George Russell fears 'major incident' due to 'dangerous' F1 cars

·31 min read
George Russell - AFP
George Russell - AFP

British driver George Russell has called Formula One’s new era of cars “dangerous”, a “recipe for disaster” and fears it is only a “matter of time” before there is a major accident.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc will line up at the front of the pack for today's Azerbaijan Grand Prix after claiming his fourth pole position on the bounce. Sergio Perez starts second ahead of championship leader Max Verstappen in the other Red Bull.

Russell is fifth on the grid, two spots ahead of seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton.

But in the moments after he out-qualified his more illustrious Mercedes team-mate for the fifth time in eight appearances, Russell expressed his grave concerns that Sunday’s race on the streets of Baku could be overshadowed by a high-speed crash.

The new generation of F1 machines, introduced this season, and masterminded by motorsport executive Ross Brawn in the hope of providing closer racing, have been plagued by porpoising – the phenomenon where the car bounces on its suspension.

“It is definitely dangerous and it is just a matter of time before we see a major incident,” said Russell, 24.

“It is brutal. We are being shaken to pieces and I can barely see where to brake at the end of the straight because we are bouncing around so much. I don’t think we are the only car. Half of the grid are in the same boat, including Ferrari.

“A lot of us can barely keep the car in a straight line over the bumps and we are going round the last two corners at 200mph, with concrete walls either side of us, which is not a comfortable position to be in.

“It is unnecessary, with the technology that we have, that we are running a Formula One car millimetres from the ground. It is a recipe for disaster. I don’t know what the future holds but we cannot sustain this for three more years or however long these regulations are in place for.”

The topic was raised with F1’s governing body, the FIA, in the drivers’ briefing on Friday night. Hamilton, who finished an eye-watering 1.6 seconds off the pace on Saturday, revealed he has been receiving acupuncture treatment from his trainer, the New Zealander Angela Cullen, in a bid to combat pain caused by the high-speed bouncing.

“I couldn’t finish my long run in practice on Friday because my back was a real mess,” said the 37-year-old. “Thank God for Angela for giving me physio and acupuncture every night.

“I woke up in pain this morning. The bouncing is not as bad on the straights, but it is through the corners where we are trying to keep the car out of the wall. There is not a lot we can do to stop it, but we can’t have this car for four years so they do need to work it out.”

Hamilton, who heads into Sunday’s race 75 points adrift of championship leader Verstappen, was summoned to see the stewards at 8.20pm on a charge of driving “unnecessarily slowly” during an out-lap, and delaying countryman Lando Norris.

But one hour later, the seven-time world champion was given the all-clear, and retains his starting slot of seventh. Norris is 11th on the grid.

On Mercedes’ woes, Hamilton added: “We accept the reality we are presented with. I was here until 1:30am last night. The mechanics and the engineers had left, and I was here studying, and working with the guys back at the factory. I drove two days on the simulator this week, and I am giving it everything I can.”

Leclerc, who trails Verstappen by nine points, bounced back from his Monaco misery a fortnight ago, to blow away his rivals.

Leclerc has not managed to convert a pole into victory since the third race of the season in Australia, since when he has seen a 46-point championship lead turn into a nine-point deficit to Verstappen.

Pole position qualifier Charles Leclerc of Monaco and Ferrari celebrates in parc ferme during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Azerbaijan at Baku City Circuit on June 11, 2022 in Baku, Azerbaijan - Dan Istitene - Formula 1 
Pole position qualifier Charles Leclerc of Monaco and Ferrari celebrates in parc ferme during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Azerbaijan at Baku City Circuit on June 11, 2022 in Baku, Azerbaijan - Dan Istitene - Formula 1

Red Bull have taken four consecutive victories in that time - but two of them have come after an engine failure that cost Leclerc victory in Spain and a strategy foul-up that dropped him from first to fourth in Monaco

The Ferrari driver saw off  Perez, who took advantage of Leclerc’s flat-footed Ferrari team on Monte Carlo’s famous streets to claim his third career win, by 0.282 sec.

“All poles feel good but this one I did not expect because I thought the Red Bulls were stronger,” said Leclerc. “But the last lap came together and I am extremely happy. I am really excited for tomorrow.”

Perez felt pole might have slipped through his fingers, as an engine problem in the garage meant he left the pits late and did not have the benefit of a slipstream on his final lap.

