Leclerc won his 19th career pole position, and first since Singapore 2022, by defeating Red Bull's Max Verstappen in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix qualifying session on Friday.
Charles Leclerc took his and Ferrari’s first pole position of 2023 with a blistering lap around Baku, which will see him start first for Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix – and he said the result came as a relief Friday evening. Leclerc won his 19th career pole position, and first since Singapore 2022, by defeating Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix qualifying session on Friday. Leclerc was relieved to take pole after rumours linked him to Mercedes and the announcement that Ferrari’s Sporting Director Laurent Mekies will leave Ferrari to lead AlphaTauri when current boss Franz Tost steps down.
“It feels good for, I think the whole team needed it,” he said, “because we arrive here where… it’s a part of our job I think any teams in Formula 1, you need to deal with rumours, pressure, and it’s obviously a bit more difficult to perform under those circumstances and we did really well, so I think it’s good for the whole team.”
“[It feels] really good especially considering the beginning of season I’ve had. Obviously we haven’t had the greatest of beginnings but it’s great to be back on pole. I didn’t expect it and I think we came into the weekend thinking it would already be a great result if we were in front of the Astons and Mercedes and now we find ourselves on pole. Really really happy with that, but we need to see obviously tomorrow with the Sprint race and for Sunday’s race, and I think we are a little bit more on the back foot there – but anyway, it’s a really good surprise and extremely happy with my lap,” the Monegasque added.
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.
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.