Baku qualifying analysis

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The qualifying session for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix saw Sebastian Vettel claiming his third consecutive pole position in the 2018 Formula One Championship. The German secured the 54th pole position of his career.

After complaints from rival teams, Ferrari’s new underfloor was tested by the FIA on Friday to check its legality. The governing body gave green lights to the floor as no irregularities were found.

Nico Hülkenberg qualified ninth for the 3rd Azerbaijan GP, but he was hit by a five-place grid penalty. The Renault team changed the gearbox in the car number 27 after the third free practice session. As the gearbox change was before the six consecutive events expired, it triggered a 5-place drop on the grid.

Sergey Sirotkin escaped a penalty following an FIA investigation. The Russian driver allegedly impeded the car numer 9 in turn 7 at 17:16 during the qualifying session.

“The Stewards examined multiple angles of video and the GPS tracking. The separation of the two cars at Turn 7 was not small enough to establish a case for unnecessary impeding in what is the slowest corner on the circuit. It was noted that the driver of car 9 aborted his fast lap out of Turn 7,” said the FIA statement on the matter.

Sebastian Vettel secured the pole position for the 3rd Azerbaijan Grand Prix, but it was his team-mate Kimi Räikkönen who set the best first and sector time, of which the second section time was especially outstanding. The Finn lost out due to his mistake in turn 16. However, even if he only had repeated his previous best time in the third sector, he would have grabbed the pole position with a combined best time of 1:41.413.

Red Bull drivers were losing time to Mercedes and Ferrari in the first sector, in the middle sector it was Mercedes which could not keep up with the pace of Ferrari and Red Bull while Ferrari was the least strong squad in the last segment of the track of the leading three teams.

Looking at the speed traps, Ferrari is the team with the most downforce, but also with the most drag. Vettel and Räikkönen are only 15th and 16th on the sheet of top speeds measured on the speed trap. Red Bulls are 6kph, Mercedes 9kph faster than the two scarlet red cars. The picture is similar crossing the finish line. Ricciardo’s top speed of 341.8kph was the fastest one recorded, Hamilton reached a top speed of 336.7kph compared to Vettel’s 328.3 kph. The top speed differences may play a role in tomorrow’s race and can make Ferrari vulnerable on the straights.

There are two DRS zones on the Baku City Circuit. The first one is 54m after turn 2 while the second one is 347m after turn 20. The pit straight is 2.1km long, so the second DRS zone can be really powerful in tomorrow’s race as its proved to be in the first two Baku races.