Sprint Shootout: Leclerc quickest ahead of Red Bull in Baku 

Verstappen 2nd, Perez 3rd

By Franck Drui

29 April 2023 - 11:26
Sprint Shootout: Leclerc quickest (...)

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc took top spot for the Sprint at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix despite crashing at the end of F1’s first Sprint Shootout. Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez will start second with team-mate and championship leader Max Verstappen in third.

The Monegasque driver claimed pole with his opening lap of the final eight-minute SQ3 session thanks to a lap of 1:41.697. The Red Bull drivers attempted to bypass that on their final runs but with the best of the soft tyres mandated for the segment already gone, there was no way to overhaul the Ferrari driver. Leclerc’s attempt to improve ended in an error, with the Ferrari driver going straight into the barriers at Turn 5, though he only did minimal damage.

In SQ, with all drivers equipped with a single set of medium tyres for the segment and fuelled for multiple push laps, the opening runs served as a warm-up for the properly representative times and when they began to flood in, it was Leclerc who seized the initiative with a lap of 1:42.820, over four tenths ahead of Verstappen.

There was no time for a third push lap for any of the drivers, however. Williams’ Logan Sargeant hit the wall on the exit of Turn 15 and the session was immediately red-flagged. With less than a minute on the clock race control quickly indicated that the session would not be restarted.

It meant that Leclerc topped the opening segment ahead of Verstappen, with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton in third.

For the 10-minute SQ2 a single set of medium tyres was again available to each driver and after a single warm-up lap Verstappen went purple in all three sectors to set a benchmark of 1:42.417. Leclerc slotted into second with a lap of 1:42.812, with Pérez third on 1:42.925, and so Verstappen put in a cool-down lap and retreated to the pits, his work done.

The Ferrari drivers put in another run, though and both climbed above Pérez, with Leclerc second and Carlos Sainz finishing third ahead of the Mexican.

In the final segment, it was Leclerc who set the pace in the first runs, with the Ferrari driver posting a lap of 1:41.697, as Pérez took P2 with a lap of 1:41.876. Verstappen might have powered past both, but the champion had a moment in Turn 6, reported “that he lost all the rear in the middle sector” and had to settle for third.

That left the Red Bull drivers with a mountain to climb in the final runs, but with the soft tyres now three laps old it was hard to find pace.

Pérez, the only one of the top three to improve on his final run, went closest, but he only improved by 0.002s so took second place, just under a tenth of a second off Leclerc’s opener. Verstappen couldn’t find more pace and he will line up from the Sprint in P3. Pushing to the end, Leclerc lost control in Turn 5 on his final run, but the Ferrari driver was able to minimise the damage to what looked like a broken front wing and he was able to return to the grid to take up his P1 finisher’s spot.

Behind the top three Mercedes’ George Russell finished fourth ahead of Sainz, while Lewis Hamilton finished fifth ahead of Williams’ Alex Albon and the Aston Martin cars of Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll. The top 10 order was rounded out by McLaren’s Lando Norris who did not run in SQ3 due to a lack of new soft tyres.

Pos.DriverTeamSQ1 timeSQ2 timeSQ3 time
01 Charles Leclerc Ferrari SF-23 1:42.820 1:42.500 1:41.697
02 Sergio Pérez Red Bull Honda RBPT RB19 1:43.858 1:42.925 1:41.844
03 Max Verstappen Red Bull Honda RBPT RB19 1:43.288 1:42.417 1:41.987
04 George Russell Mercedes W14 1:43.763 1:43.112 1:42.252
05 Carlos Sainz Ferrari SF-23 1:43.622 1:42.909 1:42.287
06 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes W14 1:43.561 1:43.081 1:42.502
07 Alex Albon Williams Mercedes FW45 1:43.987 1:43.376 1:42.846
08 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin Mercedes AMR23 1:43.789 1:42.976 1:43.010
09 Lance Stroll Aston Martin Mercedes AMR23 1:43.879 1:43.375 1:43.064
10 Lando Norris McLaren Mercedes MCL60 1:43.938 1:43.395 -:—.---
---------------- --------------- ---------- ---------- ----------
11 Oscar Piastri McLaren Mercedes MCL60 1:44.179 1:43.427
12 Nico Hülkenberg Haas Ferrari VF-23 1:44.843 1:43.806
13 Esteban Ocon Alpine Renault A523 1:44.433 1:44.088
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari VF-23 1:44.101 1:44.332
15 Logan Sargeant Williams Mercedes FW45 1:44.042 -:—.---
---------------- --------------- ---------- ---------- ----------
16 Guanyu Zhou Alfa Romeo Ferrari C43 1:45.177
17 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Ferrari C43 1:45.352
18 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri Honda RBPT AT04 1:45.436
19 Pierre Gasly Alpine Renault A523 1:46.951
20 Nyck de Vries AlphaTauri Honda RBPT AT04 1:48.180


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