British driver George Russell has called Formula One’s new era of cars “dangerous”, a “recipe for disaster” and fears it is only a “matter of time” before there is a major accident.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc will line up at the front of the pack for today’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix after claiming his fourth pole position on the bounce. Sergio Perez starts second ahead of championship leader Max Verstappen in the other Red Bull.
Russell is fifth on the grid, two spots ahead of seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton.
But in the moments after he out-qualified his more illustrious Mercedes team-mate for the fifth time in eight appearances, Russell expressed his grave concerns that Sunday’s race on the streets of Baku could be overshadowed by a high-speed crash.
The new generation of F1 machines, introduced this season, and masterminded by motorsport executive Ross Brawn in the hope of providing closer racing, have been plagued by porpoising – the phenomenon where the car bounces on its suspension.
“It is definitely dangerous and it is just a matter of time before we see a major incident,” said Russell, 24.
“It is brutal. We are being shaken to pieces and I can barely see where to brake at the end of the straight because we are bouncing around so much. I don’t think we are the only car. Half of the grid are in the same boat, including Ferrari.
“A lot of us can barely keep the car in a straight line over the bumps and we are going round the last two corners at 200mph, with concrete walls either side of us, which is not a comfortable position to be in.
“It is unnecessary, with the technology that we have, that we are running a Formula One car millimetres from the ground. It is a recipe for disaster. I don’t know what the future holds but we cannot sustain this for three more years or however long these regulations are in place for.”
Leclerc smashes it and takes pole 🇦🇿🏆
He hooks it up around in the last stretch, zooms through the finish line and becomes the first driver to take more than one pole at Baku 🙌 pic.twitter.com/cXOYNDpEc6
The topic was raised with F1’s governing body, the FIA, in the drivers’ briefing on Friday night. Hamilton, who finished an eye-watering 1.6 seconds off the pace on Saturday, revealed he has been receiving acupuncture treatment from his trainer, the New Zealander Angela Cullen, in a bid to combat pain caused by the high-speed bouncing.
“I couldn’t finish my long run in practice on Friday because my back was a real mess,” said the 37-year-old. “Thank God for Angela for giving me physio and acupuncture every night.
“I woke up in pain this morning. The bouncing is not as bad on the straights, but it is through the corners where we are trying to keep the car out of the wall. There is not a lot we can do to stop it, but we can’t have this car for four years so they do need to work it out.”
Hamilton, who heads into Sunday’s race 75 points adrift of championship leader Verstappen, was summoned to see the stewards at 8.20pm on a charge of driving “unnecessarily slowly” during an out-lap, and delaying countryman Lando Norris.
But one hour later, the seven-time world champion was given the all-clear, and retains his starting slot of seventh. Norris is 11th on the grid.
On Mercedes’ woes, Hamilton added: “We accept the reality we are presented with. I was here until 1:30am last night. The mechanics and the engineers had left, and I was here studying, and working with the guys back at the factory. I drove two days on the simulator this week, and I am giving it everything I can.”
Leclerc, who trails Verstappen by nine points, bounced back from his Monaco misery a fortnight ago, to blow away his rivals.
Leclerc has not managed to convert a pole into victory since the third race of the season in Australia, since when he has seen a 46-point championship lead turn into a nine-point deficit to Verstappen.
Red Bull have taken four consecutive victories in that time – but two of them have come after an engine failure that cost Leclerc victory in Spain and a strategy foul-up that dropped him from first to fourth in Monaco
The Ferrari driver saw off Perez, who took advantage of Leclerc’s flat-footed Ferrari team on Monte Carlo’s famous streets to claim his third career win, by 0.282 sec.
“All poles feel good but this one I did not expect because I thought the Red Bulls were stronger,” said Leclerc. “But the last lap came together and I am extremely happy. I am really excited for tomorrow.”
Perez felt pole might have slipped through his fingers, as an engine problem in the garage meant he left the pits late and did not have the benefit of a slipstream on his final lap.
The same applied to Verstappen, who had been due to be towed by Perez but had to go out on his own after the technical problem.
Verstappen said: "The start of the lap was good and then it went away from me a bit, tiny mistakes. Not what I want but being second and third we have a good opportunity for tomorrow.
