Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc believed the Formula 1 qualifying lap that earned him pole position for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix was “quite shit”.
Leclerc took his second successive pole in an incident-filled qualifying session that featured four red flags.
Crashes for Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi curtailed Q1 twice, while Daniel Ricciardo stuffed his McLaren into the same Turn 15 barriers to halt Q2.
At the end of the top 10 shootout, AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda – making the first Q3 appearance of his rookie season – crashed and Leclerc’s team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr joined him a few moments later.
Numerous drivers, including championship leader Max Verstappen, were on course to challenge Leclerc’s benchmark but the crashes for Tsunoda and Sainz prematurely ended the session and denied them a chance to stop Leclerc.
The lap that took Leclerc to his ninth F1 pole was assisted by a tow from Lewis Hamilton in the final sector. He eventually beat Hamilton by 0.232 seconds.
“It was quite a shit lap,” Leclerc admitted after qualifying.
“There were like two or three corners where I did mistakes but then of course I had a big tow from Lewis in the last sector, which helped me a little bit.
“But overall I think we will have been thereabouts for pole anyway [even] without the slipstream.
“It’s a good day I did not expect to be as competitive as we were today. I think I was improving again before the red flag.”
Leclerc has Hamilton and championship leader Max Verstappen behind him on the grid, with the top five completed by Pierre Gasly and his team-mate Sainz.
The Monegasque said he doesn’t have “a complete explanation” for Ferrari’s surprisingly strong performance in Baku, but praised the team for the effort.
“The car felt quite OK but I believe Mercedes and Red Bull has something more than we have in the race especially,” Leclerc said.
“We’ve seen that in FP2, so it’s going to be very difficult because here, it’s not like Monaco, they can overtake.
“I will try to do the best job possible and hopefully, we can keep that first place but it’s going to be difficult.”