Grand Prix of Azerbaijan – Qualifying

Two weeks after the dull Monaco race, Baku is another street circuit but it’s much wider and in fact often has the most overtakes of a season.
Going into round 6, VER is 4 points ahead of HAM (105 to 101, with NOR P3 on 56 points) and Red Bull is just 1 point ahead of Mercedes (149 vs 148, with McLaren P3 on 80) – first time Mercedes haven’t led the championship since the German GP in 2018!

Free Practice:

  1. FP1: VER (1:43.184), LEC, SAI, PER, RIC, GAS, HAM, NOR, ALO, BOT
    The street track is dusty and it’s windy so the road’s quite slippery – many drivers went off as they found the limits
    When TSU took to the escape road, rather than spin the Alpha Tauri he tried to do a three-point turn which took a while
    Radio from Alpha Tauri’s sporting director to race director Michael Masi: “He’s doing an Austin Powers at the moment” 🙂

  2. FP2: PER (1:42.115), VER, SAI, LEC, GAS, ALO, GIO, NOR, OCO, TSU; HAM=11, VET=15, BOT=16
    BOT locks up and uses the escape road at Turn 3
    NOR locks up too, but at T15
    VET loses the tail and spins his Aston Martin
    PER reports a problem with his helmet
    LAT uses the escape road at T15; finds reverse and gets back on the track… but he just gets it moving forward and loses power
    Red flag – FP2 suspended
    Replay shows LAT’s engine cut as he approached T15 but fired up again when he was in the escape road
    Green flag; FP2 restarts
    SCH is still in the garage with an oil pressure issue
    LEC has put his Ferrari in the tyre barrier at T15; he’s reversed out, leaving his front wing behind [video]
    Virtual Safety Car deployed so the marshals can remove the wing
    Disconsolate radio from HAM, “I don’t know where all the time is”
    VER seems quite down too, complaining of a lap of grip
    Haas seem to have fixed the problem and sent SCH out… but he’s only part-way around the lap before he has an issue and is told to return to the pits slowly
    MAZ reports “So much vibration I can’t see the mirrors”
    BOT runs wide in T1; spins and rejoins
    VER gets worryingly close to the tyre wall but gets away with it
    TSU runs off at T2, spins it around – he’s learned not to try a 3-point turn
    Radio from LEC “I ned to box this lap or I’m going to crash”!!

    Breaking News: “The Singapore Grand Prix has been called off this year and Formula 1 is assessing its options to replace the race, BBC Sport can reveal.” [BBC]
    Singapore was scheduled to be Round 16, Oct 01-03, between Russia and Japan.
    BBC says “Turkey, China and a second race at Austin in the USA are all under consideration as replacements.”

  3. FP3: GAS (1:42.251), PER, HAM, LEC, SAI, NOR, ALO, TSU, OCO, RIC; VET=11, BOT=13, VER=15
    VER puts his Red Bull in the barriers at T15, same place as LEC did in FP2
    Red flags; FP3 suspended; VER sitting off-track looking deep in thought
    MAZ touches the wall but seems to have escaped damage
    RUS parks his Williams, “No power, no gears, everything has just died.”

The squabbling over flexible wings continues [video]
Christian Horner: “If I was Toto, with the front wing he’s got on his car, I’d keep my mouth shut”
Toto Wolff: “Christian is a bit of a windbag”

15mins before Q1
Williams confirmed they’ve had to change RUS’ power unit due to a water leak
Air temperature 26°C; track 49°C; light wind
There’s new regulation this weekend: anyone going “unnecessarily slowly” in the last few turns could be penalised

Qualifying session 1 (Q1)
Green light; Q1 starts; a gaggle of cars heading out of the pit lane
Radio from MAZ, “It’s a bit of a mess boys”
HAM and BOT are on medium compound tyres; everyone else on soft
Williams still working on RUS’s car
LEC 1:42.532
Red flag – Q1 suspended
STR has been in the wall at Turn 15, wiped off his front right wheel
LEC was the only one to set a lap time
The suspended session has bought Williams some extra time to finish changing RUS’ power unit
Marshals put STR’s car on a trailer and clean up the debris
Q1 restarts with 14mins remaining
RUS on track
VER all over the rear of ALO’s Alpine, and then they all back off to get some space for their quick lap
SAI 1:42.121
VER 1:41.760
(PER P2)
Yellow flags… Red flags because GIO hit the wall at Turn 15
Less than 10mins left of Q1; only 10 cars have set a time
Everyone back to the pits again
GIO gets a lift back to the pits in the red Mercedes medical car
Radio from HAM asking how his sector times look; “Just a tenth off VER”; “Not too bad – just got to get a lap in”
Another long queue at pit exit, ready for Q1 to restart again
NOR under investigation for “red flag procedures”
(HAM P4)
(BOT P9)
4mins left; bottom 5 are RUS, MAZ, SCH, STR*, GIO* (*No time set)
Yellow flags – MAZ off at Turn 3
HAM 1:41.545
RUS P12, relegating LAT to P16
SCH P17
Chequered flag
Back of the grid: LAT, SCH, MAZ; STR & GIO will both need to appeal to the stewards to be allowed to race

