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Sebastian Vettel takes hat trick F1 pole as Raikkonen misses the party in Baku

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Sebastian Vettel takes hat trick F1 pole as Raikkonen misses the party in Baku
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Apr 28, 2018, 4:09 PM

Sebastian Vettel secured a third consecutive pole position for the first time since the 2013 season, finishing ahead of Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton...

Sebastian Vettel secured a third consecutive pole position for the first time since the 2013 season, finishing ahead of Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas at the Baku City Circuit.

Despite being unable to improve on his final qualifying run, his nearest rivals failed to overhaul the Ferrari driver's lap. Vettel is now in prime position to take his third win in four races.

But he will face the Mercedes alone as his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen could do no better than sixth. The Finn was on target to steal pole position - which would've been his first since Monaco 2017 - but a mistake on the final corner of the lap cost him a second.

"Yeah I'm pretty sure [pole was achievable]," said Raikkonen. "I messed it up and obviously it didn't happen like that. It's frustrating to do that in the last corner and then cross the finish line knowing that it's for nothing."

As anticipated, the Mercedes drivers were able to set strong times in the high-power sectors, but they had no response to the slower middle sector, featuring the tight corners around the historic buildings.

The Red Bulls were separated by less than one tenth of a second, with 2017 Baku winner Daniel Ricciardo narrowly beating Max Verstappen to fourth place. The Dutchman blamed timing of his release onto the track for not having the tyres in the right temperature window.

All of the top five opted for the same Q2 strategy and will therefore start tomorrow's race on the supersoft tyres, with Raikkonen starting the race on the ultrasofts, after locking up on his supersoft tyre run. He could try to trigger a round of undercuts, but will be mindful of the difficulty of building a gap and the high risk of Safety Cars.

Qualifying session 1

Romain Grosjean was the first man eliminated from the session, with his qualifying hour lasting only a few minutes. Following a lock-up into turn three, the Haas driver encountered a gearbox problem and was unable to resume.

It was a double knock-out for the Toro Rossos; the pair's chances of late improvements were ruined when they came close to a spectacular collision in the final moments of the session.

Brendon Hartley was moving slowly towards turn fifteen with a puncture from tapping the wall, when team-mate Pierre Gasly - on a flying lap - caught up and almost ran into the back of him. He narrowly avoided a high-speed crash with the sister STR13 and had to take to the escape road.

"I made a big mistake, I'm sorry for him. I owe him a big apology for getting in the way and nearly causing a huge accident," said Hartley.

"I'm disappointed how that went down. Not a good day."

Gasly said that a vision of himself flying through the air flashed before his eyes as he narrowly avoided catastrophe: "It was really scary, the scariest moment of my career. I didn't know if he was going left or going right," said Gasly.

"I don't know what happened to Brendon, he slowed down massively. I was at 320kph and, honestly... he almost stopped, I tried to avoid him and I was sure I was going to crash.

"I could already see myself in the air, I don't know how I avoided it, but it was a pretty scary moment."

Sauber's Marcus Ericsson and McLaren's Stoffel Vandoorne were the final two drivers to be eliminated, with the later knocked out by a final flying lap by Williams' Lance Stroll.

Qualifying session 2

All six drivers from the top three teams elected to set a lap on the supersoft tyres, which proved to be no issue for the majority of them. However, Ferrari's Raikkonen made a couple of errors at turn fifteen, meaning he was unable to set a representative lap time in the early stages of the session, putting him under threat of elimination.

This meant Raikkonen was handed a set of the ultrasoft tyres in order to make sure of his progression into Q3. This means that out of all the Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull drivers, only Raikkonen will start the race on the ultrasoft tyres.

An imperfect lap from Red Bull's Ricciardo meant the Australian came close to Q2 elimination, however Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin (both Williams) fell short of completing a shock result.

McLaren's Fernando Alonso, Sauber's Charles Leclerc and Haas' Kevin Magnussen completed the list of drivers knocked out in Q2.

Qualifying session 3

Vettel's opening lap of a 1:41.498 turned out to be the fastest of the session and, after improvements from Hamilton, Bottas, Ricciardo and Verstappen fell short, he abandoned his second flying lap, which in itself was unlikely to yield an improvement after a lock-up into turn three.

Raikkonen's final lap promised so much. By the end of sector two he was over two tenths up on Vettel's lap, with only one proper corner and the long main straight to go.

However, an over-zealous application of throttle gave the Finn a lot of oversteer on the exit of turn sixteen, which compromised the entire main straight and threw away the lap. He had to settle for sixth place.

Hamilton's fastest lap fell two tenths short of pole, whilst Bottas claimed third ahead of Ricciardo and Verstappen.

The Force Indias profited from one of their 'form' tracks to lock-out the fourth row, with Esteban Ocon edging Sergio Perez, whilst Renault's Nico Hulkenberg maintained his 100% qualifying record over team-mate Carlos Sainz, but will move back five places on the grid due to a gearbox penalty.

All Photos: Motorsport Images

AZERBAIJAN GP- QUALIFYING

1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m41.498s

2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m41.677s 0.179s

3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m41.837s 0.339s

4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 1m41.911s 0.413s

5 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Renault 1m41.994s 0.496s

6 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m42.490s 0.992s

7 Esteban Ocon Force India/Mercedes 1m42.523s 1.025s

8 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 1m42.547s 1.049s

9 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m43.066s 1.568s

10 Carlos Sainz Renault 1m43.351s 1.853s

11 Lance Stroll Williams/Mercedes 1m43.585s 2.087s

12 Sergey Sirotkin Williams/Mercedes 1m43.886s 2.388s

13 Fernando Alonso McLaren/Renault 1m44.019s 2.521s

14 Charles Leclerc Sauber/Ferrari 1m44.074s 2.576s

15 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 1m44.759s 3.261s

16 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren/Renault 1m44.489s 2.991s

17 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso/Honda 1m44.496s 2.998s

18 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari 1m45.541s 4.043s

19 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso/Honda 1m57.354s 15.856s

20 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari (No time)

What did you think of the qualifying session? How do you think the strategies will play out tomorrow? Leave your comments in the section below.
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Series Formula 1
Author Luke Murphy