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Hamilton clinches pole at Azerbaijan GP

Press Association logoPress Association 24/06/2017 Christian Hollmann

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton has claimed a stunning pole position for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, the 66th of his career, directly ahead of team-mate Valtteri Bottas with world championship leader Sebastian Vettel fourth.

Hamilton posted a decisive 1 minute 40.593 seconds around the 6.003-kilometre street course in Baku in a final qualifying interrupted by red flags when Australia's Daniel Ricciardo clipped a wall with his Red Bull.

The pole is Hamilton's second in succession and puts him second on the all-time Formula One list behind Michael Schumacher on 68.

In the last race in Canada, which Hamilton went on to win, the British driver drew level with his idol Ayrton Senna on 65 poles.

Bottas seemed on course for just his second career pole before Ricciardo's error caused a break.

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.

Ferrari's Vettel was caught out by the interruption having not completed a competitive lap in the early part of Q3.

He improved from sixth to fourth but could not match team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, who will start third on Sunday, and finished more than a second adrift of Hamilton.

Vettel was hampered by using an old engine in qualifying as a precaution after a hydraulic problem brought him to a halt in final practice.

But with Raikkonen also more than half a second behind Bottas, Mercedes had a clear edge in single lap pace.

"That was one of the most exciting laps I've had all year and a lot of pressure," Hamilton said.

"The first lap I easily had the time but I made a mistake in the last corner. It was all or nothing but the lap just got better and better throughout.

"That's how qualifying should be. I managed to put it all together when it mattered and have the team to thank."

Bottas said it was "disappointing" to miss out on pole but "second place is not bad." His one F1 victory, in Russia this season, came from third on the grid rather than pole.

Despite the significant difference to Mercedes, Raikkonen said Ferrari "are close enough" to have a chance on Sunday.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen also suffered a hydraulic issue but recovered to take fifth while Sergio Perez, Esteban Ocon (both Force India), Lance Stroll, Felipe Massa (both Williams) and then Ricciardo complete the top 10.

While Hamilton will relish his latest pole, more important is being in prime position to chase another victory to cut the 12-point gap to standings leader Vettel.

The track has the longest full throttle section on the current F1, likely to favour Mercedes' engine power, while overtaking is expected to be challenging around the tight Baku streets.

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