What the teams said - Qualifying in Azerbaijan
Leclerc looked quick in FP1, pushing hard to the extent he managed to run wide a couple of times. Putting those mistakes behind him, he was right in the mix in qualifying until the final runs in Q3 when he pulled clear of his rivals to grab a first pole of the season and third in a row at this track. Sainz had a messier qualifying, losing a couple of runs in Q1 to those red flag periods. As such he was short of a fresh set of tyres in Q3 and only had one opportunity to set a time on new rubber.
Charles Leclerc, 1st, 1:40.203
“It feels really good to be back on pole and it’s something we didn’t take for granted coming here. The team did a perfect job in managing the session and I’m very happy with my lap. We have to see where we stand in the Sprint and the race, where we expect to be a bit more on the back foot compared to our competitors, but we will give it our all and I look forward to being back in the car for the Shootout tomorrow.”
READ MORE: ‘The whole team needed it’ says Leclerc after taking first pole of 2023
Carlos Sainz, 4th, 1:41.016
“It was a very tricky day for me today. Since the very beginning of free practice I didn’t feel confident in the car and, with this format, there is obviously no time to change and try different set-ups. Qualifying was a bit of a mess as well, having to use two sets of new tyres in Q1 and therefore only leaving myself one set for Q3. I never got into a decent rhythm overall, my bad. I will fight back from P4 on Sunday and tonight we will focus on how we can improve the feeling in the car. Congratulations to Charles on a great lap and on securing pole for the team.”
Laurent Mekies, Racing Director
“We are very pleased with how qualifying went, because both our cars were able to fight with the Red Bulls which had always taken pole so far this season. Congratulations to Charles, who was quickest of all here in Baku for the third time in a row, proving that he’s a real qualifying specialist. Carlos had a tougher time of it today, as he struggled to feel confident in the car and he also had to use an extra set of Softs in Q1.
“However, in the end, this pole position and Carlos’ fourth place confirms that we have done a good job in Maranello over the past month. In fact, even though the results didn’t show it, in Melbourne we had already made progress and this qualifying performance confirms it. We don’t have much information on race pace, which is what we will focus on as from this evening, as we start to prepare for tomorrow’s Sprint and the Grand Prix itself. There is still a lot of work to do, but all the same, we can enjoy today’s good result for the team.”
Verstappen topped FP1 with his team mate hot on his heels, as those two started qualifying as the favourites for pole. Indeed, they looked to be in an intra-team battle for much of the session, but a small mistake from Perez on his final flying lap proved costly, while Verstappen tried something different on his final out-lap which didn’t quite pan out. Nonetheless at a track where the tow is potent, second and third are pretty handy grid slots.
Max Verstappen, 2nd, 1:40.391
“It’s not the easiest to go to the limit around this track and it’s also tough to get the tyres in the right window. I think we kept it quite clean today and we progressed nicely. Overall, we can be pleased. Of course, we want to be on pole but it’s about the bigger picture. Charles looks pretty competitive this weekend, he always does in Baku. There are a few characteristics of the track that suit Ferrari and there are others that suit us better.
READ MORE: ‘We’ve got a very good race car’ – Verstappen and Perez confident of taking the fight to Leclerc after missing out on pole
“There’s no big drama. I was happy with the set-up of the car and I’m looking forward to tomorrow, it will be good to see what we can improve on and do better. We need to have straightforward sessions tomorrow, it’s super easy to make a mistake around here. We have a good race car and the points are scored tomorrow and on Sunday, so that’s what we’ll focus on.”
Sergio Perez, 3rd, 1:40.495
“It was pretty intense from the moment Q1 started, nailing that first lap was critical and it made our Q1 a little more stressful than it should be with all the red flags and making sure we kept on the same tyres. My final lap in Q3 wasn’t ideal so with that I am disappointed, but the important thing is to be strong on Sunday. I feel a lot more confident in the car this weekend.
“I am looking forward to tomorrow, getting some more lap times in and getting a cleaner lap in the Sprint Shootout. Charles did a tremendous job this evening. This weekend has been challenging already with the new format, we have a change of tarmac here too and we have just come from a three-week break and jumped straight into it. It is really nice to see the level everyone in the team is working at, the engineers and the mechanics.”
