Leclerc sets the pace in inaugural Formula 1 Sprint Shootout

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Charles Leclerc took the top spot for the second time this weekend in an action packed inaugural Sprint Shootout around the Baku city circuit, despite the Ferrari man ending the final session in the barrier.

Charles Leclerc at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix 2023

The first Sprint weekend of the season saw the introduction of the new Sprint format, with Saturday starting with a Sprint Shootout to set the grid order for the afternoon’s sprint. With each session considerably shorter than those of qualifying, and drivers limited to a set of new medium tyres for both SQ1 and SQ2 and a set of new soft tyres for SQ3.

The compressed qualifying format saw all of the drivers scrambling to maximise their limited track time.


With shorter session times the pitlane was heavily congested at the beginning of SQ1 with almost all 20 drivers waiting for the light to go green. With just 12 minutes on the clock there was a flurry of activity as everyone rushed to hit the track.

Alex Albon for Williams was first to set a time before a flurry of opening laps saw him quickly drop down the order. As the times flooded in it quickly became apparent that yesterday’s battle between Red Bull and Ferrari would continue as the 4 drivers traded times at the top of the leaderboard.

As times dropped quickly as fuel loads burned down, Alex Albon once again jumped towards the top taking P3 just head of teammate Logan Sargeant, Albeit 0.615 off Leclerc’s 1:43.372.

The shorter session times of the sprint added to both the urgency and unpredictability as drivers put in back to back laps. The urgency proved too much for Williams’ rookie Logan Sargeant however, as he brought the session to a premature end with a big hit in T15.

Eliminated from SQ1 were De Vries, Gasly – who set only 3 laps before returning to the pits, Tsunoda – who lost out just shy of the line due to the red flag, as well as both struggling Alfa Romeos of Bottas and Zhou.


Red Bull were first out in the second session with only 10 minutes on the clock. Once again, all 15 drivers were quick to get on track with Sergio Perez the first to set a fast time with 1:42.925 before teammate Verstappen pipped him with a 1:42.417.

A braking error from Nico Hülkenberg saw him narrowly avoid the barrier on his first fast lap leaving him in the danger zone with just 5 minutes to go in the session.

The two Ferraris were last out to set a time with Leclerc taking P2 behind Verstappen and Sainz slotting into P4 behind Perez. Red Bull, confident in their early pace, elected to return Verstappen to the pits to prepare for the final session.

Eliminated from SQ2 were Sargeant – who was unable to set a time due to his SQ1 incident, both Haas drivers; Hülkenberg and Magnussen, Piastri as well as Ocon.


Anxious to get times on the board in the final 8 minute session, both Red Bull drivers queued in the pitlane a full four minutes ahead of the beginning of the session. Perez quickly staked his claim to the top spot with a 1:41.876, just over 2 tenths ahead of his teammate who suffered a slide at the beginning of sector 2.

Leclerc however jumped to the top as he set his opening lap with a blistering 1:41.697, just shy of 2 tenths ahead of the quickest Red Bull.

As the drivers crept around the circuit in order to cool off their soft tyres, the clock ticked ever closer to zero with the 9 drivers on track hoping to gain in their second fast lap.

The Red Bull’s were unable to match Leclerc’s impressive opening lap, leaving the Ferrari man to claim a second pole position of the weekend, despite an error in turn 5 seeing him end his session in the wall.

Aston Martin languished at the bottom of the SQ3 runners due to their returning DRS issue, only ahead of Norris who was unable to run due to his lack of soft tyres. A strong showing from Mercedes saw Russell take P4 ahead of Sainz, who lost out due to his teammate’s incident.

Azerbaijan Grand Prix Sprint Shootout classification
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