Ferrari’s Vettel takes pole for Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Baku: Ferrari’s championship leader Sebastian Vettel grabbed pole position on Saturday for the Azerbaijan Formula One Grand Prix.
The German will be at the front of the grid for Sunday’s street race after setting a best lap of 1 minute 41.498 seconds and edging world champion Lewis Hamilton into second-quickest in his Mercedes.
Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas qualified third on the banks of the Caspian Sea with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, last year’s winner in Baku and victorious in Shanghai two weeks ago, fourth fastest.
Vettel, who won the first two races of the season, leads Hamilton by nine points after three Grands Prix this year. “It will be an intense race, safety cars are very likely. Our car was really good this afternoon,” Vettel told reporters.
“Yesterday, I struggled with confidence and trust in the car, which is important. We got pole so I can’t be much more happy.”
Vettel had been fastest in final practice as wind caused problems earlier on Saturday but Ricciardo was quickest in second practice on Friday after Bottas had the best of the first session.
Hamilton, who has won three of the last four titles, said Mercedes had a job on their hands on Sunday.
“Sebastian did a good job, they were quickest. They have a phenomenal car this year, but we are in the mix and I’ll try to give Sebastian a hard time tomorrow,” he added.
Max Verstappen qualified fifth in his Red Bull while Kimi Raikkonen, fastest in Q1 and Q2, had to be content with sixth place on the grid after a skid hit his chances of a quicker time.
Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez from Force India were seventh and eighth fastest on the twisting street circuit, which passes Baku’s varied medieval and 21st-century architecture.
Renault’s Nico Huelkenberg qualified ninth but will be hit with a five-place grid penalty for switching his gearbox.
Williams duo Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin, who had a big crash in final practice, went out in Q2, with McLaren’s Fernando Alonso qualifying 13th ahead of Charles Leclerc in a Sauber and Kevin Magnussen in a Haas.
Stoffel Vandoorne of McLaren, Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson and the Toro Rossos of Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley were eliminated in Q1 along with Romain Grosjean whose Haas had a gearbox problem.
The two Toro Rosso drivers narrowly avoided a spectacular crash between the two of them when Hartley slowed because of a puncture.
“It was pretty scary, I don’t know what happened but he slowed massively,” Gasly said. — dpa