Valtteri Bottas claimed his second pole position of the 2019 Formula 1 season in a heavily disrupted qualifying for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Bottas’s time of a 1:40.495 was enough to pip his Mercedes AMG Motorsport team-mate Lewis Hamilton by 0.059 seconds in a frantic end to the session.
Two red flag stoppages brought out by Turn 9 crashes for Robert Kubica at the end of Qualifying 1 and Scuderia Ferrari‘s Charles Leclerc midway through Qualifying 2 ensured that the session ended at 18:55 local time, just 35 minutes before sunset in the Azeri capital.
Leclerc had been the favourite for pole position after topping all three Free Practice sessions at the Baku City Circuit, but locked up his left front medium tyre going into Turn 8 and made a hefty impact into the barriers – leaving him to start from ninth, providing his monocoque does not need to be changed.
Red Bull Racing had led the way in both Qualifying 1 and 2, through Pierre Gasly and Max Verstappen respectively, before Mercedes showed its previously disguised pace to take a third qualifying 1-2 of ’19 in four races.
A mad dash at the end of the final session, sans Verstappen – who opted to complete his final run on a clear track, was headed by the second Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel and Alfa Romeo Racing‘s Antonio Giovinazzi.
Both Mercedes cars were stationed at the rear of the train, Bottas ahead of Hamilton, and just managed to start their fast laps before the chequered flag fell.
Vettel could not improve on Hamilton’s provisional pole time, with Bottas left to edge in front after a poor first sector from Hamilton.
The German starts from third, ahead of Verstappen, with Ferrari left disappointed in being unable to use its early weekend fast run performance.
Sergio Pérez gave the Racing Point F1 Team a reason to dream of a third Baku podium in four years with fifth place in qualifying, but team-mate Lance Stroll suffered his eighth consecutive Qualifying 1 elimination.
Belatedly celebrating his 25th birthday, Daniil Kvyat recorded his best grid spot since the 2016 Chinese Grand Prix with sixth position having suffered a troublesome Friday with issues on his Scuderia Toro Rosso car and a crash in Free Practice 2.
Lando Norris claimed a career best Saturday performance of seventh and was the only McLaren F1 Team driver to make it into the top 10, as team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr. narrowly missed out on Qualifying 3.
Giovinazzi managed to get ahead of team-mate Kimi Räikkönen in the Alfa Romeo team battle, but will start from eighteenth on Sunday due to a 10-place grid penalty for changing his control electronics.
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