Nico Rosberg took pole position at the first ever qualifying session at the Baku City Circuit in Azerbaijan, in what was an error strewn session for many drivers, including Lewis Hamilton who ended qualifying in the wall at Turn 11.
The Brit had an uneasy time throughout, having three times found himself down the escape road at Turn 15 after out braking himself coming into the corner, before crashing out of the session with just minutes to go.
The Brit clipped the wall enough to break the front right of the W07, which left him stranded out on track as Mercedes AMG PETRONAS team-mate Rosberg crossed the line to take provisional pole. The session was then red flagged with two minutes remaining whilst Hamilton’s car was recovered from track, before we were back under way just a few minutes later.
Rosberg meanwhile was able to retain pole position, his third of 2016, with a time of 1:42.758, seven tenths faster than anyone else.
Sergio Perez was a fantastic second in the Sahara Force India, after the Mexican was lucky to even make it to qualifying, following his crash right at the end of FP3 earlier in the day. The engineers did an amazing job to get the car ready in time, but Perez will unfortunately receive a five place grid penalty for the race, after needing a gearbox replacement form his final practice incident.
Daniel Ricciardo was third in an exciting final two minutes of qualifying following the red flag for Hamilton’s crash. As everybody pushed to get themselves clear track, the Australian grabbed the edge ahead of Sebastian Vettel in the Scuderia Ferrari, with both drivers recording the exact same lap time, but the German lost out place wise due to setting his time later than the Red Bull Racing man.
Kimi Raikkonen was fifth in the second Ferrari, ahead of Felipe Massa in the first of the Williams Martini Racing cars and Daniil Kvyat in the best placed Scuderia Toro Rosso. The Russian profited from a battle between the second Williams of Valtteri Bottas and the Red Bull of Max Verstappen who on their one and only available flying lap had a tussle at Turn 1 when the Finn tried to overtake the Dutchman. Bottas was unable to make the move stick and had to back off, whilst Verstappen’s lap was compromised by the fight, but he was able to push Hamilton down to tenth, who had been sat in ninth following his Turn 11 accident.
Romain Grosjean was eleventh in the first of the Haas F1 Team cars, making the Frenchman the first driver with the option of which tyres he will use in the race. It was a solid effort form Grosjean, who was only one tenth off the Williams of Massa in tenth.
Nico Hulkenberg finished down in twelfth place after spinning the VJM09 at Turn 16, and not being able to get a good enough lap in following his return to track. The German carried too much speed into the left-hander, which resulted in him running a little bit wide at the apex and he locked up the tyres. It was a good save from the German, and a shame that he was unable to get back up to speed and make it through to Q3, after looking strong in FP3 earlier today.
Carlos Sainz Jr was thirteenth in the Toro Rosso, having had a number of excursions down the escape road when running off at Turn 15, an area where a lot of drivers were experiencing problems making the corner in this qualifying session. The Spaniard was ahead of Fernando Alonso in the first of the McLaren Honda F1 cars and Esteban Gutierrez in the second Haas. The best placed Sauber was Felipe Nasr in sixteenth. It was a good effort from the Brazilian who made it through to Q2 when team-mate Marcus Ericsson could not.
Having finished at the back of the field in FP3, Rio Haryanto put in an impressive lap to take seventeenth place for the Manor Racing Team, just one tenth off making it through to Q2 and ahead of team-mate Pascal Wehrlein and perhaps more surprisingly the McLaren of Jenson Button.
Button had a torrid qualifying session, unable to get a clear lap in on a congested track as well as taking an excursion down the escape road at Turn 15, the Brit found himself down in nineteenth place, and behind the two Manor’s.
The second Sauber F1 car of Ericsson was in twentieth place, ahead of the two Renault Sport F1 Team cars of Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer, who completed the field.
An interesting qualifying session that leaves it wide open going into tomorrow’s race, with only one Mercedes powered car in the top four after the German manufacturer has dominated here all weekend.
Baku Street Circuit Qualifying Result
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