Valtteri Bottas will start on the pole position for Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix after posting the fastest lap in a wild qualifying session that saw Charles Leclerc fail to advance to Q3 after hitting the outside wall in turn 8.
The Ferrari rookie was a favorite for the pole, having set the fastest time in all three of the weekend’s practice sessions. Leclerc’s luck quickly disappeared when he brought out a red flag by hitting the same wall that Robert Kubica hit in Q1. Both drivers walked away from their accidents.
“No excuses. I’ve been useless. I will push to have a better tomorrow,” Leclerc tweeted following his accident in Q2
“Sorry to all the people supporting us and even more to the whole team that deserved so much better.”
Leclerc’s misfortune was all that Mercedes duo of Bottas and Lewis Hamilton needed to sweep the front row once again.
Bottas took the pole with an elapsed time of 1:40.495, with Hamilton (1:40:554) starting second in Sunday’s Grand Prix.
“It’s a nice feeling to get [pole] on the last lap,” Bottas told reporters following qualifying.
“Ferrari have been really quick. It’s all about the small margins. I managed to hit the sweet spot.”
Sebastian Vettel (1:40.797) will start Sunday’s Grand Prix from the third position, with Max Verstappen (1:41:069), Sergio Perez (1:41:593) and Daniil Kvyatt (1:41:681) starting fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively.
Leclerc will start Sunday’s race from the 10th position.
The Red Bull Racing pit crew may have already made headlines last weekend when it completed the fastest pit stop in Formula One history, changing Max Verstappen’s tires in 1.82 seconds, but the team’s most recent stunt took their skills to new heights – quite literally.
With the help of the Russian Space agency Roscomos, a group of the team’s mechanics completed the world’s first zero-gravity pit stop, on-board a IIyushin II-76K cosmonaut training plane.
Using a 2005 BR1, the team filmed the viral video over the course of a week, enduring seven flights and about 80 parabolas – periods in which the plane climbs 45 degrees before falling again at a ballistic arch of 45 degrees, creating a period of weightlessness for approximately 22 seconds.
With such a short time frame between weightlessness periods, the car and equipment had to be both quickly and safely secured before gravity once again took effect. Each filming lasted roughly 15 seconds, and the stunt was the most physically and technically demanding activity the live demo team had ever undertaken.
“It pushed us harder than I thought it would,” said Red Bull Support Team Mechanic Joe Robinson. “You realize how much you rely on gravity when you don’t have any!
“It challenges you to think and operate in a different way – and that was brilliant. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and honestly, I could have stayed and done it all month. It was amazing. I think it’s the coolest, most fun thing the Live Demo team has ever done with a show car.”
Though Red Bull was the first team to perform a pit stop in zero gravity, surprisingly Red Bull was not the first team to put a car through zero gravity. In 1999, McLaren driver David Coulthard and his car experienced zero gravity as part of a promotion for then-sponsor West Cigarettes.