Vettel beats Hamilton to Baku pole 

Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian Vettel clinched his third consecutive pole position of the season after edging Lewis Hamilton in qualifying for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Vettel impressed on his first run in Q3 to post a 1:41.498s which proved enough to secure the all important pole despite Hamilton improving on his final run in gusty conditions at Baku.

“I think it will be an intense race as anything can happen with Safety Cars very likely,” said Vettel.

“Our car was really good today so that should put us in a good place tomorrow.

“I was a bit upset with my final run but we got pole so I can’t be much happier.”

Hamilton managed to decrease the deficit to 0.179s with his final tour as Mercedes showed a significant pace improvement compared to Friday practice.

Valtteri Bottas put the sister Mercedes into third and will share the second row with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, who out-qualified his team-mate Max Verstappen.

Ricciardo brushed the wall at Turn 15 on his first run but made amends with his final effort.

However, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen appeared on course to take pole position after setting the fastest times in the first two sectors before a mistake at the final corner.

The Finn lost a second when his Ferrari pitched into a wild slide coming out of Turn 16 which ultimately dropped him to sixth.

Unlike the top five, he will start Sunday’s race on the faster but less durable ultrasoft tyres after using the rubber late in Q2 to earn his spot in Q3.

Force India’s Esteban Ocon was seventh ahead of team-mate Sergio Perez, while the Renault duo of Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz Jnr completed the top 10.

Hulkenberg will drop to 14th on the grid following a five-place penalty for a gearbox change prior to qualifying.

Williams’ Lance Stroll will start 10th ahead of team-mate Sergey Sirotkin.

McLaren endured a difficult session with Fernando Alonso only able to secure 12th ahead of Charles Leclerc, who impressed for Sauber, and Kevin Magnussen (Haas F1).

Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren) will start from 16th after being knocked out in Q1 by a last gasp effort from Stroll.

The opening segment of qualifying provided a scary near miss involving the Toro Rosso team-mates Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley.

Gasly narrowly avoided clattering into the back of a slow moving Hartley, who had picked up a right front puncture after hitting the wall.

On the run towards Turn 16 Hartley appeared to weave his car which surprised the oncoming Gasly, who reacted just in time to prevent an enormous accident.

Hartley apologised for his error over team radio, while Gasly labelled the moment the ‘scariest’ of his career.

“It was really scary, the scariest moment of my career,” said Gasly.

“I didn’t know if he was going left or going right.

“I don’t know what happened to Brendon, he slowed down massively. I was at 320kph and, honestly… he almost stopped, I tried to avoid him and I was sure I was going to crash.

“I could already see myself in the air, I don’t know how I avoided it, but it was a pretty scary moment.

“Maybe if he has a puncture it doesn’t help him. I am sure he didn’t do it on purpose, but he was on the line, I wasn’t sure if he was going to go on line or not.

“I am sure it wasn’t on purpose, maybe next time we need a bigger gap between (our) two cars.”

Hartley added: “I made a big mistake, I’m sorry for him. I owe him a big apology for getting in the way and nearly causing a huge accident. I’m disappointed how that went down. Not a good day.”

The pair will line up 17th and 19th on the grid as they sandwiched Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson.

It proved to be a disastrous session for Haas F1’s Romain Grosjean who was unable to post a time.

The Frenchman ground to a halt on track with a suspected gearbox issue which curtailed his qualifying session.

Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix will begin at 2210 AEST.

Result: Azerbaijan Grand Prix Qualifying

Position Driver Car Time Gap
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m41.498s
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m41.677s 0.179s
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m41.837s 0.339s
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 1m41.911s 0.413s
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Renault 1m41.994s 0.496s
6 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m42.490s 0.992s
7 Esteban Ocon Force India/Mercedes 1m42.523s 1.025s
8 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 1m42.547s 1.049s
9 Carlos Sainz Renault 1m43.351s 1.853s
10 Lance Stroll Williams/Mercedes 1m43.585s Q2
11 Sergey Sirotkin Williams/Mercedes 1m43.886s Q2
12 Fernando Alonso McLaren/Renault 1m44.019s Q2
13 Charles Leclerc Sauber/Ferrari 1m44.074s Q2
14 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m43.066s  Five place penalty
15 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 1m44.759s Q2
16 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren/Renault 1m44.489s Q1
17 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso/Honda 1m44.496s Q1
18 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari 1m45.541s Q1
19 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso/Honda 1m57.354s Q1
20 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari Q1

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