"We seem to lack a little bit on the one lap but over a long run our car should be quite good."
Q1 had been red-flagged with just two-and-a-half minutes remaining after Lance Stroll crashed out.
Q1 RED FLAG 🚩
What a nightmare for Stroll!
Just after crashing into the wall at Turn 7 he's gone and crashed AGAIN! 😬 pic.twitter.com/x7UocKbgrf
Only moments after thudding the barrier, before reversing out of trouble, the Canadian driver hit the wall for a second time.
Stroll carried too much speed through the second bend, losing control of his Aston Martin and collecting the tyre barrier.
Stroll was forced to park his wounded machine as race director Niels Wittich deployed the red flag.
A 10-minute delay ensued for track repairs before a frantic dash to avoid falling at the first hurdle. Haas’ Kevin Magnussen and Alex Albon and Nicholas Latifi of Williams were eliminated.
The struggling Mick Schumacher also failed to improve and will line up in 20th and last position for the race.
It was the same in Monaco, so, it’s the same. There’s lots to look forward to, it’s a tricky and chaotic race, there’s lots than can happen.. It was a really difficult qualifying session, we have a very small window where we can work this car. Everything we try [doesn’t help]. We say let’s just take a beating in our backs and necks and make the car lower to get the performance.
He says that all the changes they make do not make a difference. It comes to the same end: bouncing. On the driving slowly issue he says that he was within his ‘delta’ time and was off-line, so hopes he’s okay.
Not telling us anything we didn’t know, but also says the gap is huge. Again, nothing we didn’t know. This is just where Mercedes are at the moment. Adrift in third.
CHARLES: “It feels good. This one I did not expect – I thought Red Bull were stronger especially in Q1 and Q2, but in the last lap everything came together. I’m really excited for tomorrow. #AzerbaijanGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/reNlUCuuIG
Three previous poles and no wins, though. In Miami Red Bull just had better race pace, in Spain there was a mechanical issue and in Monaco it was the rain and strategy that did for him. He’s only nine points behind Verstappen so it feels a bit odd to say he desperately needs a win, but he probably does.
CHECO: “It wasn’t an ideal qualifying. We couldn’t turn the engine on… we lost a few tenths. I think Charles had a very good lap”#AzerbaijanGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/xOONh3ELzQ
MAX: “Being second and third [on the grid] means we have a good opportunity tomorrow” #AzerbaijanGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/HQHVNW5cBy
Not his best day.
He had a couple of laps in Q2 and Q3 which had small but significant mistakes, which cost him probably a couple of tenths both times. Strung it all together again in the end, though, just like he did in Barcelona and Monaco…
Hamilton to report to the stewards at 8.20pm here (5.20pm UK). #AzerbaijanGP
He says in his post-qualifying interview that they couldn’t start the car. We will see.
And that meant he didn’t get a tow. Would that have cost him pole? It would have made it more likely. Probably at least explains why the gap was as big as it was.
Another supreme lap. Can he make it count tomorrow?
Hamilton only seventh, Russell fifth. Two tenths the difference.
Sainz made a mess of his final lap. It’s 8-0 to Leclerc in qualifying now.
He beats Verstappen for the second race running! Decent, but Leclerc makes it another pole position!
But he’s three tenths down! Second only.
Perez is roughly on Verstappen’s time after two sectors… it will be too much to beat Leclerc surely but can he beat his team-mate?
That is going to take some beating!
Verstappen is half a second off that after two sectors!
It’s a 1:41.359s for Leclerc! Mega lap to go fastest!
He’s nearly half a second off the pace there.
What does Leclerc do? He is up by 0.114s…
Verstappen? He’s there or thereabouts… 0.052s slower than Sainz’s best but a tenth or so away from Leclerc at the moment.
Sainz the lead car of the top four. Then it’ll be Leclerc, Verstappen and Perez, who is some way behind.
Sainz getting very close to the wall, if not touching it, in the first sector.
Perez isn’t out of the garage yet though. Verstappen queried why he was ahead, but the reason was an issue with the Mexican’s car.
"The cars bottoming out a dangerous amount," he says.
