F1 2021
Round 6

It's A Second Row Lockout For Honda Power In Baku

az Baku Street Circuit

A thrilling qualifying session full of incidents and interruptions ended up with all four Honda-powered cars in the top seven on the grid in Azerbaijan.

It's A Second Row Lockout For Honda Power In Baku

Following a small off in FP3 that saw him miss the second half of the final practice session, Max was straight back down to business as he set the fastest time early on when qualifying started. Sergio joined him at the top of the times as the session was interrupted by two red flags, with Q1 restarting with just nine minutes remaining when half of the grid - including the Scuderia AlphaTauri pair - had yet to set a lap time.


Despite Q1 eventually stretching to a full 40 minutes, both Pierre and Yuki put in good laps after the red flag delays to ensure they progressed into the second part of qualifying.

There was to be more drama in Q2 but both Honda-powered teams had prepared well for it, with Max and Sergio sitting first and second for Red Bull Racing in an extremely tight session and Pierre also inside the top ten, Yuki went early for his second run and got a clean lap in, securing fourth place and within 0.029s of the fastest time.

That proved crucial, as a crash for Daniel Ricciardo saw the session ended early due to another red flag, preventing any more improvements and seeing all four advance into Q3 for the first time this season. It also marked the first time a Japanese driver has made it through to Q3 since Kamui Kobayashi at Suzuka back in 2012.

Into the final part of qualifying and the battle was on for pole position with a number of teams, with slipstreaming crucial to quick times. After the first runs, Max was third and Sergio seventh after giving his team-mate a tow, and then AlphaTauri again ran out of sequence. With Yuki running ahead on track, Pierre picked up the tow and went fourth, with Yuki eighth.

Unfortunately that’s how the session ended as Yuki then crashed at Turn 3 on his final attempt trying to improve, bringing out the red flag and preventing any further improvements.

Post-session, Lando Norris was handed a three-place grid penalty for a Red Flag infringement. His penalty means Sergio and Yuki move forward one place on the grid tomorrow, starting 6th and 7th.

Toyoharu Tanabe
Toyoharu Tanabe
Honda Racing F1
It is positive to have got all four Honda-powered cars into Q3 for the first time this season, especially as it was a tricky qualifying with red flags in all three parts of the session, although the result could have been even better. Analysing the data from yesterday and from today’s FP3 and working with both our teams, we were able to improve our overall performance and that contributed to this afternoon’s result. It was a bit frustrating that Tsunoda’s crash brought out the red flag that prevented Verstappen, Perez and Gasly from improving on a final run. However, Yuki has done well to get his first top ten grid position in F1 on his first visit to the Baku circuit. On a narrow street circuit, we can expect to see more incidents in tomorrow’s race, but all four of our cars have shown good pace this weekend, so our aim is to finish higher up the order than our start positions with all of them.

Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen 33
Red Bull Racing
Of course I’m not that happy as I was very confident we could fight for pole here as we have felt good throughout the weekend but qualifying was pretty scrappy with all the red flags and the one at the end of Q3 stopped us all improving. It is what it is and it’s unfortunate but it’s a fast street circuit and these things can happen. Of course I would have liked to start further ahead but P3 isn’t so bad. We know we have a good car so it’s still all to play for and we can fight from there. As you can see from qualifying a lot of things can happen around this circuit so let’s hope we can have a clean start and then put the pressure on. With three different teams at the front it should also be a pretty interesting race strategy wise as well and it is also about keeping your tyres alive. We are still up there so let’s see what we can do tomorrow.

Sergio Perez
Sergio Perez 11
Red Bull Racing
Today was a big shame as we’ve shown all weekend we have very good pace but today we didn’t put the lap together when it really mattered. There was so much more on offer and we obviously expected more but it is what it is. On my first Q3 run I locked up into Turn 4 and then I was chasing the time for the rest of the lap. On my second run, I was on for a great lap and then the red flag came out for Yuki and Carlos and that was that. I don’t remember there being so many red flags in a session but tomorrow is when it counts and anything can happen around this track. I think there are lots of positives to be taken so far from this weekend, the pace every single session has been there and we’ve shown good progression so we can be pleased with that. Tomorrow is a long race and there is plenty to play for so we need to get our heads down and make sure we deliver. I think we have a very strong car underneath us so a podium has to be the target.

Pierre Gasly
Pierre Gasly 10
Scuderia AlphaTauri
Honestly, it’s been a pretty incredible day. Topping the session in FP3 meant I was super excited coming into Qualifying. The pace was clearly there today, and we felt strong, we’ve pushed all weekend and I’ve just really clicked with the car here in Baku. I’m really pleased with our Quali performance, I think at the end we were still in a position to fight towards the front but P4 is great and the margins to the front row were so tight. It was a fantastic effort by the whole team, and I think we can be very proud of the progress we’re making. I’ve tried to build it up every lap here, session after session and push the limit each time and I think I’ve done that well this weekend. I’ve managed to put everything together in Q3 and we’re in a really strong position starting tomorrow’s race. Obviously Yuki’s day didn’t end as planned but he’s done really well here so far this weekend, he’s worked hard on building up his pace through the sessions and today he made it through to Q3 for the first time so he should be really pleased with that.

Yuki Tsunoda
Yuki Tsunoda 22
Scuderia AlphaTauri
It’s a really mixed feeling today, I’ve made good progress here in Azerbaijan through the weekend, which has been really positive and then I made it through to Q3 for the first time. I think there was the potential to be starting the race in a higher position, but I was just pushing too much, and it didn’t pay off today, so obviously I’m disappointed and I just want to apologise to the team. Tomorrow is a new day though and I think, compared to Monaco, overtaking is a lot easier here so that, combined with a good tyre strategy, could be good for us in the race.

Published on