Lewis Hamilton storms to pole position in 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix qualifying
PUBLISHED: 11:27 25 June 2017 | UPDATED: 19:56 25 June 2017
Wolfgang Wilhelm for Daimler AG
Formula One racer Lewis Hamilton starts today's 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix from pole position in Baku.
The 32-year-old Mercedes driver from Hertfordshire claimed the 66th pole position of his F1 career in qualifying on Saturday to move into second on the all-time pole list.
His Silver Arrows team-mate Valtteri Bottas completed a front-row lockout, with Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen third fastest in qualifying.
Current world championship leader Sebastian Vettel will start from the second row of the grid after only qualifying fourth.
It is Hamilton’s first pole in Baku, the fifth of the 2017 season, and his seventh in 10 races.
He completed a single run in both Q1 and Q2, and then two runs in Q3 – all on the SuperSoft – with a sensational lap of 1m 40.593s at the death putting him on pole.
The Stevenage-born motor racer said: “My pole lap in Montreal was pretty special, but I think this one here tops that.
“My first run in Q3 was actually really good, but I was a bit greedy into the last corner, locked up and cost myself time.
“After the red flag, there was a lot of pressure on that final lap.
2All weekend we’ve struggled to switch the car on over a single lap, but it was an all or nothing moment so I just gave it everything I had.”
Hamilton added: “Valtteri was on a great lap as well, so when I came across the line and saw that I had pole, it was such a good feeling.
“Even if that time had only been enough for P2 it was a lap to be proud of.
“We were struggling yesterday [Friday] but we made a lot of changes overnight. A big thank you to the team who stayed late last night to get the car to where it is today – they did a fantastic job.”
Bottas will start from P2, as the Silver Arrows took a second front-row lockout of 2017.
The Finn completed one run in Q1, two runs in Q2 and two in Q3 – exclusively on the SuperSoft – with a time of 1m 41.027s good enough to see him line-up on the front row alongside Hamilton.
Bottas, however, was disappointed not to take pole.
He said: “It’s disappointing to lose pole as that was the target. It was looking good before the late red flag, but Lewis produced a great lap and mine just wasn’t good enough.
“That final run in Q3 was the first time we had tried to do a flying lap on the first lap, because of the temperatures, and I couldn’t get them to work as well as Lewis did – I just couldn’t find that grip out there.
“But what I’m most proud of today is the huge effort the team put in overnight to switch on the car. We were quite lost on Friday but we made some changes and turned the weekend around.
“Going into the race we have a fantastic starting position and I’m expecting a good fight with Lewis.”
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff was delighted to see his two drivers bag front row spots.
He said: “This is a fantastic qualifying performance after a tricky start to the weekend yesterday.
“The team did some great work overnight to put the car right in the sweet spot – and both drivers put in a strong performance.
“We had planned to do one long run in Q3, because that looked like the best way to get the maximum from the tyres, so the pressure was really on after the red flag with just one timed lap possible.
“That was the big pressure moment and both guys delivered – Valtteri found a quarter of a second then Lewis produced one of those hammer laps to take pole.”
Looking ahead to today’s grand prix in Baku, Wolff added: “The race pace is a bit of an unknown after some scrappy sessions on Friday, but we are in the best starting positions.
“Now we need to make a clean getaway then make the most of our opportunities in the race.”
James Allison, Mercedes’ technical director, described this year’s Silver Arrows car “a diva” but said the team was beginning to understand her.
He said: “A diva our car might be, but the engineering team and drivers are gradually learning how to talk to her.
“This was a pretty impressive performance with both cars, and especially the performance on the last run, when we were able to set a competitive time on the first lap using tyres which have been tricky to warm up sufficiently during the rest of the weekend.
“This is not an easy track, and it has not been an easy weekend so far, but today’s result is a good indication of the steady progress we have made through each session. We will be aiming to build on that.”