Stunning lap gives Hamilton pole for Azerbaijan GP
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton took a stunning pole position on Saturday in qualifying for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, snatching it from team-mate Valtteri Bottas right at the end.
Hamilton, who was quickest in both Q1 and Q2, trailed Bottas after the first runs, 0.154 seconds down after making a mistake in the final sector.
With Daniel Ricciardo then putting it in the wall, the top-ten shootout was red flagged, leaving just 3 minutes 33 secs on the board.
It meant Hamilton only had one run to try and get pole, and the Briton didn’t disappoint, posting a 1min 40.593sec lap to grab the 66th pole of his career – 0.434secs up on Bottas, and 1.1secs up on Kimi Raikkonen, who was third for Ferrari.
“That was one of the most exciting laps I have had all year,” Hamilton said. “On the first lap [in Q3] I had the time, but I made a mistake in the last corner. It was a lot of pressure.
“We have been struggling to get temperature into the front tyre and we didn’t know if it was a one lap tyre. It was all or nothing, but the lap just got better and better throughout. I saw Valtteri just ahead and I knew he was doing a good lap and I remember coming down to the last corner, I was thinking, ‘please be enough’. I am ecstatic.”
“I am so pumped with that. That is how qualifying should be. I am just thankful I was able to pull a lap together,” continued the Brit. “The team did a great job with our car and to put us out at the right times. A big thank-you to them.
“Tomorrow is going to be a long hard race, but we are in the best position to start it.”
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“Disappointing. I was going for the pole, but the lap at the end just wasn’t quite that perfect,” Bottas admitted. “I was struggling a lot with the front left temperature, but Lewis did a good lap at that point and I didn’t. Second place is not bad though.”
Meanwhile, Championship leader Sebastian Vettel had to settle for fourth place on the grid – 0.148secs off Raikkonen in the sister Ferrari, but alarmingly 1.248secs off pole.
“The result is okay, but obviously I am not entirely happy. I don’t have excuses, I could have done better. I think I had the rhythm at the end but just didn’t get everything right,” Vettel said.
“We were not quick enough, but tomorrow I think we still have a good chance. The car has been fast during the races and that was the case yesterday too, on the long-runs. So, let’s see what happens.”
Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen completed the top five, bumped down by the Ferraris late on, but still only 0.038secs off Vettel.
Behind, Force India duo Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon took sixth and seventh, with the Williams’ of Lance Stroll and Felipe Massa just behind.
Ricciardo will start tenth – slowest of the top-ten runners after losing the rear of his Red Bull in Turn 6.
“It’s obviously frustrating when you crash but in Q3 you are trying to give everything and get that last little bit out of the car,” Ricciardo noted. “I knew turn six was a corner where I could do better, I was trying to carry more speed but I lost the rear on the exit and hit the wall.
“The rear was coming round and I tried to drive out of it but it kept going. The wall kind of comes back round a bit so I hit it. It’s not the wall’s fault, obviously, I’m not blaming the wall! There was no other reason, I was just pushing hard and on the edge of the grip.
“Sure I’m not happy with the mistake but it’s one of those tracks. Part of me doesn’t like it right now but the reality is that I do like street circuits for these reasons, it shows when you are on the limit and you pay the price when you are over that limit.
!It’s a shame as I thought we could have been fighting at the front today but the time from Mercedes was really quick, they proved to be out of reach but Ferrari weren’t too far in front at the end.”
Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat ended Q2 in P11, 0.435 secs adrift of a place in the top-ten shootout – and 0.161secs up on team-mate Carlos Sainz.
Haas F1 driver Kevin Magnussen was then 13th ahead of Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, who only got one run after an electrical failure, and Sauber’s Pascal Wehrlein.
In Q1, Fernando Alonso was 16th in his McLaren-Honda, 0.017secs shy of P15 and Q2. He will drop back, however, as he has a multiple grid penalties for power unit changes, just like team-mate, Stoffel Vandoorne, who finished up 19th.
Romain Grosjean was 17th for Haas, struggling to find a balance, while Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson was 18th.
Jolyon Palmer was not able to post a time and missed qualifying after his Renault caught fire in final practice.
Full qualifying times available – HERE.
Picture credit: Mercedes