Baku, Qualif.: Leclerc scorches to fourth pole

Monegasque leads the way in Baku qualifying

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By Olivier Ferret

23 June 2017 - 15:16
Baku, Qualif.: Leclerc scorches to (...)

Charles Leclerc has continued his imperious form in qualifying by claiming his fourth pole position in a row with two stunning laps during this afternoon’s qualifying session at the Baku City Circuit, setting the two fastest times to ensure that Nobuharu Matushita and Nicholas Latifi had no chance to break his pole position run this season.

The Monegasque driver stopped the clocks at 1:52.129 at the close of the session to improve on an earlier lap which was already good enough for the top spot: the McLaren-Honda development driver was half a second off his pace despite only putting one hot lap into his second set with one eye on the race tomorrow as he and his rivals were unable to come to terms with the PREMA man’s qualifying pace.

With temperatures soaring the grid was released at the start of the session, and all drivers were on the circuit within the first minute, despite Leclerc, Matsushita and Nyck De Vries all stalling in the pitlane as they waited for the green light. On the first flying set it seemed as though each successive driver was going faster than his predecessor: Antonio Fuoco, Johnny Cecotto, Artem Markelov, Leclerc and Matsushita all briefly held the top spot before Luca Ghiotto found the wall at turn 15, bringing out the red flags to deal with his broken car.

The race briefly went live before the reds re-emerged for debris, prompting everyone to return to the pits once again, and the track soon live again for just a few minutes before Nicholas Latifi clipped the barriers at the tight turn 8, removing his right front wing and prompting the red flags for a third time at the halfway mark of the session.

A few minutes later the debris was cleared and the track was live once more, with Leclerc and Latifi soon on a charge: the Canadian went fastest in the first sector but the Ferrari Academy ace was fastest in the second and third for pole, some seven tenths faster than Latifi in P2. The stop/start nature of the session was having an effect on the field as many drivers started to complain about their tyres going off, but Matsushita bucked the trend by grabbing tomorrow’s front row with just 4 minutes remaining before the flag, just as Leclerc went faster again to reinforce his pole position.

Behind the top 3 De Vries was the only other driver within a second of the top spot, ahead of Artem Markelov, Antonio Fuoco, Johnny Cecotto, Sergio Canamasas, Oliver Rowland and Robert Visiou: after two unusual sessions today, tomorrow’s feature race promises to be unmissable.

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