The same applied to Verstappen, who had been due to be towed by Perez but had to go out on his own after the technical problem.

Verstappen said: "The start of the lap was good and then it went away from me a bit, tiny mistakes. Not what I want but being second and third we have a good opportunity for tomorrow.

"We seem to lack a little bit on the one lap but over a long run our car should be quite good."

Q1 had been red-flagged with just two-and-a-half minutes remaining after Lance Stroll crashed out.

Only moments after thudding the barrier, before reversing out of trouble, the Canadian driver hit the wall for a second time.

Stroll carried too much speed through the second bend, losing control of his Aston Martin and collecting the tyre barrier.

Stroll was forced to park his wounded machine as race director Niels Wittich deployed the red flag.

A 10-minute delay ensued for track repairs before a frantic dash to avoid falling at the first hurdle. Haas' Kevin Magnussen and Alex Albon and Nicholas Latifi of Williams were eliminated.

The struggling Mick Schumacher also failed to improve and will line up in 20th and last position for the race.

Azerbaijan Grand Prix qualifying classification

  1. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari 1:41.359

  2. Sergio Perez, Red Bull 1:41.641

  3. Max Verstappen, Red Bull 1:41.706

  4. Carlos Sainz, Ferrari 1:41.814

  5. George Russell, Mercedes 1:42.712

  6. Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri 1:42.845

  7. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes 1:42.924

  8. Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri 1:43.056

  9. Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin 1:43.091

  10. Fernando Alonso, Alpine 1:43.173

  11. Lando Norris, McLaren 1:43.398

  12. Daniel Ricciardo, 1:43.574

  13. Esteban Ocon, Alpine 1:43.903

  14. Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo 1:43.790

  15. Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo 1:44.444

  16. Kevin Magnussen, Haas 1:44.643

  17. Alexander Albon, Williams 1:44.719

  18. Nicholas Latifi, Williams 1:45.367

  19. Lance Stroll, Aston Martin 1:45.371

  20. Mick Schumacher, Haas 1:45.775

Qualifying, as it happened

05:00 PM

Lewis Hamilton speaks

It was the same in Monaco, so, it's the same. There's lots to look forward to, it's a tricky and chaotic race, there's lots than can happen.. It was a really difficult qualifying session, we have a very small window where we can work this car. Everything we try [doesn't help]. We say let's just take a beating in our backs and necks and make the car lower to get the performance.

He says that all the changes they make do not make a difference. It comes to the same end: bouncing. On the driving slowly issue he says that he was within his 'delta' time and was off-line, so hopes he's okay.

04:58 PM

Toto Wolff says it's fifth and sixth at best for Mercedes

Not telling us anything we didn't know, but also says the gap is huge. Again, nothing we didn't know. This is just where Mercedes are at the moment. Adrift in third.

04:45 PM

Leclerc reacts to his fourth consecutive pole

Three previous poles and no wins, though. In Miami Red Bull just had better race pace, in Spain there was a mechanical issue and in Monaco it was the rain and strategy that did for him. He's only nine points behind Verstappen so it feels a bit odd to say he desperately needs a win, but he probably does.

04:41 PM

Perez on a front-row start

04:38 PM

Verstappen reacts to third

Not his best day.

04:38 PM

Leclerc was just so on the edge in that qualifying session

He had a couple of laps in Q2 and Q3 which had small but significant mistakes, which cost him probably a couple of tenths both times. Strung it all together again in the end, though, just like he did in Barcelona and Monaco...

Mandatory Credit: Photo by ALI HAIDER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (12981262dr) Monaco's Formula One driver Charles Leclerc of Scuderia Ferrari in action during qualifying of the Formula One Grand Prix of Azerbaijan at the Baku City Circuit in Baku, Azerbaijan, 11 June 2022. The Formula One Grand Prix of Azerbaijan will take place on 12 June 2022 - ALI HAIDER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock 
Mandatory Credit: Photo by ALI HAIDER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (12981262dr) Monaco's Formula One driver Charles Leclerc of Scuderia Ferrari in action during qualifying of the Formula One Grand Prix of Azerbaijan at the Baku City Circuit in Baku, Azerbaijan, 11 June 2022. The Formula One Grand Prix of Azerbaijan will take place on 12 June 2022 - ALI HAIDER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

04:35 PM

Hamilton could well take a grid penalty

04:34 PM

Or maybe it was an engine issue for Perez

He says in his post-qualifying interview that they couldn't start the car. We will see.

