Charles Leclerc took pole position at the inaugural Azerbaijan Grand Prix sprint shootout from the Red Bulls of Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen.
That’s now four consecutive poles for the Monegasque, having topped qualifying in 2021, 2022 and on Friday, at the Baku City Circuit but it wasn’t without drama.
Leclerc crashed on his second flying run at Turn 5, leaving himself susceptible to a late Red Bull charge.
In the end, however, his 1.41.697 on his opening lap was good enough to take top spot for the first sprint race of the season by 0.147s from Perez and nearly three tenths from Verstappen.
“With the softs it was tricky because you get into Q3 and you haven’t been on these tyres since yesterday and the conditions are different,” Leclerc said.
“The rear overheated on the second lap, I tried to push a little bit as I was behind my first lap, and I lost the rear into Turn 5.
“Happy with the first lap though and hopeful we can take this into the race. Ferrari needs to be on top and I will do everything to win”
Behind the top three, George Russell took an impressive late fourth ahead of Carlos Sainz, who was thwarted by his teammate’s crash.
Lewis Hamilton finished sixth ahead of Alex Albon, with the Aston Martins of Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll in eighth and ninth respecitvely.
Lando Norris, who was unable to take part in Q3 because he didn’t have a new set of soft tyres, rounded out the top 10 for McLaren.
Piastri misses out on SQ3
Oscar Piastri was unlucky to miss out on the top 10 shootout, finishing 11th, just three hundredths behind his teammate.
The McLaren rookie was denied at the death by the Aston Martin of Stroll, who was without DRS but received a crucial tow down the straight from Alonso.
Behind Piastri, Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen both missed for Haas in 12th and 14th respectively, with Esteban Ocon 13th and Logan Sargeant 15th.
Tsunoda thwarted by red flag
With 25 seconds to go in SQ1, Sargeant hit the wall and brought out the red flag, ending the first part of the shootout prematurely and denying a number of drivers the chance to progress into SQ2.
Among them were Valtteri Bottas and Yuki Tsunoda, who will start the sprint 16th and 18th respectively.
Tsunoda was on the final straight when the red flags were waved and was incensed to miss out having made it to Q3 in qualifying for the main Grand Prix.
Elsewhere, Zhou Guanyu finished 17th in a disappointing session for Alfa Romeo, with Pierre Gasly in 19th and Nyck de Vries in 20th.