Published: Mon, June 26, 2017
Sport | By Noel Norman

Ricciardo 4th in final Azerbaijan practice

In the end it was a Mercedes shoot-out, with Bottas swinging round close to the wall and Hamilton driving a much tighter line - and the Brit came out on top, taking pole position - the 66th of his career, putting him one clear of Ayrton Senna and just two behind Michael Schumacher.

Hamilton banished memories of a dismal qualifying session in Baku past year, when he clipped the barrier and had to settle for 10th place on the starting grid, to grab pole with a time of 1:40.593 despite running wide at Turn 16.

Just as in Canada a fortnight previously, Hamilton made it count when it mattered most to finish almost half-a-second clear of his team-mate Valtteri Bottas as Mercedes locked out the front row for the second time in as many races.

Hamilton is now ideally placed to eat into title rival Sebastian Vettel's 12-point championship lead on Sunday, with the German only fourth-fastest after a scruffy day for Ferrari.

Although his Ferrari team managed to resolve the failure in time for qualifying, Vettel was only fourth and 1.3 secs slower than Hamilton.

Then the red flag was brought out with three and a half minutes to go as Daniel Ricciardo parked his Red Bull on one of the straights after hitting the rear of the auto on the wall.

"It's one of those tracks where you need to have the vehicle in the window, the tyres in the window and if you feel confident, you extract a lot of lap time", he said.

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

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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. It was all or nothing, but the lap just got better and better. "Tomorrow will be a hard race but we are in the best position to start".

Renault's Jolyon Palmer had barely started when his auto ground to a sudden halt on the second turn and burst into flames, leaving him in last place.

"With the place, with the feeling that we had, I'll happily take it and I'm not surprised with the time difference".

Though he improved his time in the burst of 3 minutes and 33 seconds that remained, he was undone by Hamilton's stunning lap to trail by 0.434 seconds.

"Obviously it's better than where I was before". Today we probably didn't get everything right but its part of the game.

He will be joined by the McLarens due to power unit changes, with Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne receiving grid penalties of 40 and 35 places, respectively.

Nico Hulkenberg was 11th, while his Renault teammate Jolyon Palmer failed to set a representative time after stopping on track early on with a fire at the rear of the auto.

19 cars started qualifying - Renault's Jolyon Palmer suffered an engine fire in the final free practice and had to sit it out.

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