The classification of the Formula 1 Azerbaijan GP, held this Saturday morning (11), consecrated Charles Leclerc as pole-position for the 2022 edition. it would be a close fight between the top two teams in the championship. In this way, he has the golden chance to get even closer to the top of the championship, currently in the hands of Max Verstappen.
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The numbers are incredible. Leclerc becomes the first driver with two poles in Baku and goes six in eight races in the 2022 season – his fourth in a row. Monegasque is indeed the ‘King of Saturdays’.
It came with an absolutely flying lap, which ended the real competition for the front. With 1min41s359, Leclerc put 0s282 for the best lap of Sergio Pérez, who starts in second. Max Verstappen is third, while Carlos Sainz is only fourth. George Russell, Pierre Gasly, Lewis Hamilton, Yuki Tsunoda, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso form the top-10.
With the start delayed by 15 minutes, something that was announced even during FP3, the concern was that too many interruptions could create problems for the organization, as twilight would be shortly after 20:00 Baku local – qualifying started at 18:15 local time. . And it wasn’t possible to get through it unscathed: Lance Stroll crashed twice at the end of Q1, and really stamped the wall of curve two in the second contract. Red flag that arrived with 2min30s to go in the initial phase of training. Valtteri Bottas managed to save himself from elimination after that and moved on, throwing Kevin Magnussen at the stake with Stroll himself, Alexander Albon, Nicholas Latifi and Mick Schumacher.
Then, in Q2, the four-time champion Vettel, appeared facing the wall and scared him, but managed to keep the engine running and got out of there without further damage to himself or to the activity. He still advanced to Q3 with the time he had already recorded. Bad luck for McLaren, eliminated with bag and gourd with Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo respectively in 11th and 12th. Esteban Ocon, Guanyu Zhou and Bottas also fell.
Q3 came with Sainz opening first after the first round of fast laps. Something important, because the Spaniard had finished ahead of Leclerc in Q2. There was a small pattern, but that was kicked up in the air. Sainz was the only one of the four drivers from the top two teams who didn’t improve in the last attempt. It remains to see the teammate again suck the spotlight and the rivals of the other team pass in front. The chance to react is even on Sunday.
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Check out how the ranking went:
As it was already defined even before the third free practice was held on the streets of Baku, a few hours before, the classification was delayed by 15 minutes: from 11 am [de Brasília, GMT-3] to 11:15 am. The reason was not in something that had happened a short time before, but in the rule book. Due to the local time zone, all track activities are carried out between early afternoon and early evening. Thus, an accident at the end of the Formula 2 sprint race damaged one of the protective barriers and caused F1’s FP3 to be delayed by 15 minutes.
But so what? It is in the FIA sporting regulations that the distance between the end of free practice and the start of Formula 1 qualifying must be at least two hours. As the 60-minute FP3 was pushed from 8am to 8:15am and qualifying started at 11am, there was no time. In this way, the definition of the grid had to wait too.
Q1 – Verstappen out ahead of Pérez and Leclerc as Stroll beats
A huge line was formed, with practically all the cars, waiting for the green light in the pit lane. When he appeared, it was Lando Norris who took the lead to start taking the time once and for all. Immediately, everyone was on the track. Norris, as the first to leave, was also the first to record time.
Max Verstappen has already amended it with a very significant lap, a 1min42s938 which, in practice, put the Dutchman in Q2. Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton warned Mercedes that the pedals were “too soft”. Mercedes driver George Russell complained that Verstappen was driving “erratically” on the track after nearly hitting the rear of Red Bull.
The two Red Bull drivers appeared in the top two positions, just ahead of the Ferrari duo. Sebastian Vettel managed to cheat in fifth and with Guanyu Zhou in sixth. Russell and Hamilton managed to stay in the top 10, while Valtteri Bottas, struggling all weekend, was in the elimination zone.
Leclerc, by the way, came to paint quickly at the front, but Verstappen did 1min42s722 and Pérez followed with a lap just 0s011 behind his teammate.
Then came the protagonist of Q1: Lance Stroll. The Aston Martin driver struggled with the car while Vettel was fine. Initially, with about five minutes to go, he scratched the wall of turn seven with the nose of his car after escaping. Nothing too serious initially, but I would hit it again on the next lap! In turn two, he escaped and crashed harder, damaging the right front suspension. Car stopped on the track and, with 2min30s to go, red flag.
At that moment, Stroll had a better comeback only than Mick Schumacher. Alex Albon was the first inside the elimination zone and was followed by Bottas and Nicholas Latifi, in addition to the last two. The red flag created a problem: everyone would have to immediately enter the track in order to open a lap.
Mercedes decided to go out with used tyres, just to make sure they had the time, while those who came in the top positions didn’t even enter to open the lap. At Haas, Mick Schumacher came in late and received the radio warning “push to the limit”. He managed to open back, but not come out last.
