2023 F1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, qualifying, draw, results: Pierre went out two red flags, car set on fire

Formula 1 star Pierre Gasly had a nightmarish opening day at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix as two red flags ruled him out of practice and then out of the first round of qualifying.

Disaster befell Alpine in practice when flames erupted from the back of Pierre Gasly’s car.

The Frenchman tried to bring his burnt car to the pits, but the fire quickly turned into a bonfire and he jumped out, prompting the first red flag of the weekend and a lot of work for the Alpine mechanics to get his car ready for qualifying. several hours of time

Since the car could have been salvaged, Gasly quickly forgot about the day in qualifying.

Minutes into the first qualifying session of Saturday’s sprint race, the Frenchman crashed the right side of his Alpine straight into the wall in a harmless crash, failing to turn enough.

The wreckage littered the ground as a gutted alpine garage watched.

Moments after the crash, the Frenchman said over the driver’s radio, “I couldn’t stop the car.”

World champion Max Verstappen led the only training session.

Saturday is now a separate sprint day, with an abbreviated qualifying version dubbed “sprint shootout” now forming the grid for the 100k run.

This is the first of six sprints this season, double that of 2021 and 2022.

This added danger to a practice run on Baku’s notoriously difficult to navigate streets, which proved to be encouraging for some, like Red Bull, but disastrous for others, especially Alpine.

Pérez was in the lead before Fernando Alonso was flying this season in a refurbished Aston Martin when Lewis Hamilton arrived with a brake problem and George Russell followed his Mercedes teammate back to the garage.

Yuki Tsunoda was the first to feel Baku’s infamous corkscrew bite in the first quarter of an hour, the rear right wheel of his AlphaTauri being blown to pieces.

Practice resumed with half an hour left, but the Alpine session went from bad to worse as Esteban Ocon’s car returned to the garage and climbed the ramp “as a precaution,” the team said.

This is the last thing the French hoped for after the double departure of Gasly and Ocon from Australia.

When Alonso joined the pit lane gang, only Hamilton and Oscar Piastri were missing.

The last 10 minutes have seen a flurry of activity, with Perez pushing Verstappen to the top of the table.

With five minutes left, Charles Leclerc set a decent time to split the Red Bulls, then the Ferrari driver went fastest, but Verstappen beat him by 0.037 seconds.

Carlos Sainz in another Ferrari finished fourth, Lando Norris was fifth in his heavily redesigned McLaren.

Hamilton finished 11th and Russell 17th, with Mercedes downplaying the weak results due to setup issues.

Alonso’s brash response to Taylor Swift rumors

Spanish Formula One veteran Fernando Alonso arrives in town for this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix with the radiance of a man in love.

Can’t be with Taylor Swift, he good-naturedly declined repeated opportunities to confirm (or deny) rumors that he is dating an American singer, but with an old love – Formula One.

“These are happy days,” beamed the 41-year-old in the makeshift “hut” of his new Aston Martin team over the weekend on the shores of the Caspian Sea in Baku.

“To be honest, this season has been surprisingly good. We thought that we would have a decent car, but not to compete with Mercedes and Ferrari, it was a surprise for us.” So good indeed Alonso, the 2005 and 2006 world champion, has won three consecutive podiums for the first time since 2013.

This is partly due to the investment and faith of Aston Martin owner Lawrence Stroll, and partly to Alonso’s renewed enthusiasm for the sport.

After a two-year hiatus from F1 and an unremarkable return to Alpine, his former Renault team, Alonso joined the Stroll project during frantic weekend phone calls last summer.

The 48-hour engagement led to a happy marriage, with Alonso finishing third in the Drivers’ Championship and Aston Martin second only to Red Bull in the Constructors’ Championship ahead of the season’s fourth round on the streets of the Azerbaijani capital.

And now the prospect of a 33rd victory, but the first in 10 years of Indian summer in his career, is based not only on the chatter of a not very old man from Oviedo.

“The goal is for the team to fight for the world championship,” Alonso said. “I don’t think we have a choice in 2023 because of Red Bull, but in 2024 you never know, you’ve seen the step we’ve taken this winter, so why not take another step next winter.”

A lot has been made of the aging idol returning for one last big cheer, but Alonso wants none of that.

To prove his point, he lists the notable successes he has had off the track, which may not have won the accolades he deserved.

These include winning the 2018-2019 24 Hours of Le Mans, pinning the pinnacle of endurance racing, participating in the IndyCar series and taking part in the most grueling event on the motorsport calendar, the Dakar Rally.

“They really take you out of your comfort zone and push you to a higher level. – Charged batteries –

“It really helped, the timeout maybe not so much in driving style, but in mentality and approach, motivation,” he said.

“When you’re 18 in F1 it doesn’t mean you lose motivation, I’ve always had motivation but I’m tired of traveling, I’m tired of the routine, repeating the same things, so two years out of the sport was very refreshing. while charging my batteries.

“Maybe I drive the same way, but mentally I am much fresher, happy to get to the track early, happy to continue talking to engineers, PR people, events, sponsors, now I have a full battery, and in 2018 I was empty. “.

When asked to compare his riding now to years when he won championships, he replies without the slightest hesitation: “Now I’m much better, 100 percent.”