2023 Azerbaijan GP: Charles Leclerc earns first pole position of 2023 season

With Leclerc adding to his pole positions from 2021 and 2022, Verstappen taking second, and Sergio Perez taking third in the other Red Bull.

Charles Leclerc in a file photo. (Image: Twitter/F1)
By Nilavro Ghosh | Apr 28, 2023 | 3 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

Charles Leclerc won the Azerbaijan Grand Prix pole position after defeating Max Verstappen in a thrilling, hotly contested qualifying session on Friday evening, giving him three poles in a row at the Baku City Circuit. With the Red Bull faster in a straight line but the Ferrari faster through the corners, a fascinating battle erupted over the course of an action-packed qualifying hour on the Caspian Sea’s shores – and it was Leclerc who eventually won. Incredibly, Verstappen and Leclerc posted identical 1m 40.445s lap times during their first Q3 runs, only for Leclerc to take the lead on the final laps with a 1m 40.203s, putting him 0.188s ahead of Verstappen.

With Leclerc adding to his pole positions from 2021 and 2022, Verstappen taking second, and Sergio Perez taking third in the other Red Bull, it was Carlos Sainz who took the best of the rest spot, some eight tenths slower than his Ferrari teammate. Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso finished fifth and sixth for Mercedes and Aston Martin, respectively. McLaren’s Lando Norris and AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda finished seventh and eighth, respectively, with Lance Stroll and Oscar Piastri rounding out the top ten.

Read More – 2023 Azerbaijan GP: Preview, Where to watch, Dates, Schedule, Live Streaming details

While Hamilton was in the top 10, his teammate George Russell had to settle for 11th on the grid, ahead of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and the Williams of Alex Albon, who ran firmly inside the top 10 in Q1 but was held up by traffic on his final Q2 lap. Valtteri Bottas led the Alfa Romeos in 14th, with Logan Sargeant securing his first Q2 appearance of his burgeoning F1 career en route to 15th, making up for drama-filled sessions in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Australia.

After recovering from a spin and a near-miss with the barriers, Zhou Guanyu missed the Q2 cut by just 0.020s, finishing 16th, while Haas lost both Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen at the first hurdle, with the latter hampered by technical issues throughout Q1. The Alpine and AlphaTauri drivers crashed out separately at Turn 3 in the opening phase, bringing out the red flags and interrupting the action. Pierre Gasly and Nyck de Vries will form the final row of the grid for Sunday’s race.

Q3 shootout

As the drivers took the grid for the pole position shootout, Verstappen and Leclerc posted identical 1m 40.445s lap times, with the Red Bull driver taking the lead because he crossed the line before his Ferrari rival. When the second runs began, Leclerc picked up the pace again, clocking a 1m 40.203s, while Verstappen only managed a 1m 40.391s and Perez a 1m40.495s, giving the Monegasque a third consecutive pole around the Baku track. It was also a much-needed turn of events for Leclerc, who was last on pole for the 2022 Singapore Grand Prix six months ago and had to retire from two of the first three races this season.

Sainz finished eighth, eight tenths behind teammate Leclerc and the Red Bulls, followed by Hamilton’s Mercedes and Alonso’s Aston Martin, who now faces a tall order to continue his 2023 podium streak. Norris and Tsunoda were two of the qualifying stars, finishing seventh and eighth respectively, indicating an improvement in performance for McLaren and AlphaTauri, with Stroll and Piastri the final Q3 runners.