'I really enjoy city tracks,' says Leclerc after sealing Azerbaijan Grand Prix pole

By Sports Desk April 28, 2023

Charles Leclerc will start on pole position for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix for the third season in a row after an impressive qualifying run on Friday.

Ferrari's Leclerc surprisingly outpaced the Red Bull pair of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, who will start second and third respectively in Baku.

The Monegasque driver kept up with Verstappen before putting in a time of one minute and 40.203 seconds to beat his opponent by 0.188s.

"I like city tracks in general," Leclerc told Sky Sports. "It's not only here but Singapore, Monaco, here, a track that I really enjoy. You can really play with the limits, more than on a normal track.

"The limit is a hard limit as it's the wall! You cannot overstep it, so it's about building up to be very close to the wall without ever touching it."

Friday's qualifying session determined the race order for Sunday’s Grand Prix, with another, standalone shorter qualifying session to take place on Saturday ahead of a 17-lap sprint event – the first of six this season.

However, Leclerc is in no doubt where his priorities lie, even though he admitted his Ferrari is unlikely to be able to compete across Sunday's 51 laps of the six-kilometre Baku City Circuit.

"It went well in the last three years, but we have another qualifying tomorrow, so it could be four poles in a row," Leclerc said. "But we have the race on Sunday, which is more important, but I believe we will struggle a bit more as I think Red Bull is still a step ahead."

Leclerc's team-mate Carlos Sainz will start in fourth on Sunday, with Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton in fifth and Fernando Alonso of Aston Martin sixth.

Hamilton's team-mate George Russell will start 11th after a surprise elimination in Q2 on Friday, while there were early crashes from Nyck de Vries (AlphaTauri) and Pierre Gasly (Alpine) as a hectic start to qualifying began with red flags, both hitting the barrier on turn three.

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 1:40.203
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0.188
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +0.292
4. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.813
5. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0.974
6. Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) +1.050
7. Lando Norris (McLaren) +1.078
8. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) +1.378
9. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) +1.408
10. Oscar Piastri (McLaren) +1.408

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  • We will be back says Perez following Canadian Grand Prix incident We will be back says Perez following Canadian Grand Prix incident

    Sergio Perez has apologised following a second successive retirement at the Canada Grand Prix which left him 87 points behind Red Bull team-mate, Max Vertsappen.

    The 34-year-old remained fifth overall in the world championship and a point behind Ferrari's Carlos Sainz, who was one of five drivers that failed to finish the race. 

    In difficult conditions in Montreal, the Mexican started 16th but hopes of climbing up the pecking order soon faded after damaging his car's front wing on the opening lap when he made contact with Alpine's Pierre Gasly.

    He then crashed into the barriers late in the day after losing control on a damp kerb at turn six, hobbling back to the pits with a broken rear wing. 

    "I'm very sorry for my team, I let them down today. But we will come back no doubt. There’s a very long way to go," Perez said on social media.

    His final incident cost him a three-place grid penalty for the next race in Barcelona, with the stewards punishing him for a breach of the safety rules that require a driver to stop if the car is unsafe.

    "The incident was on me, I touched the wet part into turn six and I couldn’t stop the car, I couldn’t touch the brakes," Perez said on Sunday.

    "It has been a very tough couple of weekends, we will regroup, keep our heads down and learn from the weekend. We identified a couple of issues after qualifying and they meant we would have qualified a lot higher.

    "Hopefully we can be back to our form in Spain and get back to the level we were at earlier in the season. I am confident in that, there are good tracks coming for us."

    Perez recently signed a new two-year deal with Red Bull, ending speculation that the world champions will sign free agent Sainz ahead of the new season. 

  • We will be back says Perez following Canadian Grand Prix We will be back says Perez following Canadian Grand Prix

    Sergio Perez has apologised following a second successive retirement at the Canada Grand Prix which left him 87 points behind Red Bull team-mate, Max Vertsappen.

    The 34-year-old remained fifth overall in the world championship and a point behind Ferrari's Carlos Sainz, who was one of five drivers that failed to finish the race. 

    In difficult conditions in Montreal, the Mexican started 16th but hopes of climbing up the pecking order soon faded after damaging his car's front wing on the opening lap when he made contact with Alpine's Pierre Gasly.

    He then crashed into the barriers late in the day after losing control on a damp kerb at turn six, hobbling back to the pits with a broken rear wing. 

    "I'm very sorry for my team, I let them down today. But we will come back no doubt. There’s a very long way to go," Perez said on social media.

    His final incident cost him a three-place grid penalty for the next race in Barcelona, with the stewards punishing him for a breach of the safety rules that require a driver to stop if the car is unsafe.

    "The incident was on me, I touched the wet part into turn six and I couldn’t stop the car, I couldn’t touch the brakes," Perez said on Sunday.

    "It has been a very tough couple of weekends, we will regroup, keep our heads down and learn from the weekend. We identified a couple of issues after qualifying and they meant we would have qualified a lot higher.

    "Hopefully we can be back to our form in Spain and get back to the level we were at earlier in the season. I am confident in that, there are good tracks coming for us."

    Perez recently signed a new two-year deal with Red Bull, ending speculation that the world champions will sign free agent Sainz ahead of the new season. 

  • Canadian Grand Prix 'an opportunity missed', admits Russell Canadian Grand Prix 'an opportunity missed', admits Russell

    George Russell secured Mercedes their first podium of the Formula One season at the Canadian Grand Prix, but felt his third-place finish was a missed opportunity.

    The British driver was on pole for the first time since the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2022 and led for the first 21 laps before being overtaken in quick succession by McLaren's Lando Norris and eventual winner, Max Verstappen. 

    In a contest that saw the drivers endure difficult conditions and in which five cars failed to finish, Russell did manage to regain first place from his compatriot on lap 27 following the safety car being deployed, but again found himself chasing Norris after running wide. 

    He dropped to fourth behind Oscar Piastri, but would reclaim a podium place with his fresh medium tyres for the closing laps, enough to get past the Australian and team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who were on the hard compounds.

    Red Bull's Verstappen claimed his sixth victory of the season, extending his championship lead over Ferrari's Charles Leclerc to 56 points after a weekend to forget for the Italian team. 

    Speaking after the race, Russell believed he had the pace to catch the Dutchman before his coming together with Piastri, but enjoyed being back at the front of the pecking order despite admitting to a few mistakes. 

    "It feels like a missed opportunity, to be honest," said Russell shortly after the conclusion of the race. "We were really quick at the beginning of the race on the inters, and then obviously Lando came through really fast.

    "Then we got back on to the slicks, made a couple of mistakes out there just pushing the limits and paid the price for it.

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