P4 and P5 in Baku

Daniel will start tomorrow’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix from row two of the grid, with the Australian qualifying in fourth place, directly ahead of Max who matched his 2015 qualifying performance in Baku, taking fifth spot.

Both Max and Daniel made light work of the opening session. Daniel set the early pace with a lap of 1:43.259 that put him three tenths of a second ahead of Max. But the Bulls’ hold on the top two places was brief; Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen and Sebastian Vettel stole into the top spots, with the Finn leading the way with a lap of 1:42.985. He eventually improved that to a time of 1:42.538 as Hamilton worked his way to a time of 1:42.693 to sit in second place.

The Mercedes driver’s tenure wouldn’t last, however, as Max went for another attempt and stole into second place ahead of the Briton with a lap of 1:42.642. Vettel was third ahead of Daniel when the final runs had completed.

There was drama in the final moments as Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly was forced to take evasive action at top speed when he came across team-mate Brendon Hartley who was running slowly with a puncture. Unaware of his approaching team-mate Hartley made an adjustment and Gasly nearly ran into the back of the New Zealander before locking up and running up an escape road. Both Toro drivers were eliminated, with Gasly in P17 behind McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne but ahead of Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson, and with Hartley behind the Swede. Haas’ Romain Grosjean also exited the session, driving off track early in the session with a gearbox issue.

Q2 saw the top three teams move from the ultrasoft tyres used in the opening session to supersofts. The red-banded tyres were deemed the better starting tyre after Friday’s running and so teams capable of progressing on the harder tyre tried to set their fastest Q2 times on the supersoft in order to secure them for tomorrow’s start.
And while the tactic worked for the Bulls, both Mercedes drivers and Vettel, it was a struggle for Räikkönen.

2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix - Qualifying Stats

  • Max equals his career best qualifying position at the Baku City Circuit with P5.

  • Daniel’s fourth place in qualifying is the team’s fifth top-five quali spot so far this season.

  • It’s level pegging in the boys’ qualifying battle at 2-2 so far this season.

The Finn had not run the tyre all weekend and found it hard to find a rhythm on the compound. He locked up on two flying lap attempts and eventually had to shed the supersoft and use the purple ultrasoft to vault from P15 to P1 in the final moments of the session.

There was a nervous moment for Daniel as well. The Team calculated that his supersoft time would be good enough to allow him to abandon a ‘security’ run on ultrasofts at the end. However, as the final laps came in, he dropped to P10. The Team’s calculations proved spot on, however, as Williams’ Lance Stroll was unable to find the tenth of a second necessary to dislodge Daniel. 

Stroll was therefore eliminated in P11 ahead of was eliminated ahead of team-mate Sergey Sirotkin, McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, Sauber’s Charles Leclerc and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen. The first runs of Q3, Vettel led the way with a time of 1:41.498, almost three tenths clear of Hamilton, while Max and Daniel slotted into fourth and fifth spots respectively.

Hamilton made progress in the final run, but not unless to dislodge Vettel, who was unable to improve. Räikkönen though was flying and, two tenths up on Vettel through the first two sectors, looked on course for pole. The opportunity was missed, however, when he suffered a big slide in Turn 16 and he had to settle for P6.

Daniel, though, was also flying and the Australian picked up a whopping 0.522s on his final run to dislodge Max from P4. Vettel, then, took pole position ahead of Hamilton, with Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas third ahead of the Red Bulls. Behind Raikkonen, seventh place went to Force India’s Esteban Ocon, with the Frenchman being followed by team-mate Sergio Perez and the Renaults of Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz.

Azerbaijan Grand Prix – Qualifying Top 10 Result

1. Sebastian Vettel
2. Lewis Hamilton
3. Valtteri Bottas
6. Kimi Raikkonen
7. Esteban Ocon
8. Sergio Perez
9. Nico Hulkenberg
10. Carlos Sainz