Replay shows NOR was just at the pit entrance when the red flags came out; he would have had to cross the solid white line in order to pit, so he continued along the main straight
I hope they don’t penalise him – what was he supposed to do? Crossing the line would be a penalty too

Qualifying session 2
Unsafe release of VET into the path of PER?
PER “What was that, man?”; “Yeah, we saw it”
Everyone on softs
VET 1:42.
SAI 1:41.740
PER 1:41.630
(HAM P10) – he backed off in Sector 2
(LEC P2)
OCO taps the wall with his rear right
(HAM P2)
(BOT P8)
VER 1:41.625 for a Red Bull 1,2 so far
5mins left of Q2; bottom 5 are OCO, TSU, RIC, RAI, RUS* (*No time set)
Top 4 (VER, PER, HAM, LEC) covered by 0.03sec!
(RUS P15)
TSU P4, relegates VET to P11
Yellow flags… Red flags – RIC in the barriers at Turn 3
Session will not be restarted as there’s just 1:29 left of Q2
Middle of the grid: VET, OCO, RIC, RAI, RUS
RIC sounded winded but he jumped out of the car and seems to be ok

Qualifying session 3
Top 10 shootout is between VER, PER, HAM, TSU, LEC, SAI, NOR, GAS, BOT and ALO – they’ll all start the race on soft tyres
Green lights but no rush to leave the pits
BOT leaves the garage ahead of HAM, so HAM will get the tow
VER left ~20sec behind PER so VER can have a quicker out lap and still get the tow
LEC 1:41.218
SAI P2
NOR P3
PER P4
VER P2
ALO P6
BOT P7
HAM P2
Order: LEC, HAM, VER, SAI, NOR, PER, ALO, BOT; no time from TSU, GAS
FIA timing app and website are both broken 🙁
Both AlphaTauri cars on track now, with TSU giving GAS the tow
TSU P7
GAS P4
Order: LEC, HAM, VER, GAS, SAI, NOR, PER, TSU, ALO, BOT
BOT leaves the pits ahead of HAM again
Radio from BOT complaining he doesn’t have a tow
BOT slows right down; bunching up behind him; LEC passes BOT
Yellow flag… Red flags – TSU is in the barrier and SAI has a broken wing – did they collide into Turn 3?
Replay shows TSU locked up, hit the wall, then SAI locks up, slides up the escape road and tags a different wall
Front of the grid: LEC, HAM, VER, GAS, SAI, NOR*, PER, TSU, ALO, BOT
*NOR under investigation for Q1 red flag infringement

Interviews:
LEC: “There were two or three corners where I did mistakes, but then I had the tow in the last sector which helped a little bit. I was not expecting to be as competitive as we were today, we were helped with the red flag but anyway. It definitely feels very good, a pole is a pole.”
HAM: “The lap was okay. We definitely weren’t expecting that, we made so many changes, we didn’t take no for an answer. The work overnight and between the sessions was amazing from the team. Working with this car, it’s the biggest challenge we’ve had in a long time.”
VER: “It is what it is. Everything was working out fine, I just hope tomorrow in the race we can look after our tyres and have a good race. It’s still all to play for – as you can see from qualifying, a lot of things are happening…”
Christian Horner: “At least at this circuit you can overtake. Max’s frustration – he knew there was a better lap in there. Mercedes have changed their set up a lot – how that will work on the longer runs is an unknown.”

Provisional grid: LEC, HAM, VER, GAS, SAI, NOR*, PER, TSU, ALO, BOT, VET, OCO, RIC, RAI, RUS, LAT, SCH, MAZ; STR & GIO will both need to appeal to the stewards to be allowed to race
*NOR under investigation for Q1 red flag infringement

[2021 calendar] [2021 line-up] [Points standings]

2 thoughts on “Grand Prix of Azerbaijan – Qualifying”

  1. “Norris handed three-place grid drop for red flag offence in qualifying”
    https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/article.breaking-norris-handed-three-place-grid-drop-for-red-flag-offence-in.7kztISOmn7RGWjfMRGIJ4l.html
    “The Stewards assume that if a red flag is not respected during qualifying, a drop of 5 grid positions is appropriate. However, if you consider that the driver only had a very short time to react due to his position on the track, a drop of 3 grid positions is sufficient as an exception.”

    Revised grid: LEC, HAM, VER, GAS, SAI, PER, TSU, ALO, NOR*, BOT, VET, OCO, RIC, RAI, RUS, LAT, SCH, MAZ; STR, GIO
    *NOR 3-place penalty applied.

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