Who managed to escape was Bottas, who jumped to 15th place in the fright. The McLarens were 13th and 14th, also without comfort and with Lando Norris ahead of Daniel Ricciardo. Those eliminated, then, ended up being Kevin Magnussen, Albon, Latifi, Stroll and Schumacher.
In the end, Albon ended up complaining about Alonso, who caused a yellow flag in the last seconds in the intermediate sector and retracted to the Alpine pits very slowly. Remembering that the race direction defined that all the laps, even without being officially timed, must be above 2min09s so that the pilots do not disturb the others. Unless, of course, there is a problem.
Q2 – Pérez responds to his teammate and leads the second half
Red Bull saved up at the end of Q1 to get ahead of everyone else in Q2. Again, Verstappen was better than Pérez, now by just 0s031. This time, however, Ferrari responded superiorly. Carlos Sainz geared up at 1min42s088 and jumped forward, with Leclerc coming in second.
AlphaTauri was also in Baku. Pierre Gasly came in fifth and showed he was comfortable in the car. Hamilton, less comfortable in his car, appeared outside the qualifying zone after five minutes.
A second Aston Martin appeared on the wall. Now Vettel, of course, since Stroll was eliminated. The four-time champion lost control at turn 15 and ran into the wall. Without a hard crash, however, he kept the engine running and left for the pits. He was in seventh place and still had a chance to advance to Q3.
Pérez gave everyone back and, with the second attempt, he made 1min41s955 and appeared in the momentary lead. Immediately, the two Red Bulls withdrew: it was the end of Q2 for both, with more than enough time after Verstappen made a slight dent in the wall with the left rear tyre.
Hamilton suffered. In preparation for the last lap, he warned on the radio that he was having difficulties changing the direction of the car and was also warned that he was under investigation for driving too slow on the track after appearing almost stopped in front of Norris – at this moment, however, he appeared in sixth.
Before the last attempt, the pairs of McLaren and Alfa Romeo were joined by Esteban Ocon among those eliminated. The first to be almost certain of elimination was Norris, because in an attempt to open the last fast lap, he went straight and went off the track. But it didn’t end like that, because Lando was still able to open the loop, but it was no use: he was out anyway.
Norris, Ricciardo, Ocon, Zhou and Bottas, in that exact order, were the five eliminated. None managed to save themselves with a last attempt. Thus, Pérez, Leclerc, Sainz, Verstappen, Gasly, Hamilton, Vettel, Russell, Alonso and Yuki Tsunoda were the ten qualified to dispute the pole.
Q3 – Leclerc shines and celebrates another pole in 2022
The time of the decision arrived with Alonso going ahead of the others to register time, but the lap was not much and he fell right behind the real rivals: Russell, Vettel and Gasly.
In another different fight, Sainz exploded and once again surpassed Leclerc to take the lead. The Monegasque driver made a slight slip and did not make a big lap, but it was enough to beat Pérez and Verstappen, who, in that order, appeared in third and fourth.
After the first round of spins released, the top-4 was this. Gasly, Russell, Vettel, Alonso, Hamilton and Tsunoda rounded out the top-10.
The second attempt already showed a different scenario when Leclerc came first among the four and flew with 1min41s359. Verstappen jumped to second momentarily, but Pérez passed him – even though he was 0s282 behind the Monegasque. Sainz was left behind without improving his lap.
There was no longer any way to avoid Leclerc’s sixth pole position in eight rounds of the season. What’s more: Charles becomes the only driver with two poles at the Azerbaijan GP. Pérez closes the front row, while Verstappen opens the second alongside Sainz. Russell and Gasly, Hamilton and Tsunoda, Vettel and Alonso form the third, fourth and fifth rows.
F1 2022, Azerbaijan, Saturday, Starting Grid:
|two||S PEREZ||Red Bull Honda||1:41,641||+0.282|
|3||M VERSTAPPEN||Red Bull Honda||1:41,706||+0.347|
|6||P GASLY||AlphaTauri Honda||1:42,845||+1,486|
|8||Y TSUNODA||AlphaTauri Honda||1:43,056||+1,697|
|9||S VETTEL||Aston Martin Mercedes||1:43,091||+1,732|
|11||L NORRIS||McLaren Mercedes||1:43,398||+2,039|
|14||G ZHOU||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||1:43,790||+2,431|
|15||V BOOTS||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||1:44,444||+3,085|
|16||K MAGNUSEN||Haas Ferrari||1:44,643||+3,284|
|18||N LATIFI||Williams Mercedes||1:45,367||+4,008|
|19||L STROL||Aston Martin Mercedes||1:45,371||+4,012|
|20||M SCHUMACHER||Haas Ferrari||1:45,775||+4,416|
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