Leclerc hits wall but on pole again for Azerbaijan sprint
Red Bull's Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen each had another lap to beat Leclerc's time but fell short, with Perez placing second and Verstappen third.
Charles Leclerc hit the wall and still qualified on pole position for Saturday's sprint race in Formula One's first “sprint shootout” qualifying session.
The Ferrari driver, who also qualified on pole Friday for the main Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Sunday, set a fast time midway through the last segment of the shootout but then veered into a barrier and broke his front wing. Red Bull's Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen each had another lap to beat Leclerc's time but fell short, with Perez placing second and Verstappen third.
“We’ll go for it, but we need also to be realistic and until now we have been on the back foot in the race. Especially the Red Bull seems to be a step ahead, so let's see how it is,” Leclerc said of the sprint race later in the day. “Hopefully we have a good surprise. I think we improved the car quite a bit, but today we'll have more of an answer in the race to see where we are compared to them.”
The new “shootout” event is a shortened version of the usual qualifying format which decides the grid for the 17-lap sprint race. Previously, F1 race weekends had a standard qualifying session for the sprint race, then used the sprint results as the grid for the main Grand Prix. The format change is designed to encourage drivers to take more risks in the sprint race because they won't risk being penalized for the Grand Prix.
American driver Logan Sargeant was withdrawn from the sprint by Williams after the team couldn't repair crash damage in time.
Sargeant qualified 15th for the sprint after crashing into a barrier the first session of the shootout. He appeared to blame the Ferraris of Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr., who weren't on competitive laps, for forcing him wide as he tried to pass.
“Man, the Ferraris were in the middle of the road,” Sargeant said over the radio.
Alpine's troubled weekend continued as Esteban Ocon was 13th and Pierre Gasly 19th following what the team called a “suspected exhaust leak.” Gasly also qualified 19th for the main Grand Prix on Friday after a crash in qualifying and a fire in practice, which forced Alpine to replace the entire power unit including the exhaust.
In another setback, Ocon will start the sprint and the Grand Prix from the pit lane after Alpine took his car out of the “parc fermé” conditions where no changes are allowed. The team didn't say what work it needed to do on the car. Ocon had qualified 12th for the Grand Prix.
- Charles Leclerc