Valtteri Bottas will start the Azerbaijan GP from pole position after Charles Leclerc ruined his day as the potential pole-sitter crashed in Q2.
Qualifying got underway with many, including rivals, predicting a Ferrari pole position. Speaking in the build-up to qualifying, Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff told Sky Sports that he thought Ferrari would be “almost untouchable” in qualifying.
Touchable, though, is what they were.
First Valtteri Bottas and then Pierre Gasly took the fight to Ferrari with Gasly quickest in Q1 with a 1:41.335.
He finished Q1 ahead of practice pace-setter Charles Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton, who after two trips down escape roads and a flatspotted tyre worked his way up to third.
The chequered flag came out and so too did the reds as Robert Kubica nosedived into the barriers at Turn 8. He brushed the inside wall, broke the suspension and went into the barrier on the other side of the track.
Robert Kubica crashes into the wall at the castle section at Azerbaijan GP qualifying
— Eau rouge (@Insidef1) April 27, 2019
Q2 got off to a delayed start without Lance Stroll, out in Q1 for the eighth successive race, Romain Grosjean, Nico Hulkenberg, George Russell and Kubica.
It also began without Gasly, who is starting the race from the pit lane after skipping a weighbridge call up on Friday and pitting for fresh rubber, and a plummeting track temperature meaning soft tyres were the order for all but Ferrari. They opted for the mediums.
Down on pace on the mediums and only fifth, Leclerc did a Kubica as he crashed into the exact same barrier, although he locked up and still tried to make the corner. Game over for the potential pole sitter who summed it up: “I am stupid.”
📻 "I am stupid, I am stupid"
— Formula 1 (@F1) April 27, 2019
Q2 was red flagged and another lengthy delayed followed as the safer barrier was repaired. Resuming with 7:41 on the clock, Vettel was the first man out with the track temperature down to 28 having been 43 at the start of qualifying. This time the Ferrari was shod with the soft tyres.
He worked his way up to fifth place but this time it was the other Red Bull, Max Verstappen, who set the pace. Out were Carlos Sainz, Daniel Ricciardo, Alexander Albon, Kevin Magnussen and Gasly.
Into Q3 – taking place under a setting sun and with the track temperature a further 2′ cooler – it was Hamilton who claimed provisional pole with a 1:40.703, putting him 0.366s up on Verstappen while Vettel was third.
A second run began with the Mercedes duo severely compromised as they waited to do pit stops as they came out of the pits allowing others to gain track position. And with those ahead backing off before starting their hot laps, Bottas and Hamilton had to drop the pace dramatically.
Vettel looked to have seized the moment but fell short by 0.302s- and that was to Bottas, who pipped Hamilton late in the session with a 1:40.495. Hamilton was second, 0.059s as Mercedes bagged their 60th front row lock out.
— Mercedes-AMG F1 (@MercedesAMGF1) April 27, 2019
Vettel will line up third alongside Verstappen with Sergio Perez and Daniil Kvyat next in line. Lando Norris was seventh.
Antonio Giovinazzi bagged his first top-ten showing for Alfa Romeo as he qualified P9 on Saturday evening. Unfortunately for the Italian, he has a 10-place grid penalty for taking a third control electronics.
He outqualified team-mate Kimi Raikkonen while Charles Leclerc qualified 10th.
There will, however, be changes to the official grid in light of Giovinazzi and Gasly’s penalties.
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:40.495
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 0.059s
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 0.302s
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull 0.574s
5 Sergio Perez Racing Point 1.098s
6 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1.186s
7 Lando Norris McLaren 1.391s
8 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing 1.929s
9 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing 2.573s
10 Charles Leclerc Ferrari no time
11 Carlos Sainz McLaren 1:42.398
12 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1:42.477
13 Alex Albon Toro Rosso 1:42.494
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:42.699
15 Pierre Gasly Red Bull no time
16 Lance Stroll Racing Point 1:42.630
17 Romain Grosjean Haas 1:43.407
18 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:43.427
19 George Russell Williams 1:45.062
20 Robert Kubica Williams 1:45.455