Mercedes suffered brake issues in FP1, with Hamilton in particular losing out on some lap time. As such he hadn’t run the soft tyres before qualifying, with the W14 struggling slightly on the red-marked rubber. Russell couldn’t even make Q3 as he fell agonisingly short after taking too much kerb on his final flying run and although Hamilton did make it through, he was well off the pace of the front runners.
Lewis Hamilton, 5th, 1:41.177
"We're trying as hard as we can and giving it everything we've got out there. Getting into a rhythm and pulling everything out on this track is not easy. In Q2, I struggled. I had more pace, but I didn't get the last lap together. My first run in Q3 was a sweet lap though. Unfortunately, I couldn't make a big improvement on my final run; I needed to find just a little bit more time to get ahead of the Ferrari (of Sainz).
READ MORE: Hamilton hails ‘really sweet lap’ to grab top five grid slot as Russell eyes fightback after Q2 exit
"We can't make any changes to the car now, so this is the pace we have. I will do some studying tonight and hopefully we can eek a little bit more performance out tomorrow. Naturally, this is not the position we want to qualify as a team; we exist to win but everyone has that winning mindset and working as hard as they can. P5 is still a good position to be starting from on Sunday. Hopefully tomorrow we can have a better battle."
George Russell, 11th, 1:41.654
"I'd have loved to have got through to Q3, and I was giving it everything. Unfortunately, we're just not fast enough this weekend. My first lap in Q2 was strong but I made a mistake on my last run. It may have just been enough for me to have crept into Q3, but I don't think we could have qualified much higher than P8. It's a funny sport sometimes. We went from qualifying on the front-row last time out in Melbourne to being out in Q2 today. We've got another chance tomorrow though, but not an ideal Friday for sure.
"Baku is a unique track and a bit of an outlier. If you were going to choose a circuit to have a bad Qualifying at, this would probably be it. I see no reason why we can't fight back on Sunday, and we will see what we can do tomorrow. We will be working hard as a team, and I'll be working hard myself, to see what we can do to come back stronger."
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
"The sprint format really rewards you if you land the starting setup in the right place, but we've been battling a few issues with ride and balance today that have made it difficult for the drivers. Lewis put together a solid lap in the final session to secure P5 for the Grand Prix. George unfortunately was the wrong side of a very tight bunch and didn't quite make the cut for Q3.
"We're looking forward to the challenge of the new format tomorrow. We get another go at Qualifying tomorrow morning, which sets the grid for the F1 Sprint, so we will work out how we can improve for that. The sprint should also be interesting as so far, we have seen almost no long run data from the teams so it will be interesting to gauge where we sit on race pace."
Aston Martin had DRS issues in Baku, with the rear wing not working fully on Alonso’s car in practice before it then malfunctioned on Stroll’s in qualifying. They did get both cars into Q3, the Spaniard opportunistically providing a tow to his team mate when he could. Stroll only had one set of fresh tyres so ran out of sequence to the rest, while Alonso had to settle for a slot alongside his former team mate and old foe Hamilton.
Fernando Alonso, 6th, 1:41.253
“I am satisfied with sixth position on the grid for Sunday after we lost a little bit of performance today with a DRS issue. It’s a long weekend ahead of us and there are plenty of opportunities with this new format, so hopefully we can make up some positions and perform well tomorrow in the Sprint. It’s very close between a number of teams, so we’ll need to try and be more consistent throughout the rest of the weekend. It’s exciting to know we are waking up tomorrow and jumping straight into the car for another qualifying session.”
