In the first runs of Q3 Verstappen and Leclerc set identical lap times of 1:40.445s. But then in the final runs, Leclerc pulled out a 0.188s gap to Verstappen.
That lap breaks the Red Bull domination on pole position over 2023 and keeps Leclerc’s excellent recent record in Baku alive.
“For sure, I’m surprised,” Leclerc said after qualifying. “We thought it would be great to be in front of Aston Martin and Mercedes in qualifying.
“Really happy with the lap, the feeling was good since the start so really happy. The pace seems strong, we know the car is good.”
Perez was almost three tenths behind Leclerc and Carlos Sainz in the second Ferrari close to one second adrift of his teammate.
Lewis Hamilton bounced back from a scare in Q2 to put his Mercedes fifth, just ahead of Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin.
Lando Norris in the McLaren was seventh, Yuki Tsunoda eighth for AlphaTauri, with Lance Stroll ninth in his Aston Martin and Oscar Piastri rounding out the top 10 for McLaren.
Russell disaster for Mercedes
Q2 saw Mercedes struggle with pace in Baku as Hamilton only managed 10th position and scraped into the top 10 shootout, while his teammate George Russell placed 11th just 0.004s behind Hamilton, and was eliminated.
Williams got both cars out of Q1 for the first time since Russia 2021 with Logan Sargeant ending in 15th place and Alex Albon in 12th.
Q1 red flags
In the opening stint of qualifying, Zhou Guanyu came close to putting his Alfa Romeo in the barriers, but moments later Nyck de Vries lodged his AlphaTauri into the barriers at Turn 3 which brought out the red flag.
Almost instantly after the session got back underway Pierre Gasly also had an incident at Turn 3 and brought out another red flag and more misery for Alpine with Gasly’s car going up in flames during practice.