Lewis Hamilton has given the rest of the field something of a driving lesson after a dominating run to claim the 66th pole position of his Formula 1 career ahead of Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku.
His final Q3 lap to claim the prime starting position was simply magnificent. Emerging on track after Daniel Ricciardo triggered a red flag when he hit the wall, Hamilton threw everything at his flying lap around the tricky six-kilometre street circuit. With blistering sector times over the final two-thirds of the lap, the Englishman claimed pole position by a whopping four-tenths of a second over teammate Valtteri Bottas.
Fastest in the weekend’s final practice session, Bottas pushed Hamilton hard through the preceding knockout sessions but found himself unable to match his three-time championship-winning teammate.
Hamilton’s effort was all the more impressive given that he only had time for one warm-up lap after the pit lane was reopened following the red flag interruption. His F1W08 generally requires at least two tours before its Pirelli tyres can get to prime operating temperature, but Hamilton did not have that luxury this time.
“All weekend we have not been able to do it on one [preparation] lap, but others have, so I had to give it everything,” Hamilton said, describing his run to pole as even better than his lap at the preceding Canadian Grand Prix which tied him with the late Ayrton Senna’s career tally.
“I came across the line so happy because, even if I was second, it was still an awesome one, a single lap, which I was really proud of.”
His performance contrasted with a major blow for Ferrari. While the red cars locked out the second row of the grid – with Kimi Räikkönen outqualifying an unhappy Sebastian Vettel – the gap to Hamilton was over one second.
The true test will come in Sunday’s race, where Ferrari’s pace on longer runs and higher fuel loads will bring them back into competition with the Silver Arrows.
After topping both of Friday’s practice sessions and then suffering a Renault power unit hiccup in Saturday’s final session, Max Verstappen finished fifth while teammate Daniel Ricciardo was tenth after slapping the wall and damaging his left-rear suspension.
The Red Bulls looked impressive in the weekend’s early running, but had no answer when Mercedes and Ferrari put their engines into qualifying mode. If anything, the result shows just how superb the RB13 chassis is, if only it weren’t hampered by the performance limitations of its Renault-built engines.
Sixth- and seventh-fastest went to the two Force India Mercedes’ of Sergio Pérez and Esteban Ocon respectively, who again showed the team’s ability to punch well above its weight.
Highlighting the advantage of Mercedes power around the Baku City Circuit, Williams also managed to get both of its cars into the top ten with Lance Stroll impressively outqualifying teammate Felipe Massa for the first time this season. The result is an important boost for the team as it seeks to regain form following a poor start to its 2017 campaign which have yielded just 22 points to-date.
Ricciardo’s accident disrupted the Noah’s Ark formation evidenced through much of the grid, with the Australian set to line up ahead of the two Toro Rossos of Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz Jr – the latter will drop three grid places for his wayward driving in Canada a fortnight ago.
Kevin Magnussen qualified thirteenth-fastest in his Haas Ferrari ahead of Renault’s Nico Hülkenberg and Sauber’s Pascal Wehrlein, who impressed immensely to make it into Q2.
The two McLaren Hondas and the second Haas of Romain Grosjean – whose brake maladies refuse to show any sign of going away – rather predictably failed to make the Q2 cut, along with the second Sauber of Marcus Ericsson.
Under-pressure Jolyon Palmer was unable to take part in qualifying after his Renault developed a fuel leak and caught fire in FP3.
|2017 FORMULA 1 AZERBAIJAN GRAND PRIX – FINAL QUALIFYING RESULTS|
|Q3 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap||Tyre|
|1.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W08||1:40.593|
|2.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W08||1:41.027||+ 0.434|
|3.||Kimi Räikkönen||Scuderia Ferrari SF70H||1:41.693||+ 1.100|
|4.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF70H||1:41.841||+ 1.248|
|5.||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB13||1:41.879||+ 1.286|
|6.||Sergio Pérez||Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM10||1:42.111||+ 1.518|
|7.||Esteban Ocon||Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM10||1:42.186||+ 1.593|
|8.||Lance Stroll||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW40||1:42.753||+ 2.160|
|9.||Felipe Massa||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW40||1:42.798||+ 2.205|
|10.||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB13||1:43.414||+ 2.821|
|Q2 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap**||Tyre|
|11.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR12||1:43.186||+ 1.911|
|12.||Carlos Sainz Jr||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR12||1:43.347||+ 2.072|
|13.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-17||1:43.796||+ 2.521|
|14.||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault Sport F1 Team RS17||1:44.267||+ 2.992|
|15.||Pascal Wehrlein||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C36||1:44.603||+ 3.328|
|Q1 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap*||Tyre|
|16.||Fernando Alonso||McLaren-Honda MCL32||1:44.344||+ 2.351|
|17.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-17||1:44.468||+ 2.485|
|18.||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C36||1:44.795||+ 2.812|
|19.||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren-Honda MCL32||1:45.030||+ 3.047|
|Outside 107%||Team / Entry||Time||Gap*||Tyre|
|NQ.||Jolyon Palmer||Renault Sport F1 Team RS17||no time|
* Denotes gap to fastest Q1 time of 1:41.983 posted by Lewis Hamilton
** Denotes gap to fastest Q2 time of 1:41.275 posted by Lewis Hamilton
- Carlos Sainz Jr will serve a 3-place grid penalty for causing an avoidable collision at the Canadian Grand Prix
- Fernando Alonso will serve a 40-place grid penalty for the use of multiple new power unit elements
- Stoffel Vandoorne will serve a 35-place grid penalty for the use of multiple new power unit elements and fitting a replacement gearbox before it had completed six successive Grands Prix of use.
Image via Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team