04:32 PM

Perez was under-fuelled, hence him being left in the garage longer

And that meant he didn't get a tow. Would that have cost him pole? It would have made it more likely. Probably at least explains why the gap was as big as it was.

04:30 PM

Azerbaijan GP qualifying - Top 10 and gaps

  1. LEC 1:41.359

  2. PER +0.282

  3. VER +0.347

  4. SAI +0.455

  5. RUS +1.353

  6. GAS +1.486

  7. HAM +1.565

  8. TSU +1.697

  9. VET +1.732

  10. ALO  +1.814

04:28 PM

CHARLES LECLERC TAKES POLE FOR THE 2022 AZERBAIJAN GRAND PRIX

Another supreme lap. Can he make it count tomorrow?

Hamilton only seventh, Russell fifth. Two tenths the difference.

Sainz made a mess of his final lap. It's 8-0 to Leclerc in qualifying now.

04:27 PM

Q3 - Perez goes second!

He beats Verstappen for the second race running! Decent, but Leclerc makes it another pole position!

04:27 PM

Q3 - Verstappen fastest in the final sector

But he's three tenths down! Second only.

Perez is roughly on Verstappen's time after two sectors... it will be too much to beat Leclerc surely but can he beat his team-mate?

04:26 PM

Q3 - Leclerc is up by half a second after two sectors!

That is going to take some beating!

Verstappen is half a second off that after two sectors!

It's a 1:41.359s for Leclerc! Mega lap to go fastest!

04:25 PM

Q3 - Sainz sets a poor first sector time

He's nearly half a second off the pace there.

What does Leclerc do? He is up by 0.114s...

Verstappen? He's there or thereabouts... 0.052s slower than Sainz's best but a tenth or so away from Leclerc at the moment.

04:24 PM

Q3 - Hot laps under way

Sainz the lead car of the top four. Then it'll be Leclerc, Verstappen and Perez, who is some way behind.

Sainz getting very close to the wall, if not touching it, in the first sector.

04:23 PM

Q3 - Final runs under way

Perez isn't out of the garage yet though. Verstappen queried why he was ahead, but the reason was an issue with the Mexican's car.

04:22 PM

Q3 - Hamilton not happy

"The cars bottoming out a dangerous amount," he says.

04:21 PM

Q3 - Five mins remain

Replays show Perez brushing the wall (a bit harder than a kiss) on his hot lap. Would it have been a tenth's worth of time? Maybe. I think Leclerc has extra pace here, but can he unlock it?

04:21 PM

Q3 - Top 10 and gaps after the first runs

  1. SAI 1:41.814

  2. LEC +0.047

  3. PER +0.126

  4. VER +0.175

  5. GAS +1.031

  6. RUS +1.164

  7. VET +1.277

  8. HAM +1.579

  9. ALO +1.862

  10. TSU +1.917

04:20 PM

Q3 - Sainz posts a 1:41.814

Leclerc doesn't beat it! It's close, just 0.047s in it.

Perez is third and Verstappen only fourth... close to his team-mate but 0.175s off the lead Ferrari.

Leclerc had a rear slide in middle sector which cost him time.

04:18 PM

Q3 - Sainz with a 41.057 in the middle sector

Leclerc responss with a 31.031, Perez with a 41.180... Verstappen makes up two tenths nearly on his team-mate...

04:18 PM

Q3 - It's a 35.729 for Sainz in sector one

Leclerc is marginally quicker than that, Perez is a tenth behind...

Verstappen well off that...

04:17 PM

Q3 - First runs under way

Perez very close to the back of Leclerc in the middle sector. He then backs off a bit to give him some space.

04:14 PM

Q3 begins!

12 minutes to go. Fernando Alonso out early.

04:13 PM

Did Leclerc hit the wall?

Replays and this photo: inconclusive.

04:11 PM

Vettel made it through in the end after his shunt

He finished on the podium here last year. And that's a good effort here.

Replays showing Hamilton almost came to a stop on the track before his final flying lap. He could be investigated for that. It might be a penalty, but we will see.

04:09 PM

Q2 - Top 10

  1. PER 1:41.955

  2. LEC +0.091

  3. SAI +0.133

  4. VER +0.272

  5. GAS +1.174

  6. HAM +1.227

  7. VET +1.313

  8. RUS +1.326

  9. ALO +1.405

  10. TSU +1.421

Russell's lap there was a bit of a sacrificial one to help Hamilton, it seemed.