Replays show Perez brushing the wall (a bit harder than a kiss) on his hot lap. Would it have been a tenth’s worth of time? Maybe. I think Leclerc has extra pace here, but can he unlock it?
Leclerc doesn’t beat it! It’s close, just 0.047s in it.
Perez is third and Verstappen only fourth… close to his team-mate but 0.175s off the lead Ferrari.
Leclerc had a rear slide in middle sector which cost him time.
Leclerc responss with a 31.031, Perez with a 41.180… Verstappen makes up two tenths nearly on his team-mate…
Leclerc is marginally quicker than that, Perez is a tenth behind…
Verstappen well off that…
Perez very close to the back of Leclerc in the middle sector. He then backs off a bit to give him some space.
12 minutes to go. Fernando Alonso out early.
Leclerc brushes the barriers, or did he? 😮
Either way, that was very close! #AzerbaijanGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/UVMILWUpbS
Replays and this photo: inconclusive.
He finished on the podium here last year. And that’s a good effort here.
Vettel hits the barriers at Turn 15 💥
The German has reversed out and returned to the pits for repairs#AzerbaijanGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/OS8yai0Bka
Replays showing Hamilton almost came to a stop on the track before his final flying lap. He could be investigated for that. It might be a penalty, but we will see.
Russell’s lap there was a bit of a sacrificial one to help Hamilton, it seemed.
Ricciardo is currently 13th, but only improves to 12th.
Norris has aborted his lap, so it is two McLarens out. Not by a huge margin, though.
Norris needs to find lap time to improve to get into the top 10… but he can’t do it. He went straight on at turn three, so that’s two McLarens out and not in the top 10. Currently.
Ricciardo still has time to do it… and Norris might as well, actually. He has another lap.
Hamilton struggling to get out of Q2 here, but he’s going okay here… nothing special as he heads into the final sector. He’s getting a tow from Russell.
Hamilton improves, with that tow, to go into sixth. Should be fine with that? Maybe.
Hamilton a little grumpy on the radio…
Verstappen brushed the wall with his rear left at turn seven, which might explain his deficit on the second laps.
One minute to go…
0.091s slower. It’s only Q2, though, so the important thing is getting into the top 10. But it looks tight at the top, doesn’t it?
Bottas struggling here. Hamilton has been noted for driving unnecessarily slowly. Nothing more than that at the moment, mind you.
But Leclerc is on a decent lap here… 0.062s down on Perez after two sectors… this could be tight.
Can he go fastest overall? Yes, by 0.133s.
He locks up and goes in slowly at turn 15 and is able to back out and keep going… another Aston Martin in the wall. he has made it back to the pits, though.
In the drop zone:HAM, OCO, RIC, ZHO, BOT
Leclerc’s lap left some time out there as he lost the rear on putting his foot down at turn 16. Would have cost him at least a tenth or two…
Leclerc is coming along now… but he is down on his team-mate, by 0.094s!
As Russell goes into the top four for now. Sainz likely to beat that, though.
Verstappen makes up more time in the final sector to go faster by 0.031s. It’s tight at Red Bull.
Gasly into third, within a second, Vettel fourth and Tsunoda fifth. Ricciardo well adrift in seventh.
What can Hamilton and Russell do?
That’s a couple of tenths, nearly, ahead of Verstappen.
A 41.263 om sector two for the Mexican but Verstappen beats it by a tenth…
10 drivers to go through, five to go out.
🚥 Q2 GREEN LIGHT 🚥
What a nightmare for Stroll!
Just after crashing into the wall at Turn 7 he's gone and crashed AGAIN! 😬 pic.twitter.com/x7UocKbgrf
Also through: HAM, ALO, NOR, RIC, BOT
Another fine performance from Albon. Six-tenths ahead of Latifi. As it has been most of the year.
Those behind him on track and in the order fail to improve.
Gasly is, though. Hamilton has improved in the second sector, however, so should improve.
Hamilton crosses the line to stay ninth, though he does improve. Russell improves to sixth. Gasly into fifth.
Yellow flags in sector two, who is it? Alonso, I think.
Bottas into 15th for now but will that be enough? It might be you know.