READ MORE: Alonso and Stroll say DRS issues cost Aston Martin in Azerbaijan GP qualifying
Lance Stroll, 9th, 1:41.611
“It was close out there today; the car felt good and I had the confidence to push hard which is a huge benefit around a circuit like this. Unfortunately, we were having intermittent DRS issues throughout the session and I completely lost DRS on the pit straight during Q3. It cost us a fair bit of time but we’ll be doing our best to solve the issue before running tomorrow. I enjoyed the new format today; it was exciting to go straight into qualifying and it makes for a more interesting Friday. We know it’ll be a challenge to do it all again first thing tomorrow morning without running beforehand, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Mike Krack, Team Principal
“Both Fernando and Lance did well under challenging circumstances today. The single practice session was quite straightforward, but going into qualifying we experienced an ongoing DRS issue across both cars, which meant it was only working intermittently. Despite this costing us some performance, we progressed to Q3 quite comfortably and the team and drivers did a good job of managing a busy session with the yellow and red flags.
“We had the potential to be a bit higher up the grid, but I think we are well placed to fight for points on Sunday and this is a circuit where overtaking is possible. Our attention now turns to Saturday and maximising the standalone Sprint event to pick up as many points as we can.”
McLaren used Piastri to benchmark and test their new raft of upgrades in FP1, so all things considered it was mightily impressive that the Aussie made it to Q3 in qualifying, keeping a cool head amidst all the chaos. Norris joined him there for the first time this season, with those upgrades seemingly helping the papaya team make a big step forward to mix it with the likes of Mercedes and Aston Martin.
Lando Norris, 7th, 1:41.281
“A reasonable qualifying – it was great to get two cars in Q3. I think we could have got a bit more out of it and could have been a few positions higher, we just didn’t quite get it right in Q3. We didn’t get out when we wanted to, and so missed a tow. It was a bit unfortunate, but the team still did a good job otherwise. Thanks to all of the team here and back at the factory for getting the upgrades out, we still have some optimisation to do, but it’s been positive so far. We’re in a good position for Sunday, hopefully, we can do a bit better tomorrow.”
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Oscar Piastri, 10th, 1:41.611
“Tenth in qualifying for Sunday’s Grand Prix, I’m pretty happy with that. It’s great to have both of us in Q3. I’ve been feeling a little under the weather today and I struggled to maximise every corner, so to still be in Q3 is a good result. We were really close to P8 and tied with Stroll in P9, which is a bit annoying, but otherwise I’m happy with the session. A big thanks goes to the team for their hard work in getting the new parts ready. We’ll now focus on another qualifying session in the morning and a lot more action to come.”
Andrea Stella, Team Principal
“Two cars in Q3 is a positive result for us, and one which comes courtesy of the upgrade that we have at this race. First of all, I would like to thank everyone in the team – factory and trackside – for pushing relentlessly to bring this development, which is the first step in an upgrade plan for the MCL60 that will continue through the course of the season. We know we still have plenty of hard work ahead in order to achieve our goals, but we can be encouraged that we’re moving in the right direction.
“Today’s Grand Prix qualifying session was good. We were managing a small issue on Lando’s car, but the team operated very well, and we could complete the sessions. We’re looking forward to fighting for good points in the Sprint and the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.”
Tsunoda was the first to fall foul of the walls here, spinning and puncturing his rear tyre in FP1 that led to some suspension damage. He did repay the team handsomely though by making Q3 for the first time this year and winding up an impressive eighth. It was a day of contrasting fortunes at AlphaTauri, however, as De Vries impressed in FP1. But the Dutchman came into Turn 3 far too hot at the start of qualifying, crashing out without setting a representative lap time.
Nyck de Vries, 20th, 1:55.282
“Today was very disappointing. Our package has been looking really strong during FP1 and we were hoping to capitalise on that in qualifying. We began the session with a little setback that had to be investigated, so it wasn’t the smoothest start. I haven’t been able to talk to the team yet so before jumping to any conclusions, I want to look at and analyse the data, to see what really happened.
WATCH: Nyck de Vries and Pierre Gasly crash out of Azerbaijan Grand Prix qualifying
“Looking ahead to a new start tomorrow, we’re hoping to fight with P7 and P8. Historically, Baku can become quite messy, especially at the start, so we will see what happens. The updates we brought here look promising, so I’ll get together with everyone tonight to find what can be improved on for the rest of the weekend.”
