BAKU • Valtteri Bottas believes he hit the "sweet spot" when he left it late yesterday to clinch pole position for today's Azerbaijan Grand Prix, with Mercedes teammate and Formula One championship leader Lewis Hamilton alongside him on the front row.
Sebastian Vettel qualified in third place for Ferrari after Monegasque teammate Charles Leclerc crashed out in the second phase of qualifying. Red Bull's Max Verstappen, meanwhile, qualified fourth.
"It's a nice feeling to get it on the last lap," said Bottas.
"Ferrari have been really strong. Charles was out by a mistake and as a team we did a really good job... It's all about small margins and I got a good tow on the last lap. The corners, I had to drive as well but it's fine details and I hit the sweet spot."
Hamilton hailed Bottas and his team for achieving a one-two and said that it had been a tight battle with their closest rivals Ferrari.
"It's been so close all weekend. Ferrari have looked incredibly quick and Valtteri did an exceptional job," said the five-time world champion, who leads the standings on 68 points, six ahead of Bottas.
"This is a massively great result for us. The Ferraris looked quick and also Max. For us to lock out the front row in the circumstances, I'm really grateful for, and (it) puts us in a fighting position tomorrow."
AZERBAIJAN GP GRID
1 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes
2 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes
3 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari
4 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull
5 Sergio Perez (Mex) Racing Point
6 Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Toro Rosso
7 Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren
8 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Alfa Romeo
9 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari
10 Carlos Sainz (Esp) McLaren
11 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Renault
Vettel admitted that Mercedes were "a bit" faster.
The German said: "For me it started a bit slow. Towards the end it was getting better but it was quite tricky. The session was very long, the sun was going down.
"It was difficult to find the right balance of pushing in the out lap and playing with tow.
"I had a good lap but I had no tow to close the lap and that cost a bit."
Qualifying was delayed twice, when Robert Kubica crashed his Williams in Q1 and when Leclerc smashed his Ferrari into the same wall at Turn 8 on Baku's streets.
The 21-year-old Leclerc, running on the harder compound (medium) tyres despite falling temperatures, was angry with himself for pushing too hard in tricky conditions at the castle turn.
"I am stupid, I am stupid," he said over the team radio, before stepping out of the car and returning to the garage.
He later tweeted: "No excuses. I've been useless. I will push to have a better tomorrow. Sorry to all the people supporting us and even more to the whole team that deserved so much better."
He will start in ninth and it was a huge disappointment for him after ending yesterday's final practice as the fastest driver.
In an interview with Sky Sports afterwards, he added: "I deserve what happened today. I'm very sad for what happened but I deserve it.
"I've been stupid. Pole was possible today and I threw all the potential in the bin.
"I will push to learn from this and come back stronger and hopefully have a very good race tomorrow."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
F1 AZERBAIJAN GP
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