04:08 PM

Q2 ends - Drivers eliminated

11. NOR
12. RIC
13. OCO
14. ZHO
15. BOT

04:08 PM

Q2 - Norris looking good after two sectors

Ricciardo is currently 13th, but only improves to 12th.

Norris has aborted his lap, so it is two McLarens out. Not by a huge margin, though.

04:07 PM

Q2 - Final runs being completed

Norris needs to find lap time to improve to get into the top 10... but he can't do it. He went straight on at turn three, so that's two McLarens out and not in the top 10. Currently.

Ricciardo still has time to do it... and Norris might as well, actually. He has another lap.

04:05 PM

Q2 - Perez leads, Leclerc, Sainz, Verstappen and Gasly as it stands

Hamilton struggling to get out of Q2 here, but he's going okay here... nothing special as he heads into the final sector. He's getting a tow from Russell.

Hamilton improves, with that tow, to go into sixth. Should be fine with that? Maybe.

04:04 PM

Q2 - Drivers in the drop zone

11. HAM
12. OCO
13. RIC
14. ZHO 
15. BOT

Hamilton a little grumpy on the radio...

Verstappen brushed the wall with his rear left at turn seven, which might explain his deficit on the second laps.

One minute to go...

04:03 PM

Q2 - Leclerc can't do it...

0.091s slower. It's only Q2, though, so the important thing is getting into the top 10. But it looks tight at the top, doesn't it?

Bottas struggling here. Hamilton has been noted for driving unnecessarily slowly. Nothing more than that at the moment, mind you.

04:02 PM

Q2 - Verstappen does not improve on his second lap

But Leclerc is on a decent lap here... 0.062s down on Perez after two sectors... this could be tight.

04:01 PM

Q2 - Perez goes fastest in the middle sector

Can he go fastest overall? Yes, by 0.133s.

Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB18 on track during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Azerbaijan at Baku City Circuit on June 11, 2022 in Baku, Azerbaijan - Getty Images Europe 
Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB18 on track during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Azerbaijan at Baku City Circuit on June 11, 2022 in Baku, Azerbaijan - Getty Images Europe

04:00 PM

Q2 - Vettel into the wall!

He locks up and goes in slowly at turn 15 and is able to back out and keep going... another Aston Martin in the wall. he has made it back to the pits, though.

03:59 PM

Q2 - Top 10 and gaps after the first quick laps

  1. SAI 1:42.088

  2. LEC +0.094

  3. VER +0.139

  4. PER +0.170

  5. GAS +1.041

  6. RUS +1.193

  7. VET +1.232

  8. ALO +1.272

  9. TSU +1.277

  10. NOR +1.372

In the drop zone: HAM, OCO, RIC, ZHO, BOT

Leclerc's lap left some time out there as he lost the rear on putting his foot down at turn 16. Would have cost him at least a tenth or two...

03:56 PM

Q2 - And Sainz does beat it to go fastest!

Leclerc is coming along now... but he is down on his team-mate, by 0.094s!

03:56 PM

Q2 - Hamilton only ninth...

As Russell goes into the top four for now. Sainz likely to beat that, though.

03:55 PM

Q2 - Perez crosses the line with a 1:42.258

Verstappen makes up more time in the final sector to go faster by 0.031s. It's tight at Red Bull.

Gasly into third, within a second, Vettel fourth and Tsunoda fifth. Ricciardo well adrift in seventh.

What can Hamilton and Russell do?

03:54 PM

Q2 - Perez sets a 35.893 in S1

That's a couple of tenths, nearly, ahead of Verstappen.

A 41.263 om sector two for the Mexican but Verstappen beats it by a tenth...

03:51 PM

Q2 begins - 15 mins to go

10 drivers to go through, five to go out.

03:50 PM

Albon not happy with Alonso on the final lap

He said he was driving so slowly and drove up the escape road on purpose. He made it through, remember.

03:49 PM

Watch: The Stroll crash that caused the red flag

03:48 PM

Q1 - Top 10 and gaps

  1. VER

  2. PER +0.011

  3. LEC +0.143

  4. SAI +0.235

  5. GAS +0.546

  6. VET +0.557

  7. TSU +0.873

  8. RUS +1.032

  9. ZHO +1.055

  10. OCO +1.181

Also through: HAM, ALO, NOR, RIC, BOT

03:46 PM

Q1 - Drivers eliminated

16. MAG
17. ALB
18. LAT
19. STR
20. MSC

Another fine performance from Albon. Six-tenths ahead of Latifi. As it has been most of the year.

