European GP | First pole in Baku goes to Rosberg as Hamilton crashed out of qualifying

Nico Rosberg secures pole position for the first European Grand Prix held in Baku.

Practice had been no-one’s but Hamilton’s, as Lewis dictated the pace in Baku. But lock-up after lock-up in qualifying saw Hamilton struggle, before ending his day with a clip of the wall at turn 10. All the while Rosberg claimed pole unchallenged, as Perez emerged as the second fastest man in Azerbaijan.

Hamilton had held the advantage around the Baku City Circuit from the off, posting the fastest lap times in the first, second and third practice sessions.

Qualifying One however would end with Hamilton not on top of a session for the first session in the Azerbaijan capital, as Nico Rosberg topped the stage by half a second.

While Rosberg continued to lap and find improvements to his time, the first stage did not go as smoothly for Hamilton. As Lewis locked up at turn 15 and brought that particular session to and end.

Come Q2, Rosberg was the one watching on from the pits as he laid down the benchmark early on with a 1:45.520. Hamilton on the other hand was locking up again, ruining two sets of tyres – including the set he will start the race on. As Lewis put in his best Q2 time at the flag, as he avoided yellow flags.

But after all the lock-ups in qualifying, Hamilton’s day would end in a red-flag incident as he clipped the turn 10 wall without setting a flying lap in Q3. All the while, Rosberg was pushing on and stormed to secure pole position for the first European Grand Prix held in Baku.

Q1

At the beginning of the first qualifying stage for the European Grand Prix, Ferrari were hard at work trying to fix an issue with Vettel’s ECU. The device that runs the DRS and FIA data collection is vital to the cars running. With the Scuderia only able to send Vettel out with 9 mins to go. Sebastian though would safely secure his Q2 place when he ventured out.

As for Toro Rosso, the sister Red Bull team were straight out of the pits when the green lights came on. But the two Toro Rosso drivers would only confirm their Q2 places once the first chequered flag fell. With Sainz moving from 16th to 7th, while Kvyat took 5th.

Q1 was also not going in the way of Grosjean, as the Frenchmen repeatedly found braking an issue. Particularly at turn 15, where Romain span his Haas before telling the team they need to sort out the brakes as he could not do anything.

While Vettel sat in the pits in Q1, Perez was improving on the track to build on the pace the Force India was showing. With Perez able to go third fastest, 0.777 seconds behind Rosberg.

Raikkonen, Grosjean, Button on the other hand were yet to set flying laps. Although first flyers for Raikkonen and Grosjean placed the pair in the middle of the pack. But for Button, he could only go 17th.

After McLaren had shown strong pace throughout practice, Button kept pushing to get into Q2. However a slow first sector left Jenson one last chance to put in a strong enough time. But that last chance was scuppered as Button hit yellow flags for a spinning Raikkonen. Making Jenson the first McLaren out in a Q1 session so far this season.

As Jenson lifted and pitted, others were still pushing with Magnussen putting in a best first and second sector. Kevin though was only able to go 20th, ahead of Palmer and Ericsson.

Palmer and Ericsson were still on track however, with Ericsson able to overtake the Renaults as Palmer ended the session slowest overall. The slow lap time by Button also saw the former world champion qualify behind both Manor’s.

Q2

As traffic and yellows held drivers up in Q1, Ricciardo and Hulkenberg led a queue of cars from the pits in their search of clear track.

Massa though was the earlier leader with a 1:44.696. As Mercedes & Force India took an extra lap to build up heat in their tyres.

Hulkenberg however would scupper his first flyer after setting the fastest first sector thus far before spinning at turn 16. The large spin left lots of smoke flowing from his tyres, after the rear stepped out through the corner as Nico tried to carry more speed onto main straight.

Hulkenberg’s spin not only cost him, as Hamilton was approaching on an early run. With the yellow flags slowing Lewis down, as Rosberg set a 1:45.520. Nico’s time a rapid 1.7 seconds faster than the previous pace-setting Perez.

