Charles Leclerc hit the wall and still qualified on pole position for Saturday’s sprint race in Formula One’s first “sprint shootout” qualifying session.
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The Ferrari driver, who also qualified on pole Friday for the main Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Sunday, set a fast time midway through the last segment of the shootout but then veered into a barrier and broke his front wing. Red Bull’s Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen each had another lap to beat Leclerc’s time but fell short, with Perez placing second and Verstappen third.
The new “shootout” event is a shortened version of the usual qualifying format which decides the grid for the 17-lap sprint race. Previously, F1 race weekends had a standard qualifying session for the sprint race, then used the sprint results as the grid for the main Grand Prix. The format change is designed to encourage drivers to take more risks in the sprint race because they won’t risk being penalized for the Grand Prix.
American driver Logan Sargeant qualified 15th for the sprint after crashing in the first session of the shootout. He appeared to blame the Ferraris of Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr., who weren’t on competitive laps, for forcing him wide as he tried to pass.
“Man, the Ferraris were in the middle of the road,” Sargeant said over the radio.
Alpine’s troubled weekend continued as Esteban Ocon was 13th and Pierre Gasly 19th following what the team called a “suspected exhaust leak.” Gasly also qualified 19th for the main Grand Prix on Friday after a crash in qualifying and a fire in practice, which forced Alpine to replace the entire power unit including the exhaust.