Hamilton to lead Mercedes front row at Baku

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Azerbaijan, Baku Street Circuitaz

Lewis Hamilton has set the fastest lap during qualifying for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, topping his team mate Valtteri Bottas to secure a Mercedes front row lockout for tomorrow's race. Ferrari is set to take up the second row as Raikkonen and Vettel were third and fourth respectively.

Ahead of qualifying, Renault announced that Jolyon Palmer would not take part in the session due to damage incurred by a fire on his car early on in FP3.

The other cars that did take part were out reasonably early, all thanks to the fact that Pirelli's tyres at Baku are deemed a step too hard. This results in a long warmup period, requiring drivers to do several laps before they are actually in a position to set competitive times.

The first part of qualifying proved reasonably straight forward for the front end of the pack whereas those who struggled so far this weekend again had difficulty to get their braking right. Felipe Massa for instance was seen reversing after missing Turn 8 while Romain Grosjean continued to have several offs.

Others were unhappy due to traffic, particularly Fernando Alonso who wasn't at all pleased with a Red Bull car staying on the racing line in sector 2 while he himself was on a flying lap. A later mistake on his final flying lap did make it impossible for him to progress, qualifying in 16th. His McLaren team mate Stoffel Vandoorne qualified 19th and hence slowest of all. It didn't really matter at all anyway, as both McLaren drivers amassed penalties for power unit element changes. Alonso was up to 40 grid position drops, with Vandoorne totalling 35.

Session two unfolded without much trouble in the early stages and saw little surprised until Lewis Hamilton threw down the gauntlet and set an impressive laptime of 1:41.275, at the time a massive 7 tenths quicker than the best effort of his Finnish team mate. Verstappen also had a good first run to go third fastest behind the Mercedes, ahead of Raikkonen.

Ricciardo and Vettel meanwhile were told they had to run again, and did so to firmly secure their positions in the top 10 shoot-out. Both Williams and both Force Indias managed to join Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes into that final session.

Out were both Toro Rosso drivers in 11th and 12th, topping Magnussen who was unable to make any improvement late in the session after badly locking up both front wheels.

The final shoot out predictably saw all drivers opt again for the super soft tyres. As all pushed the limits, errors were numerous again. Hamilton went wide, and subsequently argued with his race engineer that the tyres were just too cold on the first lap, asking not to change the tyres for the second string of laps. Valtteri Bottas brushed the wall at Turn 8 while Sebastian Vettel missed the turn completely, and had to reverse out of the run-off zone.

Three minutes thirty seconds from the end of the session, red flags were waved as Daniel Ricciardo stopped out on track with a technical issue. All cars returned to the pits, while Sebastian Vettel stopped at the end of the pitlane, having just left his box to go out again. He was pushed back into the box by his mechanics to sit out the red flag situation.

At this time, Bottas had the fastest time, a tenth ahead of Hamilton. The latter had just set a purple first sector before the session was stopped. Verstappen set the third best time, followed by Raikkonen,

5 minutes later, the track was cleared. Verstappen by then was already queuing up at the end of the pitlane to take the track first, ahead of Bottas and Hamilton. Vettel interestingly opted to wait for another 45s before going out to the track.

All were eventually limited to a single final attempt in which Hamilton proved fastest overall, leading a complete Mercedes front row. Raikkonen improved to third while Vettel still managed to make fourth after a lackluster first flying lap. Verstappen was 5th fastest, ahead of the Force India duo led by Sergio Perez.

Results

Pos.No.DriverCarQ1Q2Q3Laps
144Lewis HamiltonMercedes AMG1:41.9831:41.2751:40.59320
277Valtteri BottasMercedes AMG1:43.0261:41.5021:41.02723
37Kimi RäikkönenFerrari1:42.6781:42.0901:41.69323
45Sebastian VettelFerrari1:42.9521:41.9111:41.84123
533Max VerstappenRed Bull Racing TAG Heuer1:42.5441:41.9611:41.87922
611Sergio PerezForce India Mercedes1:43.1621:42.4671:42.11121
731Esteban OconForce India Mercedes1:43.0511:42.7511:42.18621
818Lance StrollWilliams Mercedes1:43.6131:42.2841:42.75321
919Felipe MassaWilliams Mercedes1:43.1651:42.7351:42.79822
103Daniel RicciardoRed Bull Racing TAG Heuer1:42.8571:42.2151:43.41420
1126Daniil KvyatToro Rosso1:42.9271:43.186-19
1255Carlos SainzToro Rosso1:43.4891:43.347-20
1320Kevin MagnussenHaas Ferrari1:44.0291:43.796-18
1427Nico HulkenbergRenault1:43.9301:44.267-12
1594Pascal WehrleinSauber Ferrari1:44.3171:44.603-18
1614Fernando AlonsoMcLaren Honda1:44.334--9
178Romain GrosjeanHaas Ferrari1:44.468--10
189Marcus EricssonSauber Ferrari1:44.795--10
192Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren Honda1:45.030--8