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Hamilton takes Baku pole

NEWS STORY
24/06/2017

Over the course of the three opening sessions, the Azerbaijan Grand Prix weekend has resembled one of those TV series that keeps serving up plot twists that keep you on the edge of your seat awaiting the next episode. Only time will tell if we have another Sopranos or Breaking Bad on our hands or merely a Riviera or Blue Bloods.

On the face of it, Max Verstappen has been quickest in two of the three sessions, with teammate Daniel Ricciardo there or thereabouts.

However, the Dutch teenage crashed at the end of FP2 yesterday and suffered a hydraulics failure this morning.

At Mercedes, while Valtteri Bottas has been pretty much on the pace, topping the timesheets earlier, teammate Lewis Hamilton has had an up and down weekend thus far, prompting fears that we could be looking at another Sochi or Monaco.

And while we might be expecting Ferrari to make hay, especially if Mercedes is hurting, Sebastian Vettel missed much of this morning's session with a hydraulics issue, though Monaco pole-man finished the session quickest. Over the lunch break the Italian team changed Vettel's engine, stressing the change was "precautional".

Fact is, qualifying looks likely to be something of a lottery, for there are numerous factors that can, and probably will, come into play.

First off, the session will take place in cooler temperatures and therefore what worked earlier might not work now.

Furthermore, nobody appears happy with the tyres, and if proof were needed one need look no further than the 100+ yellow flags we witnessed yesterday.

Indeed, the nature of the track, traffic, the probability of offs and incidents, particularly in Q1, could produce one of the strangest grids witnessed for a long time.

Ahead of Q1, the air temperature is 26 degrees C, while the track temperature is 50 degrees.

For poor old Jolyon Palmer things go from bad to worse. Already under pressure to raise his game, the Briton crashed in yesterday's second session and this morning suffered an engine fire which means he will be unable to take part in this afternoon's session.

The lights go green and Hulkenberg leads the way, followed by a whole host of drivers, Vettel the first of the big guns to emerge.

With tyre temperature such a major issue, the drivers work furiously in an attempt to generate sufficient heat.

A mistake at T5 means Hulkenberg can only manage 47.341, with Magnussen and Stroll (44.944) immediately going quicker.

Among the last out are the Mercedes duo, and as Verstappen posts 43.750, it becomes clear that driver are confused as to who is on a hot lap - or second hot lap - and who isn't.

Ricciardo posts 44.480 to make it a Red Bull 1-2, with Massa splitting the pair moments later.

Sainz is off at T2 and has to reverse back on to the track, bringing out the yellows in the process.

The times are tumbling, Raikkonen going quickest (43.319), ahead of Perez and Ocon, while both Mercedes drivers are over 12s off the pace on the first laps which are really second warm-up laps.

Verstappen posts 42.860 only to be leapfrogged by Hamilton (42.384).

Vettel, currently 19th on 49.349, improves to 4th with a 43.123.

As Magnussen goes off at T2, Ocon goes third with a 43.051.

Ricciardo almost trips up over Grosjean, as Ocon reports that he touched the wall.

Told Ocon is behind, the Finn demands to know how far the Force India is. "If you let me finish, I'll tell you," is the stern reply.

Hamilton consolidates his tops spot with a 41.983, as Verstappen posts 42.544.

Raikkonen claims third with a 42.678, one place ahead of Vettel who improves to 42.952.

With 3:20 remaining, Grosjean, Magnussen, Vandoorne and Ericsson comprise the drop zone. The Dane subsequently improves but only to 15th.

Grosjean improves, marginally, which is bad news for Wehrlein.

Masa is off at T8 while Grosjean is off at T2.

Currently Alonso is 15th, but has that little matter of the 40-place grid penalty.

"Don't speak to me, I'm trying to focus," snaps Monsieur Moany. The Frenchman subsequently goes off at T2 again.

A late improvement sees Wehrlein make the cut by the skin of his teeth., while a further late improvement for Magnussen is bad news for Alonso, not that the Spaniard would expect anything less.

Quickest in Q1 is Hamilton, ahead of Verstappen, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Kvyat, Vettel, Bottas, Ocon, Perez and Massa.

We lose Alonso, Grosjean, Ericsson and Vandoorne.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Baku, here.

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1. Posted by Lancelot37, 24/06/2017 23:56

"I've searched the site, but although I know the result of Qualifying, and watched it on TV, I can't find the grid starting positions which are determined by the penalties incurred by teams. HELP"

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