Formula One: Vettel shrugs off Mercedes’ Baku lockout

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel drives during the qualifying session.
Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel drives during the qualifying session.PHOTO: REUTERS

BAKU (AFP) – Championship leader Sebastian Vettel was anything but downbeat after his Ferrari team were swept aside by a Mercedes front row lockout in Saturday’s (June 24) qualifying for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Despite being beaten by his main rivals and outpaced by his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, the four-time champion growled with defiance as he licked his wounds after the session.

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

“I’m not too bothered by the gap. It’s not nice, but equally I’m not worried. The car was very good on Friday. In the long run, we looked very competitive so it should be fine.

“Third was probably the maximum. As a team, we got what we could today. Tomorrow can be a different story and I think the race pace should be a lot closer.”

Three-time champion Lewis Hamilton, who is 12 points adrift of him in the drivers’ title race, took pole for Mercedes with a blistering lap in a dramatic finale.

He outpaced team-mate Valtteri Botas by half a second and was more than a second clear of third-placed Raikkonen with Vetterl 1.25 seconds adrift in fourth.

It was Hamilton’s 66th pole lifting him one clear of his hero three-time champion Ayrton Senna’s record of 65 and within two of equalling the record of seven-time champion Michael Schumacher.

Vettel struggled with problems including a hydraulics leak that forced Ferrari to revert to an older engine on his car before qualifying.

“I don’t like excuses, so I think it was a good effort by the whole team to get the car out in time without losing anything of the first part of qualifying,” said Vettel.