It was that man from Perth, Dan Ricciardo, that topped the practice timesheets at the third F1 race for 2018. It’s being held in the capital city of Azerbaijan, Baku, and run on the tight and difficult street circuit layout that makes for intriguing racing.
But it’s qualifying that sets up what the big event is about and with all constructors running ultra softs it was Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel that claimed pole, making that the third time in three races the German born driver has done so. His team mate, Kimi Raikkonen, was in the hunt for a second placing on the grid and potentially stealing pole, but a momentary misjudgement was enough to allow the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Valteri Bottas through to snare second and third, whilst Ricciardo in the Red Bull grabbed fourth, just under a half second slower than Vettel.
Raikkonen’s error cost him as he’ll start sixth while the other Red Bull car of Max Verstappen will be in fifth.
Qualifying went badly from the start for Romain Grosjean. A brake lock up early in Q1 had a front tire flat spot considerably, with a subsequent gearbox related problem retiring him from the rest of qualifying.
The Force India cars finally showed signs of promise by making their way into the third qualifying session. Esteban Ocon showing flashes of brilliance in Q1 and 2, being momentarily quicker than the Red Bulls and The Silver Arrows.
However it was the Red bull team’s siblings, Toro Rosso, that provided what could have been a major lowlight. The young driver from New Zealand, Brendon Hartley, was almost collected by his team mate Pierre Gasly after Hartley slowed dramatically thanks to a puncture. That move, however, almost had Gasly drive into the side of his slowing team mate.
McLaren driver Fernando Alonso continued his horror run in qualifying, along with Kevin Magnussen and Charles Leclerc, by making Q2 but failing to make the cut for the crucial Q3.
The question on the lips on those in the paddock will be: can Red Bull’s more dominant driver in 2018 continue or will pole position here be enough for the Ferrari driving German?