Yuki Tsunoda, 8th, 1:41.581
“First of all, the entire team did a great job. Our weakness has been straight-line speed and everyone in Bicester has worked hard to bring upgrades to make us more competitive, so I’m pleased with the result and excited about the future. It’s a shame how qualifying ended for Nyck as he was looking strong during FP1, but I am glad he’s OK.
“Looking at my qualifying, I’m happy I have been able to maximise the car’s performance and relieved with my first P8 of the year. It’s a step in the right direction and points can be possible over this weekend, so we'll continue working to find even more performance so we can bring home some points during the Sprint race tomorrow and the race on Sunday.”
Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer
“The Sprint weekend format has made for an exciting Friday of running. This track is notorious for being action-packed and today lived up to expectations. Even though we brought several new aero components, our expected competitiveness based on the last events was that we were not Q3 material. As a result, we put a lot of effort into quali preparation in FP1 to give us the best chance for starting as high up as possible on Sunday where more points are available.
“Both drivers ran two sets of Soft and Medium tyres in FP1. Yuki touched the wall on his first set and damaged the rim causing a puncture, so he had to abort that run. Luckily for him, there was a red flag at the same time, so he didn’t lose much track time, but it still put him on the back foot for the rest of the session. Nyck was building up throughout the session and set a very clean lap, demonstrating the car is more competitive here and that we had the potential for a good qualifying.
“Unfortunately, while queuing to leave the pits on his first run, Nyck’s car had a little issue which forced us to push him back into the garage to solve it and this lost him a lap, put him on the back foot and left him with cold tyres. On his lap he locked up into Turn 3 and went into the wall, ending his quali. We had to remain quite fluid with the plans for Yuki with the numerous red flags and difficulties getting tyres ready, but the team – with Yuki’s valuable feedback – did a great job to manage the situation and make it to Q3.
“The downside of our FP1 qualifying preparation meant we had no new tyres remaining for Q3, but Yuki set a fantastic lap on the used tyre to finish P8 for the race on Sunday. We now switch focus to the shootout tomorrow, which is new for this event, and gives us another chance to show the competitiveness of the car here.”
It really wasn’t Alpine’s day on Friday. Gasly’s car caught fire in FP1, and after being doused in fire extinguisher fluid, the team had just two hours to diagnose the problem – which turned out to be hydraulics – and change his PU and gearbox. Ocon also lost out on running in practice, with the team investigating his car as a precaution. They did exceptionally well to get Gasly out in time for qualifying, but he then repaid them by clipping the barriers and going out in Q1, while the lack of lap time caught up with Ocon who couldn’t make it to Q3.
Esteban Ocon, 12th, 1:41.798
“It’s not been a good day for us a team. We obviously had some reliability issues in Free Practice 1, which did not give us much running time heading into qualifying. We tried to bounce back from our practice issues in qualifying and, in the end, it was not enough to reach Q3.
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“At the moment here in Baku, it’s clear we need to improve the areas where we’re struggling for pace. We will review where we can improve and, as always, we’ll be giving it our best to come away with points tomorrow and Sunday.”
Pierre Gasly, 19th, 1:44.853
“Obviously, it’s been a very disappointing and tough day. I’d like to say a big thanks to the mechanics for their recovery between practice and qualifying to make the changes and have the car ready. It’s been one of those days where we’ve faced setbacks and it’s important we all bounce back.
“My mind is already looking ahead to tomorrow where we have another qualifying session and, of course, the Sprint race where points are on offer. We’ll debrief as a team, move forwards together and hopefully take something from this race weekend.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal
“It’s been a frustrating day for the team and one we’re aiming to move on from very quickly. On Pierre’s side, it’s been especially unfortunate with the hydraulic leak and car fire in practice followed by his off in Q1. The mechanics worked expeditiously to fix his car after FP1 to make sure he could be in qualifying; so, credit to them for their fantastic work.
“With Esteban’s minor issue and the lack of running in practice between both cars, we did not get enough running on the various tyres in our preparation and I think that has impacted us significantly today. On a street circuit, you need both time and knowledge to make the right set-up changes and that just was not possible today due to our issues.
