Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc (7/4 Race Winner) is on pole for Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix after impressively outpacing Red Bull’s Sergio Perez on his final lap in qualifying in Baku.
Leclerc, who is aiming for his third race win of the season, picked up his sixth pole position in eight races after another fine display in what is becoming an increasingly eye-catching 2022 campaign for the 24-year-old.
Leclerc admitted he was delighted with the outcome on Saturday but insisted sitting at the top of the grid on the eve of race day this time took him by surprise.
“All pole positions feel good but this one I did not expect it because I thought Red Bull were stronger,” he said. “Especially Q1 and Q2 I struggled to see we were faster but then in Q3 I managed to do a good lap.”
Leclerc’s final lap saw him beat Perez (11/4 Race Winner) by 0.282 seconds, while Perez beat team-mate and reigning world champion Max Verstappen (6/4 fav), who sits third on the grid, with his final lap, by just 0.065secs.
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Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz will start Sunday’s street circuit race in fourth, ahead of George Russell’s Mercedes, with the Briton sitting just in front of sixth-placed Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri, while Lewis Hamilton’s disappointing season so far continued as he could only record the seventh-fastest time.
Indeed the seven-time world champion could yet find himself being hit with a penalty after he was deemed to be driving too slow in the second part of qualifying.
Verstappen leads the drivers’ championship after seven races so far and is 5/6 to retain his world title this year, the Dutchman sitting nine points clear of Leclerc, and the 2021 champion was staying positive as he aimed for another race victory on Sunday.
He said: “The start of the lap was good and then it went away from me a bit, tiny mistakes. Not what I want but being second and third we have a good opportunity for tomorrow.
“We seem to lack a little bit on the one lap but over a long run our car should be quite good.”
AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda was eighth in qualifying, ahead of Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel (ninth) and the Alpine of Fernando Alonso (10th).
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