Sebastian Vettel was left to rue the decision to run at the head of the queue in the final segment of qualifying for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix as an inability to take a slipstream let Mercedes in to snatch both spots on the front row, with Valtteri Bottas leading Lewis Hamilton.
Charles Leclerc looked on form to take pole in Baku until he crashed in Q2, with Vettel then assuming the role as favourite, with Ferrari having looked so strong up to that point.
However, Vettel could not capitalise, with a decision to get out early in Q3 backfiring, as Bottas surprised Hamilton to take P1 thanks to a hefty tow down Baku’s monstrous main straight.
“I had a good lap but I had no tow to close the lap so that cost a bit,” he said.
“I am happy that we got sort of the maximum out, but not happy overall from the team point of view as we were expecting to have a better session with Charles and myself. I think we thought we would be closer to the front.”
On the benefits of a tow, Vettel said: “It depends, up to half a second. Then it is always a compromise because if you are too close in the middle sector you lose out.
“But I would say going with the other people, probably around three tenths. It could have been a bit closer with someone in front.
“The track was getting cooler, the car was more difficult to drive and I prioritised to push on the out lap to have the tyres in the window when I started the lap.
“Now I sort of regret I didn’t take the gamble on but I think it was still probably the right call.”