“We’ll debrief as a team to move forwards from this. We have the Sprint Shootout tomorrow with points on offer in the Sprint race in the afternoon and we’ll be doing everything we can to make sure Saturday is much better than today. I’m confident we will bounce back.”
It was a steady if unspectacular day for Alfa Romeo. Bottas managed to drag out a stellar lap after the chequered flag had fallen in Q1 to make it through at the expense of his team mate, who just missed out. But once there, the Finn lacked the pace to really trouble the top 10 leaving Alfa as the only team yet to make Q3 this season.
Valtteri Bottas, 14th, 1:42.259
“We felt more competitive than in Melbourne and Jeddah, which is a positive step in the right direction, even if it wasn’t enough to make it into Q3 yet. The setup felt good, and I was feeling comfortable with the car, so there is the potential to build on that in the remainder of the weekend. Today has been a pretty intense day, with just one practice session and then heading straight into qualifying, which has been quite interesting. I think there are still a lot of opportunities for us to take with a long weekend ahead, so let’s see what we can come up with tomorrow.”
HIGHLIGHTS: Watch the action from a thrilling qualifying in Baku as Leclerc stuns Red Bull to take pole
Zhou Guanyu, 16th, 1:42.642
“We were really close to Q2, which would have been a better result, and it’s a bit upsetting to miss out for just a couple of hundredths, but that’s how racing goes sometimes. The car felt pretty good this morning, during practice, but I couldn’t get the same feeling in qualifying. Overall, it’s been a tricky afternoon for me, as I struggled for grip throughout the session: still, I feel we can unlock more performance from our car ahead of tomorrow, and we will be working hard to put ourselves back in the game ahead of the Shootout and the Sprint.”
Alessandro Alunni Bravi, Team Representative
“Both drivers delivered some good laps on a day in which the track caught out some of our competitors, and I think we maximised what we could get on the occasion. Valtteri did a good job, with clean laps, and was able to make it into Q2; unfortunately, Zhou missed out for a tiny margin. These positions reflect our potential on this day, and it’s clear we need to work hard to keep improving our overall package.
“However, we feel we have a decent chance to bring home points on Sunday: this track can produce very unpredictable races and we will need to be ready to grab any opportunity that may arise. Tomorrow, as well, we get a new chance in the Shootout and Sprint: it’ll be interesting to see how this event will unfold. We will keep fighting to bring home a good result for our colleagues back in Hinwil.”
Both drivers looked on it from the off in Baku, with Albon in particular impressing as he flirted with the top 10 in practice and Q1. But the Thai driver felt he was baulked by Sainz in Q2 and as such, failed to make it through. Sargeant through did join him in escaping Q1 which was a good showing overall for Williams, and Albon has a chance to make up for that disappointment in the Sprint Shootout tomorrow.
Logan Sargeant, 15th, 1:42.395
“Qualifying was good. It was a pretty good showing for the team and I finally got into my first Q2. It feels like it’s been a long time coming. I was really happy to deliver the lap under pressure at the end of Q1 and then I was going for it in Q2 and didn’t quite get it right so that was that. Free Practice was tricky and coming from that I had to make a pretty big step so I’m happy with my turnaround to make a good jump forward and get closer to where I need to be. All in all, it was a positive day and the best part about it is that we get to do it all again tomorrow!”
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Alex Albon, 13th, 1:41.818
“It’s so close out there and I’m loving it. We’re fighting for Q3, one mistake and that’s it and that’s just how it is. It’s great to be a part of it but frustrating when it doesn’t go your way. I lost time in that area with Carlos but when I look back at it, it’s not like he was really in the way but you see how these cars are so sensitive and when you get a snap, the tyres hold on and it’s so punishing. It’s fine margins out there and I wouldn’t want it any other way but unfortunately, we just got the wrong end of it today.
“It’s another opportunity tomorrow with a lot of racing ahead of us, so we’re feeling good and the car is feeling good. Sunday is going to be hectic with no one having done a proper race run, so it will be about keeping clean and hopefully we can make up some places.”
