Sebastian Vettel beats Lewis Hamilton to pole, Kimi Raikkonen blows it with late error
Azerbaijan Grand Prix - Qualifying

Sebastian Vettel beats Lewis Hamilton to pole, Kimi Raikkonen blows it with late error

29/04/2018

Sebastian Vettel took pole position ahead of Lewis Hamilton at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix after Kimi Raikkonen threw away a shot at beating his Ferrari teammate with a mistake late on his final lap.

Vettel will line up ahead of the two Mercedes drivers on the grid despite making an error of his own on his second run in Q3. In what proved to be a scrappy session for both Ferraris, Vettel still had enough pace to fend off the challenge from Mercedes, with a 0.179s margin over Hamilton and a 0.339s advantage over Valtteri Bottas in third.

Vettel's mistake on his final lap came at Turn 3 with a big lock up under braking, while teammate Raikkonen lost the rear of his Ferrari on the exit of Turn 16. Up until that point, Raikkonen was 0.2s quicker than his teammate and a clean exit from that corner should have been enough to secure pole. Instead he starts from sixth after making mistakes on his first attempts in both Q2 and Q3 as well. The mistake in Q2 also meant he ruined his single set of super-soft tyres and, unlike the rest of the top six, will start the race on the less durable ultra-soft as a result.

Raikkonen's error allowed the Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen to secure fourth and fifth on the grid ahead of the second Ferrari. Ricciardo was just 0.074s off Bottas, but the relative lack of power from their Renault engine meant they lacked the performance to take the fight to the very front.

Outside the top six, Force India secured the best qualifying result of its season with Esteban Ocon in seventh and Sergio Perez in eighth. The two teammates were split by just 0.024s and Ocon was only 0.033s off Raikkonen's messy lap in the Ferrari.

The two Renaults rounded off the top ten with Nico Hulkenberg 0.285s ahead of teammate Carlos Sainz. However, Hulkenberg will drop to 14th on Sunday's grid once his five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change is factored in.

Williams secured its best qualifying result of the season with Lance Stroll in 11th and Sergey Sirotkin in 12th, which will become 10th and 11th once Hulkenberg's penalty is applied. McLaren's qualifying struggles continued with the 13th fastest time for Fernando Alonso ahead of an impressive performance from Charles Leclerc. Kevin Magnussen will be disappointed to start 15th after two top ten appearances during practice did not translate into ultimate qualifying pace on Saturday afternoon.

The second McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne was eliminated in the first part of qualifying after setting a time 0.130s off Stroll's best Q1 effort. The result follows three difficult practice sessions for the Belgian and is the first time the McLaren has failed to make it through to Q2 this year.

The two Toro Rossos were involved in a controversial incident as Brendon Hartley, who failed to set a quick lap, suffered a puncture in the middle sector and ended up blocking teammate Pierre Gasly. Gasly came across Hartley on the high-speed run to Turn 15 while on a hot lap and he had to take last-minute evasive action to avoid a monster collision. The incident ruined Gasly's chances of improving and left him fuming at over team radio.

Gasly will line up 17th on the grid ahead of Marcus Ericsson, Hartley and Romain Grosjean, who suffered a gearbox failure on his first flying lap in Q1.

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