Charles Leclerc sees off Max Verstappen’s Red Bull to put his Ferrari on pole position

Charles Leclerc sees off Max Verstappen’s Red Bull to put his Ferrari on pole position for the third year in a row at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix… as Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton could only qualify fifth-fastest

  • Leclerc took the honour by pipping world champion Verstappen by 0.188sec
  • Mercedes’ turbulent start persisted. Hamilton was 0.974sec off the summit
  • Saturday is now sprint day. Friday’s qualifying positions stand for Sunday’s race 

Chares Leclerc took pole position for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on an eventful first outing for Formula One’s new weekend format.

The Ferrari man took the honour ahead of Sunday’s 51-lap race by pipping world champion and championship leader Max Verstappen by 0.188sec. 

Sergio Perez was third fastest for Red Bull. Lewis Hamilton could manage only fifth best as Mercedes’ turbulent start to the year persisted. He was 0.974sec off the summit.

‘Job done, thanks for everything, the car was really good,’ said Leclerc. ‘It’s good to be back on top.’

Saturday is now sprint day. Friday’s qualifying positions stand for Sunday’s race.

Charles Leclerc saw off Max Verstappen to put his Ferrari on pole for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix

The Ferrari man took the honour ahead of Sunday's 51-lap race by pipping Max Verstappen

The Ferrari man took the honour ahead of Sunday’s 51-lap race by pipping Max Verstappen

Saturday sees qualifying for the sprint and then the sprint race itself. The day’s results have no bearing on Sunday’s grid, under the new schedule.

The new running order – one qualifying session on Friday morning – may have been in part responsible for throwing a surprise – Verstappen off pole after a near-total domination of the season so far. His Red Bull team had hitherto taken three poles and looked unmatchable.

Let’s not get carried away yet that this is a sea change in terms of reversing Red Bull’s strength. 

They will have a strong race car on Sunday, no doubt, so perhaps remain favourites for the grand prix victory itself.

It was a lively afternoon with a 28-minute delay to the first qualifying session alone. The first stoppage came as Nyck de Vries pranged his AlphaTauri at Turn 3. 

The barrier took an age to be repaired – 17 minutes to be exact. Less than two minutes after the resumption, Alpine’s Pierre Gasly was eliminated at the same danger spot. 

The suspension lasted 11 minutes. ‘I couldn’t stop the car,’ complained the Frenchman.

George Russell just missed out on Q1 by four-thousandth of a second, 11th behind Hamilton in 10th. 

Told the bad news, Russell said: ‘Ah sugar.’ A bad day for Mercedes, their form from Australia a month ago proving elusive around Baku’s streets.

Sergio Perez qualified third ahead of Carlos Sainz with Lewis Hamilton fifth, 0.974 sec off the pace

Sergio Perez qualified third ahead of Carlos Sainz with Lewis Hamilton fifth, 0.974 sec off the pace

George Russell just missed out on Q1 by four-thousandth of a second, 11th behind Hamilton

George Russell just missed out on Q1 by four-thousandth of a second, 11th behind Hamilton