Charles Leclerc would make it back-to-back pole positions as he secured the fastest lap in Baku, following a qualifying session that would see four red flags fly, the most since Hungary 2016. The Monegasque driver would be followed by Lewis Hamilton and Championship leader Max Verstappen.
Q1 was dominated by stoppages, with the first one coming just a minute into the session. On his first lap of the session, the Aston Martin of Lance Stroll managed to find turn 15, clouting the right-hand side of the car. He managed to drag the now three-wheeled Aston Martin down to the nearest escape road, but this failed to stop the red flag from making an early appearance.
Not long after the restart, the second red flag of the session arrived, yet again at turn 15. This time it was Antonio Giovinazzi in the Alfa Romeo, having carried too much speed into the corner, the Italian replicated earlier incident.
As a result, plenty of drivers didn't have a lap time, causing a melee of lap times to flood in with four minutes left in Q1. Ultimately is was the two Haas cars that fell victim to the first qualifying session, along with the Williams of Nicholas Latifi and the stricken Stroll and Giovinazzi.
20. Antonio Giovinazzi
The second session of Qualifying looked to be less messy than the initial session, with drivers managing to set much quicker times from the get-go. It was very tight towards the top end of the grid, with just over half a second separating all drivers in the top ten. Ferrari and Red Bull managed to continue their good pace seen throughout the weekend, with even Mercedes managing to get some decent laps together, seeing Hamilton go third in the timings.
However, the session would fail to finish, as qualifying saw its third red flag in two sessions. Daniel Ricciardo was the latest victim of turn 15, seeing his papaya-clad McLaren buried in the most problematic turn on the track. With 1:29 left in the session, no cars were able to get another lap in.
There were some winners and losers from this unfortunate event, Alpha Tauri saw both cars qualify for Q3, with Yuki Tsunoda booking his first appearance in the session. However former multiple World Championship winner Sebastian Vettel failed to gain a spot, being a fraction of a second behind Fernando Alonso in the tenth position.
11. Sebasitan Vettel
The two Mercedes were out first in Q3, looking to avoid any anticipated carnage that had been seen in other qualifying sessions, Valtteri Bottas looked to be punching a hole for Hamilton behind him. However behind them Ferrari looked were setting purple sector times across both cars throughout the lap, with the quickest lap of the session being set by Leclerc in the early stages.
The more laps that came in, the more apparent that Leclerc could be on for pole, as Hamiltons best lap could only take the seven-time champion to second place, 0.2 of a second behind the Monegasque driver. With five minutes left in the session, the top three were Leclerc, Hamilton, and Verstappen.
With two minutes left in the session, all drivers were out on track looking for their fastest time of the session, with the cars being led by Leclerc, creating a train of power through the streets of Baku. But qualifying was to be cut short once again, with the fourth red flag of the day flying. Tsunoda was caught out at turn three, plowing the car into the wall, later the second Ferrari of Carlos Sainz was left stricken too, narrowly missing the back of the Alpha Tauri and spinning into the exit road nearby.
Leclerc made it back-to-back pole positions after a tumultuous year at the Scuderia, followed closely by Hamilton and Verstappen.
Azerbaijan 2021 starting grid
- Charles Leclerc - Ferrari
- Lewis Hamilton - Mercedes AMG Petronas
- Max Verstappen - Red Bull
- Pierre Gasly - Alpha Tauri
- Carlos Sainz - Ferrari
- Lando Norris *- McLaren
- Sergio Perez - Red Bull
- Yuki Tsunoda - Alpha Tauri
- Fernando Alonso - Alpine
- Valtteri Bottas - Mercedes AMG Petronas
- Sebasitan Vettel - Aston Martin
- Esteban Ocon - Alpine
- Daniel Ricciardo - McLaren
- Kimi Raikkonen - Alfa Romeo Sauber
- George Russell - Williams
- Nicholas Latifi - Williams
- Mick Schumacher - Haas
- Nikita Mazepin - Haas
- Antonio Giovinazzi - Alfa Romeo Sauber
- Lance Stroll - Aston Martin
*Subject to FIA investigation.