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2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix - FP1 & Qualifying

After what seemed like an eternity, Formula 1 is finally back on our screens. And, you know what? It has brought a brand new sprint qualifying format along with it. There’s a lot to unpack, so join Supercars.GH for our review of what happened at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix circuit this Friday.

Alpine’s Pierre Gasly was on fire in the first, and only practice session for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, and we mean that literally. His car suffered a major hydraulic malfunction, which made it go up in a blaze. His teammate Estaban Ocon didn’t have much luck either, as he was forced to sit out also due to technical issues.

As expected, the tight boundaries of Baku saw several drivers tap the walls – Carlos Sainz, Oscar Piastri, and Yuki Tsunoda being a few that immediately come to mind. The latter suffered a rear tire puncture as a result of the said contact, forcing him to limp to the pits on only three tires.

Once the dust has settled, last year’s winner and current championship leader Max Verstappen set the fastest time of the session. He was closely followed by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, with Sergio Perez close behind at P3. 

On the other hand, Mercedes did not have the best of starts to a race weekend as both drivers failed to make it into the top 10.

  1. Max Verstappen 1:42.315
  2. Charles Leclerc 1:42.352
  3. Sergio Perez 1:42.454

It was pretty unusual to see the qualifying session on a Friday, but with the tweaks done to sprint races for the 2023 season, this will be the norm going forward.

From the start, the qualifying session was filled with carnage. Nyck de Vries failed to make the corner after Baku’s renowned long straight and crashed into the wall to bring out the first yellow flag of the session. However, he was not the only one to make this mistake, as Pierre Gasly went into the wall in an exact manner. Elsewhere, Kevin Magnussen also had to make an early exit due to a mechanical issue.

McLaren seemed to have brought some great updates to their car, as both drivers made their way to Q3. The same cannot be said about George Russell, whose best lap was only enough for P11 on the grid.

A great battle ensued for pole position between Leclerc and Verstappen, with both drivers setting the exact time at one point. However, it was the Monagasque driver who triumphed to claim his third consecutive pole position at this circuit.

  1. Charles Leclerc 1:40.203
  2. Max Verstappen 1:40.391
  3. Sergio Perez 1:40.495

A brand new “Sprint qualifying” session is set to take place before the sprint race tomorrow, and it remains to be seen how the drivers take to this new format. Stay tuned in with Supercars.GH to find out.


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