F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton qualifies on 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix front row
PUBLISHED: 20:11 28 April 2018 | UPDATED: 15:33 29 April 2018
Wolfgang Wilhelm for Daimler AG
Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton will start the 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix from the front row in Baku.
The 33-year-old Mercedes F1 driver from Hertfordshire qualified second at the Baku City Circuit today (Saturday).
He will line-up on the front row alongside Ferrari rival and world championship leader Sebastian Vettel, who claimed pole position.
Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport will start Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix from P2 and P3 on the grid after Valtteri Bottas qualified third.
Both Mercedes men completed two UltraSoft runs in Q3, with four-time world champion Hamilton clocking a lap of 1min 41.677secs and Bottas 1min 41.837secs.
Hamilton said: “We weren’t quite quick enough today to beat Ferrari today, but it was super close.
“No athlete can be satisfied with second, but it’s nice to be back up on the front row after an exciting session.
“The team did a great job overnight to make a step forward after what was a tricky Friday.”
Both Silver Arrows drivers completed one run on the UltraSoft compound tyres in Q1.
In Q2, both Lewis and Valtteri set their fastest time on the SuperSoft and will start the race on this tyre.
Hamilton said: “On our long runs we’ve been down, losing out in the middle sector, and the Ferraris have been quite a bit quicker than us, so we’ve still got a bit more ground to make up yet, but it’s great to be there in the fight.
“We worked hard to get the car in a better place, so we need to maximise the result now tomorrow.
“Let’s try and make some trouble for Ferrari. It’s definitely going to be another interesting race.”
Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas said: “It’s never positive to be third, but after yesterday this is a good result.
“The team did a great job with the set-up of the car. It felt completely different compared to yesterday; we could really trust it which allowed us to fight for the first and second row.
“It felt like I never did a perfect lap today and I doubt that anyone else did; it’s just extremely difficult around the track.”
Bottas added: “For the race, we’re in a good position as a team. Having both cars next to each other for the race start gives us a few opportunities and we can play with tactics.
“It’s difficult to say how the wind tomorrow is going to affect the race, especially with all the buildings around. It should be an interesting race. We expect it to be very close tomorrow between three teams, so everything is possible.”
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff was pleased to see his drivers produce encouraging qualifying results after the team’s Friday practice woes.
Wolff said: “Looking at today’s results in the contexts of the struggles we experienced yesterday during practice, I have to say I’m pretty pleased to be second and third on the grid.
“The guys worked very hard late into the night in order to find the right path forward, we made a step in the right direction this morning, then another for qualifying.
“So it was a good recovery from that perspective. Going into qualifying, we expected a very close fight between three teams and this is exactly what we got; I think this will turn out to be the story of this 2018 season.
“I expect to see all of the top six fighting for the win tomorrow and we will be working hard to make we come out of that battle on top.”
Mercedes technical director James Allison said: “While I am disappointed that our cars were not quick enough to challenge for pole today, we can take a certain satisfaction from a solid P2 and P3, which give us strong starting positions for tomorrow.
“We can also be satisfied that we managed to improve the car’s handling overnight and that this put us in position to enjoy a good race with both cars starting on the super soft compound tyre.
“This is a track that brings both incident and opportunity for those who are nimble enough to exploit it in the race. We fully intend to do so tomorrow.”