‘Getting the feeling back: Ricciardo takes ‘positive’ step; Giant’s Uneasy Max Dilemma: F1 Qualifying

Charles Leclerc is looking to “finish the job” after living up to his status as master of the poles this season by pulling out a flying lap to keep the Red Bulls at bay during Saturday’s qualifying for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

The Ferrari driver, who registers his fourth consecutive pole and sixth of the season, will be joined on the front row of Sunday’s race by the in-form Sergio Perez.

“It feels good,” said an excited Leclerc, who has failed to convert one of his three most recent poles into victory.

“The feeling is there and it’s good, so I’m optimistic for tomorrow. I just want to finish the job.”

Perez, who won on the streets of the Azerbaijani capital 12 months ago (with Leclerc on pole) and last time in Monaco, once again outperformed his world champion teammate Max Verstappen.

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Max Verstappen was surpassed again. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Daniel Ricciardo qualified 12th but was closer to his teammate Lando Norris in 11th.

Norris was less than two tenths of a second faster in Q2 as neither McLaren made the top-10 shootout.

For Ricciardo it was still a step in the right direction.

“After such a tough weekend in Monaco, I have to take the positive that we look more competitive so far, and I feel a little more like I’m getting back the feeling that I’m chasing with the car,” he said. said.

“So overall I’m more happy with this weekend so far, but obviously we’re 11th and 12th so it’s not positions where we jump up and down.

“Personally, I’ve found some things with the car that suit me, and I feel like I’ve been able to lean on it and feel a little more comfortable.”

Daniel Ricciardo took a step in the right direction.Source: Getty Images

Meanwhile, Verstappen starts on the second row with Carlos Sainz in the other Ferrari. Leclerc had a healthy championship lead after race three in Australia but is nine points behind Verstappen this eighth round of the season, with Perez just six points back in third.

“All poles feel good, but I didn’t expect this one,” he added. “I thought the Red Bulls were stronger in the first and second qualifying session, but on the last lap it all came together.”

The Monaco man hit his flying lap in the top 10 shootout, skillfully getting the most out of his car on this complex circuit with its twisty old town area and long airport straight.

Perez, in the prime of his racing life with a flowing confidence, emerged with a lap under 1 minute 42 seconds to lead the charge to the final roll of the qualifying dice.

Sainz briefly flirted with his first-ever pole, but with the qualifying timer close to zero, Leclerc crossed the line in 1 minute 41.359 seconds to top the timesheets.

– ‘Who knows?’ †

Perez threw everything on his last lap, but finished 0.282s slower.

“Yes, Q3 is when your balls go out and I hit the wall a couple of times. At the end we had a problem with the engine, we couldn’t turn it on and I was on my own with no ‘drag’…. would it have been enough for pole, who knows?”

Ferrari’s Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc celebrates after claiming pole position.Source: AFP

Verstappen, just 0.065s from his teammate, reported: “The start of the lap was good, but then it went away from me, minor mistakes. As a team, second and third, we have a good chance tomorrow.”

Perez has given Red Bull team chief Christian Horner an interesting dilemma over which of his drivers to support if Barcelona repeat themselves when the Mexican was given team orders to let Verstappen through for the win.

Mercedes struggled in practice with their underperforming 2022 car bouncing on the bumpy track, so George Russell starting in the third row after finishing fifth in qualifying was a decent result.

Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri joins him ahead of Lewis Hamilton in the other Mercedes sharing the fourth row with Yuki Tsunoda, while Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso round out the top 10.

Hamilton, more than a second behind Leclerc, was brutally blunt in his assessment of the afternoon.

“We’re not even racing those guys up front, they’re in a completely different league,” said the frustrated seven-time champion.

“So it looks like these guys are miles ahead, and then there’s this peloton that we’re in,” added Hamilton, who is under investigation for slowing down because he seemed to be waiting for a tow from the car behind.

The opening session was red flagged towards the end when Lance Stroll’s front wing flew off his Aston Martin after jumping over the barrier at turn two, his second crash in as many laps.

As a result, Valtteri Bottas, in 17th, was in danger of falling for the first time in the first qualifying hurdle in the 143rd Grand Prix and Monaco in 2015.

Hamilton led a convoy of cars heading back out as the session resumed at 6:40pm local time, temperatures dropped and shadows lengthened.

They all crossed the line at the cut-off time for a final lap, with Bottas miraculously sneaking through the 15th and final Q2 ticket, his proud record intact.

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