Ferrari's Charles Leclerc grabs Azerbaijan Grand Prix pole position

Session was stopped four times due to accidents in Baku on Saturday

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc secured pole position for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix following a tumultuous qualifying session in Baku on Saturday.

Mercedes' world champion Lewis Hamilton will start alongside Leclerc, who is looking for quick redemption after taking pole in Monaco only to retire from the race when his car broke down on the warm-up lap.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen leads Hamilton by four points in the drivers' championship after winning in Monaco last time out, and is on the second row of Sunday's race with the Alpha Tauri of Pierre Gasly for company.

On Saturday, the three phase session was stopped four times due to accidents.

Q3 was halted with a minute remaining when Gasly's teammate, Japanese rookie Yuki Tsunoda, crashed at turn three, with Carlos Sainz in the following Ferrari taking quick action and locking his wheels, smashing into a safety barrier.

Leclerc was on course to confirm Ferrari's return to form after their woeful 2020 when he qualified fastest in Monaco but crashed at the end of Q1 in his home race.

He then suffered the heartache of having to retire before taking his place on the grid when his car broke down on the formation lap.

Sainz, who finished second to Verstappen in Monaco, starts from the third row in Baku alongside Lando Norris in the McLaren, although the British driver could be hit with a grid penalty for failing to obey red flag protocol.

Leclerc said afterwards: "It was quite a s*** lap I thought. I made mistakes in two or three corners but I got a big tow of Lewis in the last sector which helped me out a little – but overall we would have been there or thereabouts for pole without the slipstream."

While Leclerc celebrated his second pole in as many races, Hamilton could hardly believe he will start Sunday's race ahead of Verstappen.

Hamilton's Mercedes team have been off the pace all weekend, but the seven-time world champion improved as qualifying progressed to start the sixth round on the front row.

"Wow, what an effort," the Mercedes driver said to his team over the radio," later adding: "We definitely were not expecting that. This is such a monumental result because we have been struggling all weekend."

Published: June 5, 2021 06:11 PM

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