And welcome to our coverage for qualifying for the 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix from the Baku City street circuit. If yesterday’s two practice sessions were intriguing then this morning’s was doubly so – and about four times as chaotic.
After Friday’s running, Red Bull were firmly on top with Mercedes looking more than a little lost; arguably even more lost than they were in Monaco two weeks ago. Sergio Pérez ended it fastest ahead of team-mate Max Verstappen as both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas finished outside of the top 10. Cue much head scratching at Mercedes.
This morning’s running was disrupted in the extreme. Firstly by Verstappen sliding into the barriers at turn 15, ending his session. This could have been a more significant event – it stopped the session for a short time – if the rest of the hour was not so stop and start, with numerous yellow flags, drivers going straight on into escape roads and George Russell pulling over to the side of the track and retiring with a possible power unit or hydraulic issue.
In the end it was a surprise that Pierre Gasly ended the session quickest for AlphaTauri with storming lap, three tenths quicker than Pérez. Hamilton ended third, four tenths off Gasly but that was with a monstrously effective tow from two cars ahead of him that could have been worth as much as six tenths of a second. So perhaps flattering to deceive, though he certainly got more out of the car than team-mate Bottas, who finished 13th, nearly 1.5 seconds off the quickest time.
Needless to say that it’s all a bit hard to call, again. Perhaps even Ferrari will be up there, too, as they showed good one-lap pace on Friday. From what we have seen so far it would not be a surprise if one Mercedes failed to make it into Q3 or indeed if neither of them made it onto the front two rows. But can Verstappen bounce back from a potentially confidence-knocking crash?
We will be here to find out. Qualifying starts at 1pm BST and could well be a cracker.