Scuderia Ferrari had dominated all three free practice sessions at the Baku City Circuit but neither Charles Leclerc nor Sebastian Vettel were able to turn this into a front row starting position during Saturday’s Qualifying session for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Expectations were high heading into the session and Leclerc was quick throughout, that was until the up-and-coming Monegasque racer inexplicably crashed during Q2, hitting the wall at turn eight and ending his session on the spot. He will still start inside the top ten however thanks to the time he had already set, but it was a case of what might have been for Leclerc in Azerbaijan.
Unlike the rest of the top ten he’ll be able to start on the medium Pirelli tyre, something that may give him an advantage. Talking about the crash itself, team principal Mattia Binotto said it was just one of those things that happen when drivers are pushing to the limit, but a good result is still possible for the Monegasque racer.
“Charles will be one of the very few of the top ten starting on Medium tyres and he can still have a great race,” said Binotto. “He was very fast today and can be very fast tomorrow as well.
“It has been a real shame that his qualifying ended at turn 8, but these things happen when you push to the limit.”
The second Ferrari of Vettel will start third on the grid with Binotto feeling that his position could have been improved had he found a better feeling with his SF90H earlier than he did.
He missed out on the front row to the Mercedes-AMG Motorsport duo of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton, but for Binotto, it was another case of what might have been after the upgrade package brought to Baku appeared to improve the car.
“We are not happy about the outcome of qualifying,” said Binotto. “I think our car was performing well today and we could have certainly achieved a much better result. The upgrades we brought here worked well and we are happy with the way they are behaving.
“Sebastian improved run after run and found the best feeling with the car right on his last attempt. This is such a peculiar track and had he found a better feeling before he could have done a better job.”