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Leclerc claims pole in Baku


Even though there was 'only' one red flag stoppage earlier, a lot of the headlines referring to practice include the word "chaotic".

Then again, Gasly's Alpine did catch fire causing his team to stop teammate Ocon as a precaution. Tsunoda did hit the wall and cause further damage making his way back to the pits, while Magnussen also stopped out on track.

Then there was the fact that both Mercedes drivers and Alonso opted not to try the softs, meaning we have no idea of their true pace here.

Both Black Arrows encountered brake issues at the start of the session, but it appears the issue was subsequently resolved.

While tomorrow's Shootout (groan) sees the drivers strictly limited in terms of tyre choice, today it is business as usual.

Ahead of Q1, the air temperature is 20 degrees C, while the track temperature is 30 degrees.

As soon as the lights go green there is a mad scramble to get out on track, with Albon leading the way.

Hamilton posts a benchmark 43.676, with Ocon going second ahead of Russell.

However, Albon responds with a 43.615 only to be demoted when Bottas crosses the line at 43.464.

No sooner has Leclerc gone quickest with a 42.791, than Leclerc posts a 42.105 and Verstappen a 41.887.

Oh dear, De Vries is off and in the barrier at Turn 1, bringing out the red flag.

"Oh my god," he sighs, "ohhh!".

The clock stops with 10:17 remaining.

As it stands, Ocon, Tsunoda, Gasly, de Vries and Sainz comprise the drop zone, with Russell, Sargeant, Zhou and Albon hovering.

Verstappen asks for his headrest to be checked as he feels he's lying down.

At Haas, Magnussen is assured that his problem is not that which he encountered earlier, the team confident that it can be fixed. The current issue is electrics-related.

Elsewhere, Ocon appears to have a problem, the Frenchman reporting a loss of power just before the red flag.

Verstappen is under investigation for being released in an "unsafe condition".

The stoppage was particularly hard on Piastri who had just gone quickest in the opening sector.

The session resumes as it is revealed that even before his encounter with the barrier de Vries was warned of an issue with his car.

The Williams pair head the long queue in the pitlane. Indeed, soon there are 18 drivers on track.

Hulkenberg improves to sixth with a 43.010, however moments later the session is red-flagged yet again as Gasly hits the barrier at Turn 3. Elsewhere, Sainz is lucky not to hit the wall after spinning.

"Sorry about that, I locked the front," Gasly reports. "I couldn't stop the car."

"The sun is getting lower and lower," reports Verstappen, "it's annoying." Now before you laugh, moments earlier Leclerc had called for a darker visor only to be told that he is already using the darkest. So, clearly the sun is an issue.

When the session resumes there will be 7:32 remaining, with Sainz yet to post a time.

Once again the Williams pair head the queue.

Perez goers quickest in S1, but further back Verstappen goes quicker. Albon goes quickest in S2, but Perez, Hamilton and Verstappen go quicker.

Albon goes third (42.171), while Perez posts a 41.756 and Verstappen a 41.398.

Hamilton goes fourth with a 42.113.

His team having noticed an issue, Magnussen is told to return to the pits. "We can't risk it," he is told.

Leclerc goes third and Alonso seventh.

"I clipped the wall a bit, rear-right, have a look," says Ocon.

As Verstappen pits, Perez goes quickest in S1.

Sargeant, currently 15th, gets a useful two from his Williams teammate. Indeed, the American goes seventh with a 42.242.

Russell goes fourth (42.073), as Perez improves but remains second.

Bottas goes 13th and Piastri 11th, as Leclerc goes quickest with a 41.269 and Alonso third (41.720).

"I hit the wall with the right-front wheel," reports Hamilton, though he appears to have got away with it.

Quickest is Leclerc, ahead of Verstappen, Alonso, Perez, Russell, Hamilton, Norris, Albon, Sainz and Tsunoda.

We lose Zhou, Hulkenberg, Magnussen, Gasly and de Vries.

