Sunday, June 26, 2022

Leclerc takes pole at Azerbaijan Grand Prix as Hamilton takes on Stewards

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Charles Leclerc put his Ferrari on pole for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, while Lewis Hamilton faced an investigation by the stewards for “unnecessarily slow driving”.

Leclerc, nine points adrift of leader Max Verstappen in the championship standings, recovered from his misery in Monaco two weeks ago to stun his rivals.

The Monegasque edged out Sergio Perez by 0.282s, who took advantage of Leclerc’s flat-footed Ferrari team at Monte Carlo to claim his third career win.

World Champion Verstappen starts in third place, one place ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz. George Russell has beaten teammate Hamilton for the fifth time in eight rounds this season.

Russell starts Sunday from fifth, two places ahead of Hamilton, who could fall further behind if he is penalized for his qualifying offense.

Hamilton, who finished a staggering 1.6s behind Leclerc and two tenths behind Russell, appeared to be delaying his compatriot Lando Norris in the final minutes of Q2.

While Hamilton advanced to the top 10 shootout, Norris retired and finished in 11th place.

Norris’ race engineer Will Joseph said to his Hamilton driver: “He’s the lead car, he’s going to get in trouble. Don’t let him play dumb.”

After his sixth pole of the season and fourth in a row, Leclerc said: “All poles feel good but I didn’t expect this one because I thought the Red Bulls were stronger.

“But the last lap went well and I’m extremely happy. I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”

Hamilton, who goes into Sunday’s race 75 points behind leaders Verstappen, has endured a difficult weekend here and has been warned by his team not to slow down on his out-lap.

He responded by saying, “I don’t know what you expect of me sometimes, man.”

Hamilton was called to the stewards at 8.20pm local time (5.20pm) and faces a possible grid drop if found guilty of a rule violation.

Hamilton’s Mercedes team continues to struggle with porpoises here.

“The car has hit a dangerous low,” Hamilton said as he hit speeds nearing 220 mph.

Q1 was abandoned just two and a half minutes after Lance Stroll crashed.

Just moments after hitting the guard rail, before reversing out of trouble, the Canadian crashed into the wall a second time.

Stroll took too much speed through the second turn, losing control of his Aston Martin and collecting tire lockup.

Stroll had to park his wounded machine when race director Niels Wittich raised the red flag.

A 10-minute delay for track repairs followed before a frantic sprint to avoid a crash at the first hurdle. Haas’ Kevin Magnussen and Williams’ Alex Albon and Nicholas Latifi were eliminated.

The struggling Mick Schumacher also failed to improve and will compete in 20th and final place for the race.

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