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance
“A Sprint format on the streets of Baku was always going to make for an entertaining day, and today didn’t disappoint. With drivers still learning the circuit, and with the new track surface evolving quickly throughout the day, there were mistakes and misjudgements. We were able to manage the consequent red flag interruptions well and keep both cars in a good position on the track.
“Both drivers dealt with the broken qualifying session very well. Alex was fast throughout and, had everything been perfect, he perhaps could’ve qualified for Q3. Logan drove very well today and immediately showed good pace despite missing some vital track time in FP1 following an issue with the nosebox on his car. The team rectified the issue and he enjoyed a smooth run to Q2. He pushed very hard in Q2 and extracted some good pace whilst also learning about tackling this tricky circuit in an F1 car.
“Although the cars are now in parc ferme, we have some big decisions to make on how we tackle the remainder of the weekend. We have qualified well for the Grand Prix and we will need to keep this in mind as we decide how to approach the new Sprint Shootout and Sprint race tomorrow. Today was hectic and challenging, but the team dealt with it well and the car has good pace. Both drivers were excellent and we are looking forward to more excitement and jeopardy over the next two days.”
Magnussen had a torrid day, stopping out on track in FP1 with a fuel systems issue. That seemingly resolved, he came out for qualifying only for a new electrical issue to appear. The team worked hard to repair it in the red flag period but it reoccurred as soon as he took to the track and he was told to park the car. That left Hulkenberg to fly the flag for the team but he struggled on his return to Baku, bowing out in Q1.
Nico Hulkenberg, 17th, 1:42.755
"It was quite an interrupted Q1 with two red flags and obviously it was quite tricky to get into a rhythm, especially with the limited practice time we had today. We didn’t find the best rhythm I feel and laps weren’t as clean as I wanted them to be, so I think we left something out there and Q2 should’ve been possible. Pace-wise from the little running looked to be a bit more difficult for us this weekend, so we need to dig deep into the data and see what we can find. We have a bit of different procedure tomorrow but I’m looking forward to it, hopefully doing a better job and coming out with a better position as well."
DATA POINTS: What we learned from Friday practice and qualifying in Azerbaijan
Kevin Magnussen, 18th, 1:43.417
"It’s frustrating to be out with an issue but what can we do? We don’t know if it was an assembly issue or just something else out of our hands. It was just cutting out and miss-firing, so I didn’t have much power down the straights – which showed on the lap time. It’s extra frustrating as I feel the lap time we did do with that electrical issue on my first run showed that we had some pace. It just didn’t happen today for us. Our time will come, it just hasn’t been too good so far. Not what we wanted but there’s still a long weekend ahead."
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
"Not an ideal day today. Kevin had problems the whole day in FP1 and in qualifying with issues between the fuel pump and some electronics issue, so it’s difficult to comment what would’ve been possible. With Nico, his attempt on his second set of tyres was not perfect, there wasn’t a clean lap in it, and he clearly said it could’ve been a lot better. This is a long weekend of racing, there’s another qualifying tomorrow morning, for the Sprint, and two races over the weekend, so we just have to regroup and see that we get something more out of tomorrow."
Mario Isola, Motorsport Director
“It was a really intense Friday, which offered plenty of excitement and surprises. The new Sprint weekend format meant that the teams had to take a different approach to their on-track work today, with the first – and only – free practice session seeing teams and drivers running on very different programmes and fuel loads.
“The introduction of a new qualifying session dedicated to tomorrow afternoon’s Sprint race instead of FP2 meant that all the short and long preparation runs had to be compressed into just one hour today. As expected, the available tyre data is consequently very limited, but that just adds an extra element of unpredictability to Sunday’s race.
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“In terms of track conditions, the new asphalt seems to offer more grip than anticipated – thanks also to the track cleaning process carried out yesterday – so it’s no coincidence that Leclerc’s pole position was a second and a half faster than the simulations.
“There was a high degree of track evolution all day in both sessions, which was also the case with track temperatures: especially because there was an increasing amount of shade due to all the different interruptions. This probably also had an effect on the drivers’ references, both while preparing the tyres and over the course of a flying lap.”