Lewis Hamilton's pole time of 1m40.593s, set on the P Zero Red supersoft tyre, was the fastest-ever seen in the one-year history of the Baku City Circuit, more than two seconds faster than last year's pole.
The supersoft was used by everybody from the start to finish of qualifying, with Hamilton using just one new set each in Q1 and Q2, before using two sets in Q3. The final Q3 session was interrupted by a red flag with three and a half minutes to go, meaning that Hamilton set pole in a final showdown against all the leading runners.
Track temperature fell by about 10 degrees from the beginning of Q1 to the end of Q3, with the drivers also benefitting from the extra rubber that has been laid on the track by previous sessions. One pit stop is set to be the most likely strategy tomorrow, although there is chance that tactics could be influenced by safety cars.
Mario Isola: "Qualifying went as we expected it to, with a bit more rubber on the surface and falling track temperatures. Most teams had used the out lap plus a preparation lap before setting their fastest times, but obviously this was not possible after the red flag at the end of Q3.
Nonetheless, the fastest laps came in the final sprint. Looking towards the race, it's clear that wear and degradation is very low, even on the supersoft, and so we would expect only one pit stop tomorrow, with drivers maximising their use of the faster supersoft. However, with safety cars and other race incidents seemingly quite likely, teams may be able to tactically benefit from evolving circumstances."
Check out our Saturday gallery from Baku, here.