Lewis Hamilton posts ideal lap to claim pole in Azerbaijan

Hamilton dominated practice in Baku a year ago ahead of Azerbaijan's first grand prix, but struggled on Friday and finished the second session in 10th place, 1.163 seconds behind pace-setter Max Verstappen.

Lewis Hamilton told reporters he struggled during the first two practice sessions for the Formula One Azerbaijan Grand Prix because of his 2017 car's temperamental nature, according to ESPN.

Hamilton banished memories of a dismal qualifying session in Baku a year ago, when he clipped the barrier, to grab pole with a time of 1:40.593 despite running wide at Turn 16.

However, in qualifying Hamilton was quick from the outset, topping Q1 and Q2 before snatching pole away from team mate Valtteri Bottas by almost half a second in the final stages of Q3 - an effort that left Lauda mightily impressed.

Lewis Hamilton says that Valtteri Bottas has "earned his place" at Mercedes. The Spaniard won't be too anxious though, as he will start from the pit lane anyway with a 40 place grid penalty.

"I've been in a good place for years with the team so I don't feel any different to past times", countered Hamilton, who finished only 10th fastest in practice on Friday.

Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo popped in a quick lap late on to finish fourth, half a second off the pace, with teammate Max Verstappen, sixth.

"It's one of those tracks where you need to have the auto in the window, the tyres in the window and if you feel confident, you extract a lot of lap time", he said.

"Coming down to the last corner I was just thinking "please be enough".

"Disappointing. I was going for the pole, but the lap at the end just wasn't quite that ideal", Bottas admitted.

"Max, if you get challenged by a auto on the out-lap trying to get past you, switch into "mode 8", that'll be fine", Verstappen was told as Q3 got back underway.

"It's one of those tracks where you need to have the auto in the window, the tyres in the window and if you feel confident, you extract a lot of lap time", he said. "I was pretty happy".

Finnish driver Bottas predicted on Thursday that some drivers would struggle with the slippy and dusty conditions in Baku's street circuit, and he was proved right as Sergio Perez, Jolyon Palmer and Verstappen crashed into the barriers.

"I'm no fan of excuses, I could have done a bit better but probably P3 was the maximum".

Lance Stroll, dubbed the "worst rookie in Formula 1 history" by Jacques Villeneuve, enjoyed a career-best qualifying in Azerbaijan Saturday, outqualifying teammate Felipe.

Fernando Alonso, who is already due to start Sunday's race from the back of the grid following a series of engine penalties, launched his headrest out of his McLaren as he ground to a halt when his engine died with 30 minutes of the second session remaining. "We need to get on top of that because it shouldn't happen".

  • Julie Sanders