Charles Leclerc admits he thought his first run in Q3 was “quite a shit lap” before claiming pole position for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Leclerc topped the timesheets after the first flying laps in the final part of qualifying, benefiting from a slipstream from Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton along the  pit straight.

A late red flag caused by a crash for AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda at Turn 3 prevented drivers from completing their second attempts, handing Leclerc his ninth Formula 1 career pole.

The Monegasque driver was quick to concede his lap had been far from perfect and was left surprised by Ferrari’s competitiveness, as he secured back-to-back poles in 2021 having gone over a year without one previously.

“It was quite a shit lap, I thought,” Leclerc said. “There were two or three corners where I made mistakes, but then of course I had the big tow from Lewis in the last sector, which helped me a little bit.

“But overall I think we would have been thereabouts for pole anyway without the slipstream, so it’s a good day. I did not expect to be as competitive as we were today. I think I was improving again with the red flag, but I’m happy anyway and hopefully it’s all good for Carlos, I haven’t seen the crash.

“Definitely it feels very good, on the other hand it is with a red flag again so I wish we had it on a normal track, but in the end a pole is a pole.”

Having been denied the chance to start his home race in Monaco two weeks ago after damage sustained from his crash in qualifying, Leclerc will have championship protagonists Hamilton and Max Verstappen next to him on the grid.

Leclerc is aware of the task that faces him if he is to win his first race since Italy 2019, admitting Baku’s long straights will make it tougher to beat Mercedes and Red Bull on merit.

“The car felt okay but I believe Mercedes and Red Bull have something more than we have in the race especially, we’ve seen that in FP2,” Leclerc said. “So, it’s going to be very difficult because here is not like Monaco, they can overtake, so I’ll try to do the best job possible.

“Hopefully we can keep the first place, but it’s not going to be an easy one.”