Who will or won’t get a lap in? Schumacher has told he needs to "push like hell" to get across the line. Actually, everyone is going to get a lap in here. Ignore what I said earlier. It was quite a frantic and quick lap, but not sure those at the end of the line will get a clean lap in…
Two minutes and 30 seconds left. I think maybe half these cars will get a lap in. And half won’t. That is how halves work, yes. This is going to get a bit aggy…
I think he’s safe here. I don’t think enough cars behind him a) have the pace and b) will be able to get a hot lap in, given Hamilton can control the pace at the front initially.
There are already about 10 or 12 cars queuing up now with Mercedes at the front.
There are 2:30 remaining on the clock. Which is just about enough time for some drivers to get in another lap… but not everyone.
He went in too hot and slid into the barriers on the exit. I don’t think he went into the pits to change his tyres, nor his front wing. Could that have caused him problems? Anyway, it’s another big error from a man who seems to be making too many of them at the moment.
His front wing is off the track, his front right is finished but still attached. Has he hit the wall again or did his front wing fail underneath him causing a crash? Not sure. It’s all a bit of a mess.
🚩 RED FLAG 🚩
Stroll has hit the barriers at Turn 2#AzerbaijanGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/41gz31FQdp
Bottas struggling here. Zhou doing very well in sixth as Vettel goes fifth.
Still a tenth or so off Russell.
Stroll locks up and slides into the barriers at turn eight. He will need a new front wing but manages to reverse out and carry on…
Hamilton on another hot lap… it looks better.
Ferrari opted to do one cool-down lap before doing another hot lap, Red Bull have done two cool-down laps.
Perez crosses the line to go fastest by 0.132s. Can Verstappen beat that? He can and he does… 0.011s quicker than his team-mate.
Sainz moves second, 0.019s off Verstappen. Can Leclerc beat that? Yes he can, he goes fastest of anyone. 0.073s ahead of Verstappen. It’s tight between the top three now.
Vettel had a lock up and went straight on at turn three, I think.
In the drop zone:ALB, LAT, STR, MSC, BOT (NO TIME)
Russell goes fourth with a decent time, ahead of Sainz. But still a long way off Verstappen. 0.843s to be precise. Leclerc had slotted into third, just 0.027s off Perez in second.
His time is 0.260s quicker than team-mate Perez. Sainz third, but nearly a second off the pace. Hamilton seventh, a whole 1.5s off Verstappen. Not really sure what happened to Russell, looks like he aborted his lap.
A bit of positioning hassle between Russell and Verstappen when they were setting their laps up.
It's already busy down at Turn 16! #AzerbaijanGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/ppMFCNiJOm
His lap of 1:44.297 puts him ahead of Alonso, Gasly, Norris and Mick Schumacher.
Verstappen going well, around a second up on Hamilton after two sectors. This is going to be a tasty time.
Norris will be the first man to set a lap time.
It’s a slooooow release from the pit lane. Hamilton is still sitting there a minute later, with a few cars remaining ahead of him.
18 minutes. 20 drivers, 15 through and five go out.
Queuing for Q1 😃#AzerbaijanGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/9YA39wDOUQ
Down to business 💪
We're all set for qualifying! #AzerbaijanGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/DmoDIoPHvd
A chance of red flags here, always, so that makes sense. Get your banker in.
Predictions? Will Mattia Binotto be correct? Will it be a Red Bull on pole? And which one? I am going for Perez on pole here.
I think he will get on pole today. I think in FP3 they have been very strong this morning. Having said that it’s very tight, it’s a matter of a tenth or two. Let’s try to build the lap time. I think we will certainly do out best.
He says he won’t plan for his drivers to give each other slipstreams. It is powerful on the straight but can cause problems in the first part of the track. It might happen by accident, though, he says.
On both cars. Possibly some issues due to kerb usage. I sincerely doubt there is any risk of them not making the session.
Let’s hope it is not…
If qualifying for the #AzerbaijanGP takes 1 hour 50 minutes – as it did in 2019 – then it will be completed only six MINUTES before sunset this evening in Baku
Or, at least, let us hope we can get it done in a reasonable amount of time. 15 minutes to go…
It is a subscriber exclusive, lands in your inbox every Monday after each race and you can sign up for it here.
