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Leclerc secures back-to-back poles in dramatic qualifying halted a record FOUR times

Leclerc secures back-to-back poles in dramatic qualifying halted a record FOUR times

F1 News

Leclerc secures back-to-back poles in dramatic qualifying halted a record FOUR times

Leclerc secures back-to-back poles in dramatic qualifying halted a record FOUR times

Charles Leclerc secured back-to-back pole positions as a dramatic qualifying for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix was red-flagged a record-equalling four times.

Leclerc managed to gain an ideal tow from Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton that helped the Monégasque secure a lap of one minute 41.218secs, with the seven-time champion lining up alongside the Ferrari on the front row, finishing a quarter of a second back.

Leclerc claimed pole in Monaco a fortnight ago, but was unable to start the race due to a failure that materialised on his lap to the grid after crashing late on in Q3.

Current championship leader Max Verstappen starts third as the final runs in Q3 were aborted following the fourth red flag following a crash at turn three from AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda.

Before then the other red flags followed crashes in Q1 involving Aston Martin's Lance Stroll and Antonio Giovinazzi in his Alfa Romeo, and then in Q2 with McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo.

The number of stoppages equalled the record set in the 2016 Hungarian Grand Prix.

AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly, who had gained a two from Tsunoda on his banker run in Q3, starts a superb fourth, with the Japanese driver eighth.

On the starting grid in between the duo will be Ferrari's Carlos Sainz in fifth, followed by McLaren's Lando Norris and Sergio Perez in his Red Bull.

Sainz also crashed into the run-off area at turn three after witnessing Tsunoda ahead of him plough into the barrier, ripping off the front wing.

Norris, meanwhile, is under investigation for a red-flag infringement during Q1 as the Briton appeared to speed up after initially slowing down when he saw the session had been stopped.

Completing the top 10 are Alpine's Fernando Alonso and Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas, who had given Hamilton a tow that helped propel the Briton onto the front row.

It was a qualifying session that was halted after just four minutes when Stroll became the latest casualty of turn 15.

Leclerc had crashed into the barrier at that corner in second practice and Verstappen followed suit in final practice, resulting in his team being forced into repairs ahead of qualifying.

With only one timed lap on the board - from Leclerc - Stroll then brought out the first red flags by smacking his right-front wheel into the barrier, disrupting the run plan of all the drivers and teams behind him.

After an 11-minute break, a further five minutes into Q1 the session was stopped for a second time when Giovinazzi ploughed into the turn 15 barrier.

At that stage, with nine minutes and 22 seconds remaining, eight drivers had failed to post a time, including Hamilton and Bottas, along with Norris and Ricciardo.

Following another 10-minute delay, Hamilton eventually finished quickest, with Bottas down in 12th, while both McLarens also safely made it through.

The culmination was that Williams' Nicholas Latifi was knocked out along with Haas duo Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin, the trio starting 16th, 17th and 18th respectively, while on the back row will be Stroll and Giovinazzi.

Come Q2, and just when it appeared as if it would be a clean 15 minutes, Ricciardo locked up at turn three and went into a barrier, ending the session with 92 seconds remaining.

It means Ricciardo will start 13th as his woes continue with the team, and after the progress he had made so far this weekend, with Sebastian Vettel in his Aston Martin and Alpine's Esteban Ocon ahead of him.

Behind the Australian will be Kimi Raikkonen in his Alfa Romeo and George Russell whose Williams team performed wonders during the break between final practice and qualifying by undertaking a power unit change.

That was required after a water pump failure and subsequent leak led to a premature end to the Briton's final practice.

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