2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix - Friday
THE ROAD TO POLE
- Charles Leclerc has claimed the Azerbaijan Grand Prix pole position for the third consecutive time. The Ferrari driver set a best Q3 time of 1m40.203s on P Zero Red soft, heading Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by 0.188s. Red Bull’s Sergio Perez will line up third after setting a time of 1m40.495s, 0.521s faster than the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz in fourth. Qualifying was interrupted by a couple of red flags in Q1.
- Verstappen was fastest with a 1m42.315s in this weekend’s sole free practice session this morning, which was disrupted by a red flag 15 minutes after the start. Leclerc was second with 1m42.352s, 0.102s faster than Perez, with the top three all on soft tyres. Verstappen’s benchmark was more than three seconds faster than the equivalent 2022 FP1 session in similar track conditions; probably down to greater grip from the asphalt this year, which was earlier cleaned by high-pressure water jets.
- The drivers also tried the P Zero White hard and P Zero Yellow medium in FP1. The fastest driver on the hard was Sainz with a 1m44.234s, while Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso was quickest on the medium with a 1m43.560s. The performance gap between the compounds was as expected, while there was a high degree of track evolution. Unlike other race weekends, all the data so far has been based on just one practice session.
- Temperatures dropped considerably between FP1 and qualifying, with track temperatures of 42 to 43 degrees centigrade in the morning and a minimum of 28 degrees for qualifying. Despite the proximity of the track to the Caspian Sea, gusting winds of between 20 to 25kph didn’t particularly influence the action today, with clear skies throughout.
- Leclerc received his Pirelli Pole Position Award from Pirelli’s Head of Motorsport Mario Isola, thanks to a time that was more than a second faster than his pole last year. The polesitter for tomorrow’s Sprint Race will instead be given the new Pirelli Sprint Shootout Award: a personalised Pirelli cap in the colours of the Azerbaijan flag by Swiss artist Saiff Vasarhelyi. He creates his works using a technique that combines painting and graffiti, inspired by modern art as well as traditional painters such as Pablo Picasso. Vasarhelyi, an enthusiastic F1 fan, has collaborated in the past with different drivers and teams, with his work forming part of a capsule collection within Pirelli’s merchandise range as a variant of the traditional podium cap.
“It was a really intense Friday, which offered plenty of excitement and surprises. The new Sprint weekend format meant that the teams had to take a different approach to their on-track work today, with the first – and only – free practice session seeing teams and drivers running on very different programmes and fuel loads. The introduction of a new qualifying session dedicated to tomorrow afternoon’s Sprint race instead of FP2 meant that all the short and long preparation runs had to be compressed into just one hour today. As expected, the available tyre data is consequently very limited, but that just adds an extra element of unpredictability to Sunday’s race. In terms of track conditions, the new asphalt seems to offer more grip than anticipated – thanks also to the track cleaning process carried out yesterday – so it’s no coincidence that Leclerc’s pole position was a second and a half faster than the simulations. There was a high degree of track evolution all day in both sessions, which was also the case with track temperatures: especially because there was an increasing amount of shade due to all the different interruptions. This probably also had an effect on the drivers’ references, both while preparing the tyres and over the course of a flying lap.”
FORMULA 1 ACADEMY
The first F1 Academy season got underway today at Spielberg in Austria. The new series, exclusively equipped by Pirelli, is contested by 15 young women with aspirations to race in Formula 1, providing a springboard to the traditional feeder series of Formula 3 then Formula 2. Pirelli supplies each driver with 14 P Zero slick tyres and eight Cinturato wet-weather tyres for two 30-minute races and one 20-minute race at every round. There are seven rounds in total, with the final round supporting Formula 1 at Austin from October 20 to 22.
Founded in 1872, Pirelli is a company with deep Italian roots now recognised all over the world for its cutting-edge technology, capacity for innovation, and the quality of its products. Motorsport has always played an important part in Pirelli’s strategy, following the ‘race to road’ philosophy. The company has been engaged in motorsport for 116 years and today supplies tyres to more than 350 championships on both two and four wheels. Pirelli pays constant attention to the most efficient use of natural resources and energy, and will reach carbon neutrality by 2030.
Pirelli has been Global Tyre Partner of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship since 2011. The company also supplies championships including FIA Formula 2, FIA Formula 3, Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine, FIA World Rally Championship and GT World Challenge, alongside numerous national series.