Lewis Hamilton narrowly saw off Valtteri Bottas to claim pole position on Saturday, in qualifying for this weekend's Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Hamilton - who now has 66 Formula 1 pole positions to his name, second only to Michael Schumacher - will start alongside his team mate on the front row in only the second Mercedes 1-2 lock-out of the season.
"That was one of the most exciting laps I've had all year," Hamilton said afterwards, while Bottas was understandably more subdued after missing out on what would have been his second career pole.
The start of Q3 had seen the two Mercedes drivers in a class of their own, engaged in a private duel in which Bottas initially had the upper hand. Despite reporting a vibration, Hamilton opted to stay out and go for another qualifying effort.
However, Hamilton was thwarted by a red flag with 3:33s remaining on the clock. It was caused by Daniel Ricciardo coming to a halt on track having lost the back end of the Red Bull going through turn 6 and clouting the back end of the car on outside wall.
When the session resumed, all drivers were seriously up against it to get their tyres up to speed and still put in a qualifying effort. Even under these conditions, Bottas was able to shave off a further two tenths from his earlier, time. However it wasn't enough, and Hamilton crossed the line in 1:40.593s to put him 0.434s clear.
Last to cross the line, the two Ferraris managed to lock up the second row of the grid with Kimi Raikkonen just out-duelling his team mate Sebastian Vettel for position. Vettel was narrowly faster than Red Bull's Max Verstappen, with the Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon claiming sixth and seventh positions.
The two Williams drivers were most affected by the red flag, having not set a time before the stoppage. Lance Stroll ended up in eighth place ahead of his team mate Felipe Massa, while Ricciardo will start from tenth place once his car is repaired.
Mercedes hangs back before setting the pace in Q1
The risk of interruptions and the need for two warm-up laps before putting in a flier meant everyone was quick to stream out from pit lane. Only the two Mercedes drivers decided to hang back for a moment. Quick work by Red Bull had addressed the hydraulic issue on Verstappen's RB13 following his FP3 issues, while Ferrari had carried out a precautionary engine change on Vettel's car.
Stroll set the early pace with a time of 1:44.944s but that was soon bettered by both Red Bulls, Verstappen opening his account with a 1:43.750s. Both Force Indias soon went faster, and Raikkonen then arrived at the top with a lap of 1:43.419s.
Verstappen lowered the bar by another half a second but was then immediately knocked off the top by Hamilton. He continued to lower the benchmark time until he was happy with 1:41.983s. Bottas made his début in the top four, but was later pushed back to seventh by faster laps from Ricciardo, Kvyat and Vettel.
There were some minor run-offs during Q1 for Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz and Haas' Kevin Magnussen. Massa also had a close encounter with the wall, as did Ocon who reported "I've touched the left rear and the front." None of the incidents required more than brief local waved yellows.
Only four drivers - Haas' Romain Grosjean, Sauber's Marcus Ericsson and grid penalty-hit McLaren pair Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne - were eliminated at the end of Q1. That's because Jolyon Palmer was unable to take part after his Renault suffered a high pressure fuel leak and fire during FP3. Race stewards will need to confirm he can still take part in Sunday's race, starting from the back of the grid.
Full commitment from Massa sees him through to Q3
As in Q1, the second round of qualifying also saw a brisk start for the remaining 15 drivers still involved. Supersoft tyres continued to be the only compound in use. A wild on-the-limit lap from Massa put the Williams on top with a time of 1:43.739s. His team mate Stroll went half a second faster before Raikkonen went to a whole new level with an effort of 1:42.114s.
Bottas was able to pip that by less than a tenth, before Hamilton went four hundredths of a second faster to put him on top. The Briton then stamped his authority on Q2 with a subsequent 1:41.275s to put him far out of reach of the rest. Vettel's best response was still over six tenths off Hamilton's time but good enough for second ahead of Verstappen, Bottas, Raikkonen and Ricciardo.
Both Williams made the cut, Massa having to push so hard that he sent sparks flying as he brushed the wall in turn 15 during his final run. Missing out on Q3 were both Toro Rossos of Kvyat and Sainz. Magnussen was also eliminated along with Renault's Nico Hulkenberg (who suffered an electrical fault) and Sauber's Pascal Wehrlein.
|5||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||1:42.544s||1:41.961s||1:41.879s|
|6||Sergio Pérez||Force India||1:43.162s||1:42.467s||1:42.111s|
|7||Esteban Ocon||Force India||1:43.051s||1:42.751s||1:42.186s|
|10||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||1:42.857s||1:42.215s||1:43.414s|
|11||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||1:42.927s||1:43.186s|
|12||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso||1:43.489s||1:43.347s|
- Carlos Sainz has a three-place grid penalty from Montreal
- Fernando Alonso has a 40-place grid penalty for engine changes
- Stoffel Vandoorne has a 30-place grid penalty for engine changes
- Jolyon Palmer will need permission to race from race stewards