03:46 PM

Q1 ends - Bottas does make it through

Those behind him on track and in the order fail to improve.

03:45 PM

Q1 - Hamilton not on an excellent lap so far

Gasly is, though. Hamilton has improved in the second sector, however, so should improve.

Hamilton crosses the line to stay ninth, though he does improve. Russell improves to sixth. Gasly into fifth.

Yellow flags in sector two, who is it? Alonso, I think.

Bottas into 15th for now but will that be enough? It might be you know.

03:43 PM

Q1 - One minute remains

Who will or won't get a lap in? Schumacher has told he needs to "push like hell" to get across the line. Actually, everyone is going to get a lap in here. Ignore what I said earlier. It was quite a frantic and quick lap, but not sure those at the end of the line will get a clean lap in...

03:42 PM

GREEN FLAG: Q1 resumes

Two minutes and 30 seconds left. I think maybe half these cars will get a lap in. And half won't. That is how halves work, yes. This is going to get a bit aggy...

03:40 PM

Q1 - "Without a tow I'm going to be in trouble," Hamilton says

I think he's safe here. I don't think enough cars behind him a) have the pace and b) will be able to get a hot lap in, given Hamilton can control the pace at the front initially.

03:36 PM

Q1 - SESSION TO RESUME IN FIVE MINUTES

There are already about 10 or 12 cars queuing up now with Mercedes at the front.

03:36 PM

Q1 - Order under the red flag

There are 2:30 remaining on the clock. Which is just about enough time for some drivers to get in another lap... but not everyone.

  1. VER 1:42.722

  2. PER +0.011

  3. LEC +0.143

  4. SAI +0.235

  5. VET +0.557

  6. ZHO +1.055

  7. RUS +1.059

  8. OCO +1.181

  9. HAM +1.230

  10. GAS +1.313

  11. ALO +1.361

  12. NOR +1.515

  13. TSU +1.696

  14. RIC +1.715

  15. MAG +1.921
    DROP ZONE: 

  16. ALB

  17. BOT

  18. LAT

  19. STR

  20. MSC

03:33 PM

Q1 - It's an unforced error by Stroll at turn two

He went in too hot and slid into the barriers on the exit. I don't think he went into the pits to change his tyres, nor his front wing. Could that have caused him problems? Anyway, it's another big error from a man who seems to be making too many of them at the moment.

03:32 PM

Q1 - RED FLAG

His front wing is off the track, his front right is finished but still attached. Has he hit the wall again or did his front wing fail underneath him causing a crash? Not sure. It's all a bit of a mess.

03:31 PM

Q1 - Drivers in the elimination zone

16. ALB
17. BOT
18. LAT
19. STR
20. MSC

Bottas struggling here. Zhou doing very well in sixth as Vettel goes fifth.

03:30 PM

Q1 - Hamilton into eighth with his fastest lap

Still a tenth or so off Russell.

Stroll locks up and slides into the barriers at turn eight. He will need a new front wing but manages to reverse out and carry on...

03:30 PM

Q1 - Top 10 and gaps

  1. VER

  2. PER +0.011

  3. LEC +0.143

  4. SAI +0.235

  5. ZHO +1.055

  6. RUS +1.059

  7. OCO +1.181

  8. GAS +1.313

  9. ALO +1.361

  10. NOR +1.515

Hamilton on another hot lap... it looks better.

03:28 PM

Q1 - Red Bull going even better here

Ferrari opted to do one cool-down lap before doing another hot lap, Red Bull have done two cool-down laps.

Dutch Formula One driver Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing in action during the third practice session of the Formula One Grand Prix of Azerbaijan at the Baku City Circuit in Baku, Azerbaijan, 11 June 2022 - ALI HAIDER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock 
Dutch Formula One driver Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing in action during the third practice session of the Formula One Grand Prix of Azerbaijan at the Baku City Circuit in Baku, Azerbaijan, 11 June 2022 - ALI HAIDER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Perez crosses the line to go fastest by 0.132s. Can Verstappen beat that? He can and he does... 0.011s quicker than his team-mate.

