Azerbaijan Grand Prix: Qualifying Recap

Taking the pole for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix was Scuderia Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel. His fast lap of 1:41.498 was .179 of a second better than runner-up Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes. Hamilton, however, still holds the track qualifying record at Baku, with his pole-winning lap of 1:40.593 set in last year’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix .905 of a second clear of Vettel’s quick time. This was Vettel’s 53rd career Formula One pole and his third straight, but his first at Baku City Circuit.

Scuderia Ferrari:

In today’s qualifying session, Sebastian Vettel went quickest to take his 53rd career pole, his eighth for Scuderia Ferrari, with a lap in 1’41”498, set on Ultrasoft tyres. Team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was sixth fastest using the same tyre compound.

His first run in Q3 was good enough for Seb Vettel to take pole position for tomorrow’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Kimi Raikkonen was on his way to what looked like being a sensational lap, but an off-line just before the long straight meant he had to settle for sixth. For Scuderia Ferrari this was its third consecutive pole of the season and the SF71H proved to be the car to beat on the six kilometre track and its combination of tight corners and flat-out sections.

And yet, Seb feels that he could have improved still further: “I am very happy for this result, but I am a little bit upset with my final lap because I locked up in turn 3. I knew the car was good and in the first two corners I was already one and a half tenth faster than the lap before. Then, maybe, I hit the bump the wrong way a little under braking and I locked up. In the end I made the corner, so I wasn’t that late, but obviously after that, the grip wasn’t the same. It’s a shame because I think I could have been faster, but I am happy anyway. I am sorry for Kimi because we could have both been on the front row. However, we’ll see tomorrow, It’s going to be a long race. I think it is very important to be able to fight for the pole in order to have a good chance during the race. Even if the result has been good these last few Saturdays, there’s still a lot of work for us. We know that the car can be faster. Obviously we have worked hard to get to where we are now, but everybody in the team knows there’s more to do. We have to stay focused and keep pushing. However, I am not afraid for tomorrow and I believe we have good chances”.

A disappointed Kimi summed up his afternoon: “In Q3, on my last run I had a lot of speed and the feeling with the car was really good; I knew I had a very good lap going.  Entering the last corner I took it very easily because over the weekend the wind has been quite tricky there.  But for whatever reason I got a massive snap exiting the corner and went sideways. I was able to get the car back but the lap was gone. I’m pretty sure that without that mistake I would have been in a much better position. It’s very painful and frustrating to mess it up in the last corner like that, I’m very disappointed. Unfortunately with the mistake we are not in a very good position for the race. Today it did not pay off, but tomorrow is another day and  we’ll do our best”.

HaasF1 TEam:

Haas F1 Team drivers Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean qualified 15th and 20th, respectively, for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix Sunday at Baku City Circuit. Magnussen advanced to the second round of knockout qualifying while Grosjean was unable to post a time. A gearbox issue thwarted Grosjean’s effort in Q1. After running wide into the escape area in turn three of the 6.003-kilometer (3.730-mile), 20-turn track during his first and, subsequently, only qualifying run, Grosjean reported a problem with his gearbox. “The gearbox is locked. Something is broken,” said Grosjean over the team radio, prompting the team to have him switch off his
racecar. Magnussen set about carrying the flag for Haas F1 Team by securing the ninth-fastest time in Q1 with a lap of 1:43.674, easily making the top-15 cutoff to move on to Q2. However, at the end of Magnussen’s flying lap, he lost a piece of bodywork, specifically, the left-side bargeboard. With time running out before Q2 began, the team opted not to make repairs, taking the loss of aero balance with the opportunity to make a top-10 qualifying drive.
With only a right-side bargeboard to start Q2, Magnussen left the Haas F1 Team garage intent on making the best of the situation. Alas, the aero imbalance was pronounced, and Magnussen earned the 15th-fastest time with a lap of 1:44.759.

Both Magnussen and Grosjean ran exclusively on the Pirelli P Zero Purple ultrasoft tire throughout qualifying.

Before Magnussen, Grosjean and the rest of their Formula One counterparts participated in knockout qualifying, they had one final practice (FP3) to dial in their racecars for a quick lap around the track. To emulate qualifying, both drivers ran exclusively on the Purple ultrasofts. The Haas F1 Team duo employed the same program in FP3, each beginning with an installation lap before making two timed stints. Magnussen set the seventh-fastest time with a 1:43.958 on his 11th lap. Grosjean earned his best time on his ninth lap – a 1:45.261 that put him 15th overall.

Romain Grosjean; “I went straight after a big lockup into the escape road. I reversed – everything was working – and then I suddenly lost the hydraulics. I couldn’t do anything else – upshift, downshift, whatever – I was stuck in neutral. It’s a bit of a shame as, unfortunately, that was it. Going into qualifying, I was hoping we’d found the right tools. There are overtaking opportunities tomorrow, so we’ll try to do our best. It’s definitely a track where a lot can happen, and I’ve got plenty of tires for the race.”

Kevin Magnussen; “It could’ve been better, but we didn’t have much luck today. I think P15 is still a position we can fight back from – it’s not too
far from the points. I’m still positive for tomorrow. There are opportunities. It doesn’t take a big mistake for you to go straight on
here at the corners. You can gain a position, for sure, if someone ahead does that. We shouldn’t write off the race. We’ll keep
focused and, hopefully, have a good race for tomorrow. I think it’s a really cool circuit and it’s good fun to drive. It has a good
layout for racing and for slipstreaming down that long straight. It offers opportunities for a good race.”

Alfa Romeo SauberF1:

The qualifying session ahead of the 2018 FIA Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix represents an important step forward for the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team which finished with the rookie Charles Leclerc in Q2 for the first time this season. 14th in the FP3, the Monegasque driver continued improving as track conditions were evolving during the afternoon session and was able to finish in P14 with a lap time of 1’43.752. Marcus Ericsson embarked on qualifying with a different strategy but, due to a combination of factors, was unable to maximise the fast-lap window he had at disposal. His P18 doesn’t reflect his true potential and tomorrow the Swedish driver will take the start confident that he has the pace for a good race. The Baku track layout, which features long straights and slow corners, suits the C37 quite well and both drivers are looking forward to the race. Following Nico Hulkenberg’s penalty that cost him five positions on tomorrow’s grid, Charles Leclerc will take the start from P13.

Marcus Ericsson; “It was an unlucky qualifying for me, with many factors that influenced the outcome. There was also quite a bit of traffic for me. Then, I missed a good lap in Q1 after locking up. At the end of Q1, I tried my best to put together a good lap but I wasn’t able to finish it by a couple of seconds. Quite a disappointing session for me. On the bright side, we can see that we have good potential on the track. We have been quite competitive all weekend, so we are optimistic for tomorrow and will give everything to come back strong.”

Charles Leclerc; “I am very happy with my qualifying today. I had a great lap in Q1, which enabled me to advance into Q2. It is the first time I achieved that since the beginning of the season, which is a great step for me to make as a rookie. The whole team has done a great job to make this possible. I have learned a lot over the past three race weekends, and am feeling more comfortable with all of the procedures and the car with each session. We have made some positive steps in terms of tyre management, and the balance of the car feels good. I look forward to the race tomorrow – on this circuit, there are many factors that will influence the outcome. With the expected change in the weather conditions, it will certainly be an interesting one.


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