Formula One: Hamilton takes 66th career pole in Azerbaijan

Formula 1's pair of Finns - who have occasionally contacted each other - may be set for another intriguing battle for Sunday's Azerbaijan Grand Prix (9 a.m. ET, NBCSN).

Bottas led qualifying and then set an even quicker time on his final lap - only for Hamilton to beat him by almost half a second.

Hamilton is 12 points behind Vettel in the championship after seven races.

"It is already an awesome thing to have matched Senna, but the insane thing is the hunger that I had for another pole", Hamilton added. But with the odds, and time heavily stacked against him, Hamilton did what only he can do, by responding in the most emphatic of fashions to clinch his second pole in as many races. If you can get them working 100% on one lap you can easily go a lot faster, but it was not the case today.

Given that Hamilton has five poles in eight races so far, Schumacher's record might be beaten within a month. "We need to get on top of that because it shouldn't happen".

But after his impressive pole at the Canadian GP two weeks ago, Hamilton gave another commanding performance.

"I was so on it - Q1, Q2, then Q3 I made that one little mistake and I was so frustrated I had made that mistake and the red flag came out when I was up again on my next lap and I was thinking "there is no way I was going to be able to do it on the first lap".

It was also a sweet moment for his mechanics, considering how hard Friday's second practice had been.

And unsurprisingly it was the former who Hamilton enjoyed a lunch date with in the moments before his extraordinary lap.

"This morning didn't help but it's not an excuse, we are doing a lot of laps".

"The changes and the guys did fantastic work since last night and we made fantastic gains with the auto and went in the right direction and it just progresses from there to P3 into qualifying". Vettel had missed out on practice time due to a hydraulics issue in FP3, which also required an engine change that put Ferrari on the back foot ahead of qualifying. After that break, all drivers had time for just one fast lap. Get it wrong, and you'll pay a hefty penalty, as many have found out over the course of the weekend. "Every corner can be a challenge".

Valtteri Bottas topped the final Azerbaijan Grand Prix practice and team mate Lewis Hamilton finished third as Mercedes heaped pressure on Ferrari's Formula One championship leader Sebastian Vettel, who retired early with hydraulic problems on Saturday.

Bottas, meanwhile, was disappointed not to secure his second career pole.

"I wasn't quite comfortable with the tyre temperatures".

And elsewhere Fernando Alonso got very cross with Daniel Ricciardo getting in his way during a hot lap.

He will serve a mammoth 40-place grid drop, while his McLaren team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne has been penalised by 30 places following a raft of new parts on his engine, too. That left them comfortably ahead of Verstappen on 1m 42.261s and Raikkonen on 1m 42.446s, however, as Vettel's hopes of improving on 1m 43.194s ended in the Turn 2 escape road.

In Q3, Bottas went close to clipping the wall on Turn 8, and Vettel took an exit road and span after a braking error.

  • Rosalie Stanley