Q2 gets underway, and once again the Williams pair are out front.

Albon posts a benchmark 42.203, however Alonso responds with a 41.400.

Russell goes second with a 42.007 and Hamilton third (42.173).

A 41.131 sees Perez go top, as Verstappen begins his first flyer. The world champion crosses the line at 41.193 to go second by 0.062s.

The Ferraris are last out along with Norris.

While Sainz aborts his lap in the second sector, Leclerc goes third with a 41.216.

Ah-ha, the Monegasque is now running just ahead of his Ferrari teammate, clearly set to give him a helpful tow.

The Spaniard subsequently goes fifth with a 41.517 as Norris finally heads out.

With 5:10 remaining, the drop zone currently comprises Albon, Piastri, Bottas, Sargeant and Norris, with Hamilton hovering.

Norris goes seventh with a 41.631, while a 41.650 sees Hamilton improve to eighth. Russell can only manage ninth.

A mistake at Turn 3 sees Sainz having to engage reverse in order to escape the escape road.

Albon does well to keep his car out of the barriers as he takes avoiding action after encountering a slow Sainz.

Ocon improves to tenth, but is it enough?

Norris goes fifth, as Verstappen goes top with a 40.822.

Piastri goes eighth which is bad news for Ocon.

Hamilton is tenth, but it's bad news for teammate Russell who fails to make the cut.

Told he didn't make the cut, Albon cites Sainz as the cause, while Russell can only swear.

Verstappen is quickest, ahead of Leclerc, Perez, Sainz, Alonso, Norris, Tsunoda, Stroll, Piastri and Hamilton.

We lose Russell, Ocon, Albon, Bottas and Sargeant.

Check out our Friday gallery from Baku here.


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1. Posted by kenji, 29/04/2023 7:50

"@Elsiebc....Now that there is disconnect between the Sprint and the Main race with both races having a separate quali. the chance of an upset to the staus quo remains roughly the same IMO. However now that 'parc ferme' exists since the end of FP1 some teams may get a better handle on the difference in set up to cover both main race and the sprint. That could be the genesis of an upset but all teams have lots of historical data albeit not since the resurfacing. IMO they shoiuld all get their set ups pretty much spot on."

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2. Posted by elsiebc, 29/04/2023 6:13

"@kenji If Johnny said that FP sessions were a waste of time and that they were just data gathering I'm guessing that he meant data gathering for the engineers. Maybe if he had looked at them as data gathering for the drivers he would have better stats. As it is, limiting on track time will help maintain the status quo.

PS: I'd rather watch Free Practice than not watch the drivers in simulators nor computers spitting out CFD. "

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3. Posted by kenji, 29/04/2023 3:38

"Sorry for the double dip but according to the ex F1 pundit, Brit fav, Johnny Herbert, reputedly reported 'Friday FP sessions were a 'waste of time'. According to him they were just 'data gathering' exercises. Make of that what you can.....roll on Sprint."

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4. Posted by kenji, 29/04/2023 2:33

"@ Ed. Was I wrong? To date , I don't see any universal disgust being displayed over the two events? Maybe I'm looking in all the wrong places. I do have another comment though. After the quali session Wolff was interviewed by Sky and he said, 'We are struggling etc etc etc..then to finish off he said 'we didn't bring any upgrades'!!! Now that is in total conflict with what appears to be the official list of 'upgrades' published by the FIA. That list states that there have been revised front and rear suspensions and new front wings. Do you know why the list has been disregarded or is Wolff just blowin smoke?"

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5. Posted by Editor, 28/04/2023 15:40

"One has to wonder if Kenji is looking to take over from Ross Brawn in terms of the post race debriefs."

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6. Posted by kenji, 28/04/2023 15:25

"Just one practice session then quali...worked well and was nip and tuck up until the very last seconds. Does F1 need three practive sessions after all? Must say though that it was really great to see that final lap by Leclerc. He is just so good when he has the car to his liking on a circuit like Baku. Three in a row."

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