Bottas pips Hamilton to Baku pole as Leclerc crashes in Q2
Valtteri Bottas set a new track record as he stole pole position from his teammate in the last minute of qualifying in Baku. Mercedes scored another front row lockout as Vettel finished in P3, whereas Leclerc crashed out.
Valtteri Bottas outshined Lewis Hamilton at the very end of qualifying, snatching pole from his teammate, who was provisionally 1st halfway through the session. Sebastian Vettel settles for third, as his teammate Leclerc ruled himself out of the game in Q2.
Lewis Hamilton clocked a mighty 1.40.703 at the beginning of Q3, making his intensions very clear. Max Verstappen was able to get close to him, only paying a 3-tenth gap to the Briton and putting Sebastian Vettel behind. Valtteri Bottas pipped his teammate at their very last attempt, and the Finn set a new track record thanks to a blistering 1.40.495, one tenth ahead of Hamilton, achieving a front row lockout for Mercedes. Sebastian Vettel finished in 3rd, three tenths down, and managed to fend off a fiery Verstappen.
Sergio Perez consolidates his excellent relationship with the Baku track in P5, one tenth faster than the returning Daniil Kvyat in P6. Lando Norris outpaced both Alfa Romeos, with Giovinazzi blitzing his teammate Raikkonen for P8.
The start of Q2 was delayed, as the marshalls spent some extra time repairing the barriers following Kubica’s heavy crash. However, that did not last long due to the fact that Leclerc crashed out in the same spot. The Monegasque was visibly angry and frustrated about his mistake, labelled as ‘stupid’ via radio while reporting to the team. The session, with over 7 minutes remaining, was suspended and was then resumed 30 minutes after the mishap took place. Verstappen put Red Bull ahead of the pack at the end of Q2, with Bottas and Hamilton right behind. Vettel managed to improve to P5, surpassing Leclerc, who was only dropped down to 6th after the incident. Alfa Romeo Racing will now celebrate their first double Q3 access of the 2019 season, as Raikkonen set a solid 7th time ahead of Lando Norris, who successfully enters Q3 unlike his teammate, and Antonio Giovinazzi. The Italian was hit by an engine penalty at the beginning of the Baku weekend and will therefore have 10 positions added on the starting grid to his qualifying result. However, that seems to have worked motivation-wise, as the Alfa driver put up an encouraging performance today following his initial struggles since Australia.
Carlos Sainz was the first eliminated, a little over 0.1s behind the top 10, followed by Ricciardo, Albon, Magnussen and Gasly.
Pierre Gasly surprisingly topped Q1, finishing 91 thousandths ahead of Charles Leclerc. Lewis Hamilton followed with the third quickest laptime, in front of Verstappen and an impressive Carlos Sainz in P5. Leclerc dominated the early stages of the session, distancing Mercedes by over half a second. Antonio Giovinazzi pulled a strong showing, by lapping only 0.8 slower than the pace setter two minutes before the chequered flag. The Italian was able to match Raikkonen’s laptimes, putting both Alfa Romeo Racing cars in the top 10. Both Renaults were in for major lock-ups throughout Q1, experiencing a rather difficult session. Daniel Ricciardo made it to Q2, as Robert Kubica was the author of a huge shunt at Turn 8, which brought the session to a halt while a few drivers were finalising their last attempt to improve their laptimes. Therefore, the drivers in the dropzone were: Stroll, Grosjean, Hulkenberg, Russell and Kubica. The Pole walked out of the incident unscathed, yet the impact and the damage appears to be quite heavy.