage was done to the new power unit and although this will be checked thoroughly, we expect it to return to duty in France.
"Qualifying was the complicated affair that we expected with several red flags in Q1. Whilst this cost Nicholas several attempts on new tyres, it ensured that George got out for Q1 with time to complete a variety of run plans following his power unit change after FP3. It was another great effort from the team to get his car ready.
"With Stroll and Giovinazzi both crashing out of Q1, it effectively became a shootout between our drivers for the final place in Q2. George was able to build over his three timed lap run, but Nicholas used a little too much of the tyres on the first lap and was unable to better that time. George ultimately made it through at Nicholas’s expense. With George having missed the opening run in Q1, he had a new set of tyres available for Q2 and completed a decent run on a relatively quiet track but unfortunately, another red flag prevented him from closing his final lap.
"If today is anything to go by then tomorrow could be an action-packed race with a range of tyre strategies being deployed. We are pleased with our efforts overnight and today, and we are looking forward to an exciting day tomorrow."
A solid day for the team despite a few hairy brushes with the walls around this street circuit. Mazepin actually looked to have the beating of his team mate, but made a mistake on his last flying lap and had to use the run-off area. That gave Schumacher the chance to sneak ahead and take the intra-team honours, but can he keep his nose in front come race day?
Mick Schumacher, 17th, 1:44.158
“A lot of red flags, a lot of stuff going on. Track conditions changed quite a bit too which was expected but on the other hand, unexpected for me. In general, we managed to position the car where we wanted it to but unfortunately on the last set I made a mistake at T5 which cost us some lap time. Overall, we maximized what we had and now it’s up to tomorrow’s race. In qualifying we’ve seen a massive amount of action and I think the action will be there tomorrow in the race.”
Nikita Mazepin, 18th, 1:44.238
“To be honest it’s the most disappointed I’ve been with my job since being in Formula 1. The pace has been strong from my internal team and myself all weekend. It was really annoying to make a mistake on my quick lap when the tyres are only there for that one lap. Unfortunately, I haven’t managed to transfer the mindset of just finishing laps, because, from where I come from, fighting for the extra half a tenth or tenth, it can mean the difference between pole or not. Obviously, we’re very far from that, but I’m still trying to do my 101 percent, and today it was too much. I’m very disappointed.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“It was again a learning session for our guys. A lot can be learned in a qualifying session like this – it was pretty exciting. The good thing is, we kept out of the crashes, and there were quite a few that happened. There’s a lot to learn with things like slipstreaming at this race track. I think they’ve learned a lot in a very short time. Hopefully going forward, that helps them in the future. Otherwise, this was the best we could do today, and we have two cars still intact. Tomorrow we go racing.”
Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing
"This certainly one of the most disrupted and unpredictable qualifying sessions that we can remember! The drivers generally used the soft tyre throughout the session, as with the margins so close on this long lap, it was the safest option to be sure of getting through Q2: especially with the big risk of interruptions. This means that all the top 10 will start on the soft tomorrow, which probably locks them into a soft-hard one-stop strategy: also because we're expecting high track temperatures again for the grand prix. Those behind the top 10 might see an advantage in starting on a harder compound to run a longer first stint and gain track position or have more pit stop flexibility. As we've seen already in a hectic qualifying, this is a track where absolutely anything can happen. Four different teams in the top four on the grid underlines the close competition on this spectacular city circuit: at one point we had cars separated by just thousandths of a second after a six-kilometre lap. Congratulations to Ferrari and Charles Leclerc for a second consecutive pole".