03:26 PM

Q1 - Ferraris on their second laps here

Sainz moves second, 0.019s off Verstappen. Can Leclerc beat that? Yes he can, he goes fastest of anyone. 0.073s ahead of Verstappen. It's tight between the top three now.

Vettel had a lock up and went straight on at turn three, I think.

03:24 PM

Q1 - Top 10 at the moment

  1. VER

  2. PER

  3. LEC

  4. RUS

  5. SAI

  6. OCO

  7. GAS

  8. ALO

  9. NOR

  10. VET

In the drop zone: ALB, LAT, STR, MSC, BOT (NO TIME)

03:23 PM

Q1 - 11 mins remain

Russell goes fourth with a decent time, ahead of Sainz. But still a long way off Verstappen. 0.843s to be precise. Leclerc had slotted into third, just 0.027s off Perez in second.

03:22 PM

Q1 - Verstappen sets the pace early on

His time is 0.260s quicker than team-mate Perez. Sainz third, but nearly a second off the pace. Hamilton seventh, a whole 1.5s off Verstappen. Not really sure what happened to Russell, looks like he aborted his lap.

A bit of positioning hassle between Russell and Verstappen when they were setting their laps up.

03:21 PM

Q1 - Ocon quickest after the first four runners

His lap of 1:44.297 puts him ahead of Alonso, Gasly, Norris and Mick Schumacher.

Verstappen going well, around a second up on Hamilton after two sectors. This is going to be a tasty time.

03:19 PM

Q1 - Hamilton complaining of a soft brake pedal

Norris will be the first man to set a lap time.

03:17 PM

Q1 - 17 mins to go

It's a slooooow release from the pit lane. Hamilton is still sitting there a minute later, with a few cars remaining ahead of him.

03:16 PM

GREEN LIGHT: Q1 begins

18 minutes. 20 drivers, 15 through and five go out.

03:15 PM

A few cars are out in the pit lane already

Keen.

A chance of red flags here, always, so that makes sense. Get your banker in.

03:12 PM

Under five minutes to go now

Predictions? Will Mattia Binotto be correct? Will it be a Red Bull on pole? And which one? I am going for Perez on pole here.

03:06 PM

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto is speaking to Sky Sports F1

I think he will get on pole today. I think in FP3 they have been very strong this morning. Having said that it's very tight, it's a matter of a tenth or two. Let's try to build the lap time. I think we will certainly do out best.

He says he won't plan for his drivers to give each other slipstreams. It is powerful on the straight but can cause problems in the first part of the track. It might happen by accident, though, he says.

03:04 PM

Some work going on in the Mercedes garages

On both cars. Possibly some issues due to kerb usage. I sincerely doubt there is any risk of them not making the session.

03:00 PM

Timings could be a problem if the session is crash-packed

Let's hope it is not...

Or, at least, let us hope we can get it done in a reasonable amount of time. 15 minutes to go...

02:53 PM

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02:47 PM

This is interesting...

Well, I think it is. Says a bit about how Verstappen is (relatively) struggling and Perez is in fine form. The car just seems to suit his optimal driving style a bit more.

02:43 PM

Qualifying head-to-heads so far this year

Leclerc, Albon and Bottas all with 100 per cent records over their team-mates. Will they be able to continue that today? It looks like it...

02:38 PM

It is a bit of a weird track here

But it can provide good racing, is a challenge for the drivers and also leads to some pretty neat photos over the weekend.

Formula One F1 - Azerbaijan Grand Prix - Baku City Circuit, Baku, Azerbaijan - June 11, 2022 Red Bull's Sergio Perez during practice  - REUTERS
Formula One F1 - Azerbaijan Grand Prix - Baku City Circuit, Baku, Azerbaijan - June 11, 2022 Red Bull's Sergio Perez during practice - REUTERS

02:36 PM

Good to see Hamilton back with his yellow helmet

Though he did actually switch to it in Monaco mid-race stoppage last time.

He has only won once here in five attempts and that was fairly fortunate as Bottas had a late puncture in 2018.

02:28 PM

A quick reminder that the session start time is delayed by 15 mins

That is after a barrier repair caused by an F2 crash earlier on. I don't know why they didn't just shorten FP3 by 15 minutes but here we are.

02:25 PM

Lewis Hamilton in fresh spat with FIA president but Mercedes woes continue in Baku

Lewis Hamilton has told the ruler of Formula One's governing body that he will not be silenced and encouraged his fellow drivers to be more outspoken, but the seven-time world champion suffered another woeful day in practice for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Read more of that here, as Phil Duncan reports.  

