REPORT #F1 #AzerbaijanGP: Lewis Hamilton snatches pole from Valtteri Bottas in Baku

BAKU, Azerbaijan — Lewis Hamilton took pole position at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix with a remarkable last-minute lap that put him 0.434s clear of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas in second.

Hamilton’s advantage was all about the second and third sectors where he lit up the timing screens as he nailed apex after apex in the tighter sections of the street circuit. The pressure was on after a mistake at Turn 16 on his first attempt left him second to Bottas and it was amplified when the session was suspended to allow marshals to clear Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull, which had hit the barriers at Turn 6 with 3:33 left on the clock. When Q3 restarted Bottas was able to lower his benchmark, but it was no match for Hamilton’s 1:40.593 that smashed the circuit record by over a second and secured the the Mercedes driver’s 66th career pole.

Both Ferraris were a second adrift of Mercedes and it was Kimi Raikkonen, not championship-leader Sebastian Vettel, who joined the Mercedes drivers in the top three. Vettel had missed out on practice time due to a hydraulics issue in FP3, which also required an engine change that put Ferrari on the back foot ahead of qualifying. However, it was very nearly worse for Vettel as he only had a 0.038s margin over Max Verstappen in fifth when the chequered flag fell at the end of the session…

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