Scuderia Ferrari German driver Sebastian Vettel and the Maranello team took their third consecutive pole position of 2018 in a wind-affected qualifying here in Baku on Saturday afternoon, but with a close second place on the grid and his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas riding shotgun in third, Lewis Hamilton has his best chance since Australia of stemming the red tide that has swamped the Silver Arrows this season.
The Italian side and Red Bull showed pace all weekend as Mercedes struggled yet again to optimise their tyre performance in practice. But Hamilton was in the mix all through the three qualifying sessions, in which changing wind direction kept the drivers on their toes.
Scuderia Ferrari Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen set the pace in the first session, from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, Hamilton, Sebastian and Chinese GP winner Daniel Ricciardo, all of then running Pirelli’s softest, ultrasoft, tyre compound. Sebastian Vettel really hit his stride in the first runs on the final session, lapping in 1m 41.498s to go 0.342s ahead of Hamilton, with Bottas third. Neither of the Ferraris improved on their final runs. Vettel pushed a little too hard and locked up approaching Turn 3, while Kimi had a massive tank-slapper, which he was lucky to get away with, just when he seemed set to jump ahead of the German. Instead, he remained sixth.
“The car felt good in Q1 and Q2. Today I had the confidence in it that I was missing yesterday, and when that clicks it becomes so enjoyable. In the last sector of quallie I had a car that did what I wanted to get a good lap together. I was very happy with my first lap, but there were just tiny bits where it was not quite perfect. On the second run I was a little bit faster, but then I locked up the brakes going into Turn 3 and that caught me by surprise. I had to think whether to go straight on up the escape road, or try to carry on. Fortunately, that first lap was good enough.” – Sebastian explained, as reported by the British media.
This year Ferrari have the upper hand, but as everyone struggled with crosswinds which came between buildings along the very long main straight the circuit which threw up such a remarkable race in 2017 could be set for more drama: “It’s not that long a run down to Turn 1. So we should be okay, but it will be an intense race and a Safety Car is very, very likely. But though I was a little bit disappointed with my last lap this afternoon, we have a great car for tomorrow.” – Scuderia Ferrari German driver Sebastian Vettel concluded.