02:20 PM

F1 teams' raw pace ranking so far this season

This measures, on average, how teams have performed in qualifying by setting their best time in the session against the overall quickest and expressing it as a percentage. So, in a theoretical 100-second pole lap, a lap that was one minute and one second would get a percentage of 101.000.

Incidentally, the pole lap here will be not too far off 100 seconds.

02:16 PM

Current constructor standings

Ferrari have dropped the ball in recent races. Mercedes' gap to the top two teams is just getting bigger and bigger.

Every team has scored at least a point, though, which is good at this stage of the season.

02:12 PM

Toto Wolff speaking to Sky Sports F1 about where Mercedes are

I think there is no such thing as a concept. Cars' performances are dependent on many areas. It's just about dissecting where the problems lie and targeting each of those areas with calmness and focus.

I think we want to keep the optimism whilst also managing our expectations. I think we went to Monaco or Baku with higher expectations than we should have had, but equally I don't want to reduce them for other tracks [that should suit our car].

02:08 PM

Ferrari suffering from some extreme bouncing on the long straight in Baku

02:04 PM

Current drivers' championship standings: Top 12

01:59 PM

Final times after third practice

  1. Sergio Perez (Mex) Red Bull 1min 43.170secs

  2. Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 1:43.240

  3. Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1:43.449

  4. Carlos Sainz Jr. (Spa) Ferrari 1:43.596

  5. Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren 1:44.418

  6. Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) McLaren 1:44.476

  7. Pierre Gasly (Fra) Scuderia AlphaTauri 1:44.491

  8. George Russell (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1:44.573

  9. Esteban Ocon (Fra) Alpine 1:44.685

  10. Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Aston Martin 1:44.689

  11. Fernando Alonso (Spa) Alpine 1:44.842

  12. Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1:44.845

  13. Lance Stroll (Can) Aston Martin 1:44.879

  14. Guanyu Zhou (Chn) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:44.913

  15. Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas F1 1:44.919

  16. Yuki Tsunoda (Jpn) Scuderia AlphaTauri 1:44.964

  17. Alexander Albon (Tha) Williams 1:45.479

  18. Mick Schumacher (Ger) Haas F1 1:45.532

  19. Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:45.574

  20. Nicholas Latifi (Can) Williams 1:46.070

01:50 PM

Verstappen encountered some traffic towards the end of the session

He probably could have gone a fair bit quicker. He had to back off for yellow flags earlier in the session, too.

01:40 PM

Good afternoon

Hello and welcome to our coverage for the 2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku. It's the fifth edition of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, but actually the sixth time a grand prix has been held at this track as in 2016 it was billed as the European Grand Prix. Is Azerbaijan in Europe? Partly. Is Baku? Not really? But then again we had the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola and the Luxembourg Grand Prix at the Nurburgring and that is at least 80km away from Luxembourg. So there you go.

So far the running has been fairly what we have come to expect from this season, with Ferrari and Red Bull leading the way with little really to separate their four drivers. Sergio Perez - a winner in Monaco last time out - was fastest in final practice, ahead of Ferrari's Charles Leclerc by 0.070s. Max Verstappen was third for Red Bull, 0.279s away from his team-mate and Carlos Sainz was fourth, just over four-tenths away from Perez.

The Mexican has traditionally gone well at this circuit and has found his feet and his form at Red Bull this season, after a tricky and inconsistent year in 2021. Verstappen is finding the car less to his liking and the disparity this season is just 15 points in the standings (albeit not fully reflective given it's two DNFs to one) and it's 5-2 in qualifying. In percentage terms, Perez is just adrift of Verstappen by 0.165 per cent in qualifying. That is much improved from last year.

Mercedes struggles have continued in Baku. The bouncing is still there and there is also a significant straight-line deficit. George Russell made it into the top 10, albeit 1.4s off the pace, with Lewis Hamilton down in 12th, 1.6s off Perez's quickest time. That podium challenge in Spain does not look like it is kick-starting their season just yet.

Lando Norris impressed again, in fifth and Daniel Ricciardo was right behind him for once, within a tenth of a second.

Qualifying's start time has been delayed by 15 minutes due to FP3 being delayed by the same start time due to a barrier repair that was required after a crash in Formula 2 earlier in the day. So it's a very late start of 3.15pm BST.  Will it be another Leclerc pole?