Well, I think it is. Says a bit about how Verstappen is (relatively) struggling and Perez is in fine form. The car just seems to suit his optimal driving style a bit more.
Just had a deep dive into some stats. I believe FP3 marked the first time since Baku/Austria 2016 that Max Verstappen has finished 7 consecutive full sessions behind his teammate! 🤯#F1 #AzerbaijanGP pic.twitter.com/hjZJ2h4e2t
Leclerc, Albon and Bottas all with 100 per cent records over their team-mates. Will they be able to continue that today? It looks like it…
But it can provide good racing, is a challenge for the drivers and also leads to some pretty neat photos over the weekend.
Though he did actually switch to it in Monaco mid-race stoppage last time.
He has only won once here in five attempts and that was fairly fortunate as Bottas had a late puncture in 2018.
That is after a barrier repair caused by an F2 crash earlier on. I don’t know why they didn’t just shorten FP3 by 15 minutes but here we are.
Lewis Hamilton has told the ruler of Formula One’s governing body that he will not be silenced and encouraged his fellow drivers to be more outspoken, but the seven-time world champion suffered another woeful day in practice for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Read more of that here, as Phil Duncan reports.
This measures, on average, how teams have performed in qualifying by setting their best time in the session against the overall quickest and expressing it as a percentage. So, in a theoretical 100-second pole lap, a lap that was one minute and one second would get a percentage of 101.000.
Incidentally, the pole lap here will be not too far off 100 seconds.
Ferrari have dropped the ball in recent races. Mercedes’ gap to the top two teams is just getting bigger and bigger.
Every team has scored at least a point, though, which is good at this stage of the season.
I think there is no such thing as a concept. Cars’ performances are dependent on many areas. It’s just about dissecting where the problems lie and targeting each of those areas with calmness and focus.
I think we want to keep the optimism whilst also managing our expectations. I think we went to Monaco or Baku with higher expectations than we should have had, but equally I don’t want to reduce them for other tracks [that should suit our car].
Charles Leclerc's on-board cam showing just how bad the shaking is 🤢 pic.twitter.com/ndTJcv2XMV
He probably could have gone a fair bit quicker. He had to back off for yellow flags earlier in the session, too.
🗣️ "Unbelievable man there's cars everywhere" 😤
Verstappen gets heated after an Alpine gets in his way 😡 pic.twitter.com/7OOvyn4cqM
Hello and welcome to our coverage for the 2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku. It’s the fifth edition of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, but actually the sixth time a grand prix has been held at this track as in 2016 it was billed as the European Grand Prix. Is Azerbaijan in Europe? Partly. Is Baku? Not really? But then again we had the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola and the Luxembourg Grand Prix at the Nurburgring and that is at least 80km away from Luxembourg. So there you go.
So far the running has been fairly what we have come to expect from this season, with Ferrari and Red Bull leading the way with little really to separate their four drivers. Sergio Perez – a winner in Monaco last time out – was fastest in final practice, ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc by 0.070s. Max Verstappen was third for Red Bull, 0.279s away from his team-mate and Carlos Sainz was fourth, just over four-tenths away from Perez.
The Mexican has traditionally gone well at this circuit and has found his feet and his form at Red Bull this season, after a tricky and inconsistent year in 2021. Verstappen is finding the car less to his liking and the disparity this season is just 15 points in the standings (albeit not fully reflective given it’s two DNFs to one) and it’s 5-2 in qualifying. In percentage terms, Perez is just adrift of Verstappen by 0.165 per cent in qualifying. That is much improved from last year.
Mercedes struggles have continued in Baku. The bouncing is still there and there is also a significant straight-line deficit. George Russell made it into the top 10, albeit 1.4s off the pace, with Lewis Hamilton down in 12th, 1.6s off Perez’s quickest time. That podium challenge in Spain does not look like it is kick-starting their season just yet.
Lando Norris impressed again, in fifth and Daniel Ricciardo was right behind him for once, within a tenth of a second.
Qualifying’s start time has been delayed by 15 minutes due to FP3 being delayed by the same start time due to a barrier repair that was required after a crash in Formula 2 earlier in the day. So it’s a very late start of 3.15pm BST. Will it be another Leclerc pole?
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