Leclerc surprises with Pole for Sunday, Sprint day follows

Leclerc surprises with Pole for Sunday, Sprint day follows

After a long wait, Formula 1 is back. With a format change, drivers will only have 60 minutes of practice the entire weekend, and go straight into qualifying for the Grand Prix on Friday.


Written by Luciano Calamante.

Verstappen and Leclerc led the opening stages of Q1, but it didn't last long before chaos struck the circuit, and the Red Flags were out with 10 minutes to go - it was Nyck de Vries who crashed into the barriers at turn 3. The AlphaTauri took the corner too fast and locked up, unable to turn.

De Vries was heard on the radio with pain following the accident, but he was fine and the session resumed several minutes later, though it didn't last long...

The Red Flags were out once again just minutes after the session resumed, this time because Pierre Gasly touched the barriers at the exit of, yes, turn 3, leaving debris. The Frenchman said on the radio that he "couldn't stop the car." Replays showed that Sainz had also spun further back, but managed to keep it out of the barriers.

Qualifying was underway once again with 7 minutes to go. The field hadn't changed much between the short period of the red flags, so the standings were the same, with Verstappen leading, Leclerc in second, and Alonso in third.

The checkered flag for Q1 came 44 minutes after the start, and it was Leclerc, Verstappen, and Alonso in the top 3, with Perez in fourth. Those eliminated were Zhou, Hulkenberg, Magnussen Gasly, and De Vries, respectively.

The second run came and this time it was Verstappen who took the lead but only 0.215s ahead of Leclerc, giving high hopes to Ferrari as Carlos Sainz closed the top 4 behind the Mexican driver. The knocked-out drivers were Russell, Ocon, Albon, Bottas, and Sargeant.

In the end, Leclerc managed to clinch pole position for Sunday's Grand Prix, with Verstappen in second place and Perez third.

Sainz, Hamilton, Alonso, Norris, Tsunoda, Stroll, and Piastri completed the rest of the top 10.

Free Practice 1

Written by Tomas Kessler

The session started and the "typical" Baku chaos didn't take long. Only 5 minutes into the session, Carlos Sainz slightly touched the walls but, luckily for him, it wasn't a big issue.

It was usual business, however, with Red Bull leading the standings and the rest of the field exchanging positions further back. Ferrari has shown a good rhythm but wasn't able to fight the Championship leaders.

Suddenly... Red Flag. Problems for Gasly - his car was, quite literally, on fire, and a lot of smoke came from behind his machinery. The French driver stopped at the side of the track. Surely a big headache for the team only 15 minutes after the start of the session.

It's worth noting that Red Flag situations in Practices don't stop the clock, and so it affects all drivers as they have less time for their runs, and, therefore, their setup fine-tuning.

In the last minutes, most teams put the soft tire on their cars for a test at top speed. Leclerc put in a great lap and looked like he would be the leader at the end, but Verstappen took it by just 0.037s. Sergio Perez finished third and Carlos Sainz was behind them.

The big surprises of the session came with Lando Norris and Nyck de Vries who finished fifth and sixth respectively. Great pace for them, and surely great feelings for what's to come.

Both Aston Martin drivers had fair performances and finished inside the midfield. And what happened to Mercedes? It wasn't a good practice for the German team who didn't even make it to the top 10, but anyway, the points are not up for grabs yet.

It was an interesting free practice with many points to take into account for the remainder of the weekend in an exciting Grand Prix at Baku.