Charles Leclerc takes Azerbaijan GP pole ahead of the Red Bull's
Charles Leclerc claimed Ferrari’s first pole position of the 2023 season after defeating Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez in qualifying for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
After a challenging start to 2023, Ferrari came into the Baku F1 weekend confident of having made a set-up breakthrough last time out in Australia that could translate nicely on what is another relatively smooth and low-energy circuit for the tyres.
Leclerc was quickest of all in Q1, but trailed Verstappen by two tenths of a second in Q2. After the first runs in Q3, Verstappen was on provisional pole with a 1m40.445s lap that Leclerc matched to the nearest thousandth of a second.
Leclerc dug deep for his final run and improved to 1m40.203s to steal pole position away from Red Bull. Verstappen also improved but was not happy with his tyre preparation on his out-lap and fell 0.188s short of Leclerc’s best.
Sergio Perez was also in pole contention in the second Red Bull, but ended up third, a tenth further back.
The top three enjoyed a significant advantage over the rest.
Carlos Sainz was fourth for Ferrari, while Lewis Hamilton beat Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso to fifth, after his Mercedes team-mate George Russell was left 11th following a shock Q2 exit.
Lando Norris took advantage of McLaren's long-awaited upgrades to finish seventh, with rookie team-mate Oscar Piastri taking 10th.
Leclerc's third successive pole in Azerbaijan provided a thrilling conclusion to an action-packed session, which was twice interrupted in Q1 as crashes for AlphaTauri's Nyck de Vries and Alpine's Pierre Gasly brought out red flags.