Oh qualifying. Oh Baku.
pain gift that is Honda just keeps giving beginning with a seventh power unit change for the season made this weekend, resulting in a total 70-place grid penalty awarded to the McLaren team. For Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne going into qualifying, there’s not much to hope for, as both drivers are painfully aware of their starting from the back of the grid for Sunday.
Renault’s Jolyon Palmer’s luck is surprisingly worse than McLaren this weekend. He did not make it to qualifying after a crash in Practice 2 and a fire in Practice 3 this morning made cause for major repairs to the car and was unable to run, leaving him a guaranteed spot at the back of the grid.
Baku is not the most car-friendly track. Turn 8 has been taking victims all weekend in the narrow passageway by the castle. Incredibly narrow corners making for much less opportunities for passing and a need for awareness going into almost each and every corner.
And cars had trouble finding clear air to keep up to speed to get a decent lap time.
Q1 eliminations are Palmer (still working on car issues from the fire in Saturday morning’s Practice 3 session), both Haas drivers: Romain Grosjean and Marcus Ericsson, and of course, both McLaren drivers, Alonso and Vandoorne.
Grosjean was unable to run many laps due to a reappearance of those brake issues he’s had in prior races–and in a twisty-windy street course like Baku, he’s going to certainly see more of these issues. He was brought into the garage with 3 minutes left to fix issues.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel having difficulties after having to switch to an older power unit which has affected his performance dramatically. The gap between himself and teammate Kimi Raikonnen during qualifying has been considerably noticeable.
Eliminated in Q2 are Sauber’s Pascal Wehrlein, Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, Haas’ Kevin Magnussen and both Toro Rosso drivers: Daniel Kvyat and Carlos Sainz.
Sainz will be serving a three-spot grid penalty as a result of his soiree with Williams’ Felipe Massa at the Canadian Grand Prix.
A red flag is waved on track at 3:33 left due to Daniel Ricciardo’s stop on the track from a flat rear left tire from hitting the wall coming out of Turn 6.
Meanwhile, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton somehow manages to squeeze out a fantastic time in the last lap of Q3 to grab the pole from what looked to be teammate’s Valtteri Bottas’ pole for the weekend.
It’ll be an interesting line-up for the race on Sunday, and for sure many surprises to come. Hopefully Turn 8 doesn’t claim too many victims.
The starting grid for Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix:
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
3. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari)
4. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
5. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
6. Sergio Perez (Force India)
7. Esteban Ocon (Force India)
8. Lance Stroll (Williams)
9. Felipe Massa (Williams)
10. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull)
11. Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso)
12. Kevin Magnussen (Haas)
13. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault)
14. Pascal Wehrlein (Sauber)
15. Carlos Sainz (Toro Rosso) (serving 3-spot grid penalty)
16. Romain Grosjean (Haas)
17. Marcus Ericsson (Sauber)
18. Joylon Palmer (Renault)
19. Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren) (w/penalty for power unit change)
20. Fernando Alonso (McLaren) (w/penalty for power unit change)