Charles Leclerc did it again this afternoon, clinching pole position for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix that will take place tomorrow. But Leclerc on pole is nothing new in the 2022 Formula One season.
The Ferrari driver had another one of this final-lap-of-Q3 moments when he just drives like his life depends on it, pulling off a better-than-perfect sector (this time sector 2) and finishing ahead of the two Red Bull cars (Perez took 2nd, Verstappen in 3rd this time).
In fact, this was Leclerc’s 6th Pole of the season (heading into race #8), but he hasn’t finished 1st on Sunday since race number 3 of the season in Australia. This is his 4th consecutive pole position, but something always happens on Sunday.
In Miami, he was hunted down by Verstappen, who enjoys the superior top and straight-line speed in his Red Bull car, while the defending champion also enjoyed better tire management throughout the race.
In Barcelona, Leclerc seemed to be cruising to victory but was forced to retire while leading the race due to a turbo and MGU-H failure. In Monaco, his hometown race where a supposed curse strikes him every time, it was terrible race strategy from his team that cost him and his teammate a win for Ferrari.
And so, now everyone seems to be waiting for what will cost him the race this time. Looking at the telemetry and numbers, it might be pretty straightforward, like in Miami: Leclerc might have gotten that one-lap win over the Red Bulls, but over a whole race, the 9-10 KPH advantage Perez and Verstappen have might be too much.
Perez, in his post-race interview, said something that makes a lot of sense, regardless of car performance by Ferrari and Red Bull: In Baku, you need patience. Because of the track and its obstacles, safety cars, red flags, and crashes, are more likely to happen than not.
Verstappen seemed on course for victory in Baku last year, but one of his tires blew up and after the restart, which involved Lewis Hamilton bottling a win due to his magic button mistake, Perez ended up crossing the line first for his first win in a Red Bull car.
Don’t get me wrong – Leclerc NEEDS this win badly, or at least to outscore Verstappen, which hasn’t happened in any race that the Dutchman has finished this season. But if the ‘S%^& happens’ tagline should be used for almost every race on the calendar (except for maybe Monaco, usually), you can double down on that sentiment for Baku.
Leclerc is proving time and time again (hence the Time Trial Merchant joke going around Twitter) that he’s probably the best on the grid right now when it comes to qualifying. Unfortunately for him, it hasn’t translated into more than 2 wins.
Image via Wikipedia