The Baku City Circuit is the setting for round four of the 2019 Formula One Championship and where Valtteri Bottas took pole position today in a time of 1:40.495, which is a new track record. This is Valtteri’s eighth career pole and second of the 2019 season. He pipped his teammate Lewis Hamilton, who will start tomorrow’s race alongside him second on the grid with a time of 1:40.554.
After securing pole, Valtteri commented: “This pole feels really good; the entire team did a great job today. We saw early on in the Qualifying that the Ferraris were very quick, as they were all weekend, but by the time we got to Q3 we were able to extract the maximum from our car and the tyres. As the track was evolving and cooling down, our car was behaving better and better, so it was good that it all came together when it really counted. It’s nice to start from the front, but nothing is done yet – tomorrow is what counts. As we’ve seen in the past, anything can happen around this track, so staying out of trouble is going to be important. Race pace is going to be crucial as well as it is relatively easy to overtake on this track. I think it’s going to be an exciting race tomorrow, the top teams all looked very close on long run pace, so it should be fun. I have a bit of unfinished business here in Baku from last year, so I’ll give my best tomorrow.”
Ferrari struggled today, with qualifying for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix turning out to be tougher than expected for the team. That said, Sebastian Vettel will start the race in third just behind the two Mercedes, while Charles Leclerc will line up on the fifth row of the grid in ninth, having hit the barriers in Q2, ending his hope of a top four grid position.
Further down the grid, Rich Energy Haas F1 Team drivers Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean qualified in 14th and 17th place for tomorrow’s race. However, Magnussen will actually start in 13th and Grosjean in 15th as 15th-place qualifier Pierre Gasly will start from the pit lane due to a weighbridge infringement with his Red Bull, whilst Antonio Giovinazzi of Alfa Romeo who qualified in eighth, was issued a 10-position grid penalty for the fitting of a new Control Electronics part.
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal at the Haas F1 Team summed up qualifying by saying that is was “An exciting day I’d say, but not in the right direction. We came here knowing that this track would not suit us, but we tried to do our best. Romain (Grosjean) just didn’t quite get a feeling in the car, so went out in Q1, and Kevin (Magnussen) got a little bit further reaching Q2. It’s one of the tracks where I’m slightly less worried starting in our positions, it’s a complete lottery here with what happens in the race. It doesn’t mean we’re staying out of trouble. You never know what can happen. Last year we started last with Romain and worked our way up to fifth – until we had a crash. So, anything is possible here, and we’re not giving up on points. We look forward to tomorrow.”
The Azerbaijan Grand Prix starts at 16:10 local time (14:10 CET) tomorrow.
Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man Behind The Wheel, a professional photographer and former saloon car racing driver.
Photographs courtesy of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, Scuderia Ferrari Press Office and Haas F1 Team