Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc qualified fastest for the Azerbiajan sprint race in Formula 1’s first Sprint shootout session, despite crashing on his final lap.
In an exciting session, with action throughout each of the three shortened sessions that followed the usual qualifying format, the Monegasque was again the fastest man on the Baku streets, after securing Grand Prix pole position on Friday.
While it won’t be a statistical pole, it’s the fourth time in a row that 25-year-old Leclerc has topped a ‘qualifying’ session in Azerbaijan.
Leclerc’s first lap in SQ3 beat Red Bull’s Sergio Perez by 0.147s, but crashed into the barrier at Turn 5 on his second run. Fortunately, the Ferrari only suffered damage to the front wing so the teams’ repair job shouldn’t be too tricky.
World Championship leader Max Verstappen made a mistake on his first lap of SQ3, and didn’t improve enough on his second lap, which was only good enough for third position.
Mercedes’ George Russell, who won the last Sprint race in Brazil last year, bounced back from his Q2 elimination on Friday to qualify fourth – ahead of both Carlos Sainz and Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton, who has had an edge on the 25-year-old most of the weekend so far.
Thai-driver Alex Albon beat both Aston Martin’s who were suffering DRS issues and will line up seventh for Saturday afternoon’s sprint race.
Albon’s Williams teammate Logan Sargeant did make the cut for SQ2 but also crashed at the end of SQ1, bringing out a red flag which ruined Yuki Tsunoda’s final effort, the Japanese driver meters from the finish line when the race control deployed the red flag.
Tsunoda joined AlphaTauri teammate Nyck De Vries, Alpine’s Pierre Gasly, and both Alfa Romeo’s in being eliminated from SQ1, Zhou Guanyu beating Valtteri Bottas in that fight.
McLaren qualified 10th and 11th with their updated car, Lando Norris getting into SQ3 but was unable to set a time due to not having any of the mandated new soft tyres available.
The Sprint race begins at 14:30 BST, with points on offer for the top eight finishers.