Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes flattered to deceive during the final Formula One qualifying session in Baku which saw the British champion claim P5 on the grid for Sunday’s race.
However, the Mercedes cars were struggling towards the end of Q2 to make it into the top ten shootout and both Russell and Hamilton’s final runs were marginal.
Mercedes still off the pace
Lewis sneaked into Q3 just 0.004 seconds ahead of Russell, but on his slow down lap Hamilton unnecessarily gave a tow to Mclaren’s Oscar Piastri which gifted the Australian the 0.018 advantage he required to improve his time and eliminate Russell.
Hamilton was 3-0 down to Russell in qualifying this year and by failing to ensure he didn’t give Mercedes’ competitors a tow, Lewis has racked up his first victory of the season over his team mate.
Any hope of a Mercedes revival was crushed as their one lap pace is a fraction less than a second slower than pole sitter Charles LeClerc.
Russel magnanimous in defeat
Russell was magnanimous over the radio when informed he’d failed to make the top ten shoot out.
“Ah sugar, we don’t have the pace this weekend guys. Another chance tomorrow.”
Ferrari repaid the faith of team boss Fred Vasseur who has refused to sanction rafts of upgrades for the SF-23. Charles LeClerc initially matched to the1000th of a second Max Verstappen’s pole time after the first runs in Q3.,
Ferrari car development philosophy paying off
Yet the Monegasque produced a near perfect lap on his final run to beat Verstappen into P2. This was LeClerc’s third consecutive pole position in Baku.
Ferrari boss Vasseur has repeatedly claimed the car requires just a better set up and the team needs to understand the platform before bringing modifications. The Frenchman was proved right on the first day of the weekend in Azerbaijan.
The drivers will do it all again tomorrow as they again clash on track in the morning for the Sprint qualifying session before the 100km race in the afternoon.
READ MORE: Hamilton appears confused with new Sprint format
Lewis Hamilton P5️⃣
George Russell P1️⃣1️⃣
Toto Wolff reflects on Mercedes' Azerbaijan Grand Prix qualifying 👇 pic.twitter.com/krzCVgyYJX
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) April 28, 2023
You can do it without him George! 👊🏻