Formula 1 returns with another famed street course as this weekend, all 20 drivers will race on the Baku Street Circuit for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix two weeks after the Monaco Grand Prix.
The last time F1 raced in Baku was 2019, where Valtteri Bottas held off teammate Lewis Hamilton for the victory. Charles Leclerc picked up the fastest lap of the race and Pierre Gasly, who was driving for Red Bull Racing, stalled on the track and had to retire.
Qualifying was dramatic with five drivers crashing out of their respective sessions on turn 15, bringing out red flags. Antonio Giovinazzi and Lance Stroll crashed out of Q1, Daniel Ricciardo, who DNFed in 2018 and 2019, wrecked in Q2 and Carlos Sainz and Yuki Tsunoda’s crashes ended Q3.
For the second race in a row, Leclerc will start on pole after a red flag ended Q3. It is the ninth in his career and Leclerc hopes to participate in Sunday’s race after not being able to start the Monaco GP two weeks ago due to a gearbox issue. Leclerc is sixth in the driver standings, two points ahead of Ferrari teammate, Sainz.
Sainz will start fifth despite crashing in Q3. Sainz finished second at Monaco, which ties his best career finish in an F1 race with the 2020 Italian Grand Prix.
Mercedes struggled to find pace early in the weekend, finishing no higher than seventh in the first two practices. However, Hamilton pushed his Mercedes vehicle to the front row, starting in second place.
Hamilton will start one place ahead of Max Verstappen, who comes into this weekend as the current leader in the world championship standings. Verstappen took the lead 105-101 after his victory at Monaco as Hamilton finished seventh.
Hamilton’s teammate, Bottas, will start 10th and Verstappen’s teammate, Sergio Perez, starts sixth. Perez is fifth in the championship standings with 44 points.
AlphaTauri saw both drivers make it to Q3 during qualifying for the first time this season. Gasly ties his career-best start on the starting grid with a fourth-best time in Q3. Tsunoda made it to Q3 for the first time in his F1 career and will start seventh. Tsunoda is looking for his first top-10 finish since the season-opening race at Bahrain where he finished ninth.
Fernando Alonso starts eighth, his best qualifying result of 2021 and the highest mark start since the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix for McLaren. His Alpine teammate, Esteban Ocon, will start 12th.
Lando Norris dropped three places on the grid after failing to acknowledge the red flag during Q2, forcing him to start ninth. Norris has two podiums this season and is third in the championship standings with 56 points, nine points ahead of Bottas. His McLaren teammate, Ricciardo, will start 13th.
If you are watching in the United States, coverage for the 51-lap Azerbaijan Grand Prix will begin at 8:00 a.m. EST. You can catch the race on ESPN.