Valtteri Bottas registered back-to-back poles in the 2019 season around the Baku City Circuit, narrowly edging out team-mate Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in a thrilling qualifying for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
The Finn saved his quickest laptime for his final run in the pole position shootout, leading the third Mercedes front row lock-out of the year.
Ferrari were tipped as favourites for pole pre-qualifying, having shown blistering pace in practice, but the Italian outfit were unable to transfer the performance over to qualifying.
Vettel claimed a second row start, just two-tenths behind Bottas’ pole time, but Charles Leclerc saw his hopes of a second career pole evaporate after a costly error in Q2.
The Monegasque binned his Ferrari into the barriers at Turn 8 on the medium tyres, ripping off the right-corner of his car that prevented him running in the final segment.
Max Verstappen put his Red Bull alongside Vettel on the second row, ending just half a second off the leading Mercedes.
The second Red Bull of Pierre Gasly ran in Q1 but opted to cut short his session after being penalised for missing the weigh bridge in practice, meaning he starts from the pitlane.
Sergio Perez secured his best qualifying this season, the Mexican setting the fifth-fastest laptime in Q3, but his Racing Point team-mate Lance Stroll failed to escape the bottom five in Q1 for the eighth race on the bounce
Daniil Kvyat and Lando Norris too clinched their best grid slots, the pair lining up sixth and seventh respectively, just ahead of both Alfa Romeo’s.
Antonio Giovinazzi qualified ahead of Kimi Raikkonen for the first time but will lose 10 places due to a grid penalty for changing engine components.
Haas suffered its worst qualifying of the season so far, with both drivers failing to make the top 10 shootout for the first time this year.
The American outfit’s tyre woes continued as Romain Grosjean was eliminated at the first hurdle, while Kevin Magnussen couldn’t improve on P14.
Renault endured a miserable qualifying with the car struggling for one-lap pace. Nico Hulkenberg was a shock elimination from the first segment, while Daniel Ricciardo didn’t fair too much better, ending up P12.
George Russell out-qualified Robert Kubica for the fourth consecutive race as Williams made up the back row of the grid.
The latter’s qualifying ended in the barrier at the castle section on his final run in Q1, clipping the inside wall that catapulted his car across the track.