After Hamilton pitted from his first run, he returned to the track on a new set of super-soft tyres. He would however lock up again, but this time at turn 7 with not enough time to pit and change tyres. Meaning he had to push on with his locked up tyres to set a strong Q2 lap. All the while, the extra lap put more life through the tyres he will start the race from.

Once again however, Hamilton’s lap looked like it would be ruined by yellow flags as Gutierrez locked up at turn eight. The Haas was running in 14th place as it looked for a better grid spot, but locked up heavily to end his run.

Luckily for Hamilton, as he approached the sector Gutierrez span in, the yellow flags were put away moments before he got there. And without another lock up, Lewis ended the lap second fastest, albeit a full second down on Rosberg.

Along with Hamilton, Ricciardo was still out pushing for a Q3 place with Daniel sitting down in 12th. And posted a personal best sector one to go fourth place at the expense of Grosjean.

Q3

After Hulkenberg’s qualifying ended in Q2 with confusion between himself and the team on how much fuel he had on-board, the provisional runs in Q3 started with Perez leading the first laps.

The remaining Force India driver stormed his first run, with Perez posting a 1:43.515, a full 0.745 seconds clear of Vettel and 0.754 seconds clear of Raikkonen.

But while Perez took the top spot, Hamilton locked up yet again at turn 15. He had already gone four tenths up on Perez in  the first sector, before the lock up sent him running down the escape road once more.

With Rosberg caught up in the yellow flags, Nico could not post a flyer on his first run. And when others began to push, the track temperatures began to drop.

Rosberg though found four tenths through sector two and ended his flying lap 0.757 seconds up on Perez. All the while, Hamilton was parked to the side of the track after clipping the wall at turn 10.

Hamilton’s contact with the wall broke his steering rack as the slender kiss between wall and tyre left him stranded and red flags waving. With Lewis only able to qualify in tenth place.

Once Lewis was cleared from the track, the battle for track position kicked off early with Bottas darting in front of Vettel, despite the Ferrari already being in the fast lane. Valtteri though allowed Vettel to go ahead once the action was underway.

In the rush to put another lap on the board, almost all of the remaining drivers crossed the line in time. But for Massa, the flag fell just too early for him while Bottas backed out of his final flyer.

With cooler track temperatures, the chance to overturn Rosberg’s time was looking slim. Especially with Ricciardo, first across the line, going nearly half a second slower than Rosberg’s time through sector 1. Daniel would go on to go nine-tenths slower than Nico through sector 2 before crossing the line to move from 7th to third. But with Perez handed a five place penalty for a gearbox change, Sergio will start the race in seventh after ending qualifying second fastest.

Pos. Driver Time Gap
1 Nico Rosberg 1’42.758  POLE
2 Daniel Ricciardo 1’43.966 1.208
3 Sebastian Vettel 1’43.966 1.208
4 Kimi Raikkonen 1’44.269 1.511
5 Felipe Massa 1’44.483 1.725
6 Daniil Kvyat 1’44.717 1.959
7 Sergio Perez 1’43.515 0.757
8 Valtteri Bottas 1’45.246 2.488
9 Max Verstappen 1’45.570 2.812
10 Lewis Hamilton 2’01.954 19.196
11 Romain Grosjean 1’44.755 1.997
12 Nico Hulkenberg 1’44.824 2.066
13 Carlos Sainz Jr. 1’45.000 2.242
14 Fernando Alonso 1’45.270 2.512
15 Esteban Gutierrez 1’45.349 2.591
16 Felipe Nasr 1’46.048 3.29
17 Rio Haryanto 1’45.665 2.907
18 Pascal Wehrlein 1’45.750 2.992
19 Jenson Button 1’45.804 3.046
20 Marcus Ericsson 1’46.231 3.473
21 Kevin Magnussen 1’46.348 3.59
22 Jolyon Palmer 1’46.394 3.636