Ferrariâ€™s Sebastian Vettel saturday beat Mercedesâ€™ Lewis Hamilton at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix to take his third consecutive pole position. The German, nine points clear of Hamilton in the championship, was just 0.179 seconds clear of his rival around the demanding Baku street circuit.
Kimi Raikkonen was on course to snatch pole from his team-mate only to make a mistake at the final corner of his lap. The Finn was sixth, behind Valtteri Bottasâ€™ Mercedes and the Red Bulls.
Vettel did all his work on his first run of the top-10 shootout, when he was 0.342secs quicker than Hamilton. The world champion closed up on his final lap but it was not enough, meaning a lock-up at Turn Three by Vettel on his final lap was irrelevant.
Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull have showed similar pace through the practice sessions and it was hard to work out who would take top spot. Ferrari have won twice already this season, with Red Bull taking victory at the last race in China. Mercedes are yet to win.
Raikkonen will be kicking himself for losing what appeared to be his best chance of pole since Monaco last year. A series of errors not only cost him top spot but also compromised his race strategy.
Following a mistake in the second session – which means he must begin the race on a less durable tyre compound – Raikkonen made another in the top-10 shootout at Turn 16, straddling the kerb and coming close to hitting the wall on the exit.
He tried again, and was on course to beat Vettelâ€™s time, but made yet another mistake – again at Turn 16 – where he had a huge slide and then â€˜tank-slapperâ€™, which affected his speed all the way up the long straight to the line.
He ended up 0.992secs off pole and will start sixth, behind the Red Bulls – with Daniel Ricciardo just pipping by Max Verstappen by 0.083secs – and on a worse tyre. The Red Bulls were also very close to Bottas, with Ricciardo just 0.074secs off.