Azerbaijan Grand Prix: Sebastian Vettel grabs pole, Lewis Hamilton to start second

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BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) - Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton will battle again for the win on the Baku streets where their cars hit twice past year. "I think the good job is that our auto was very good this afternoon which should mean we are in a good place for tomorrow".

"Overall, we weren't quick enough today", Hamilton said.

All the top three teams wanted to start the race on the more durable super-soft tyre and so fitted it for the second session, intending to set their fastest times on it - which defines the race-start tyre. Ferrari could use it to help Vettel, or it might make for a hard situation where the leader is defending against the undercut from all those behind him...

In the first session, Bottas was narrowly ahead of Ricciardo, and Force India's Sergio Perez beat Hamilton into third.

"When things are not going in the right direction it's doomsday and when you win two races in a row it is the "utter Mercedes dominance destroying the sport". A headwind meant the car's aerodynamics were more effective and a driver could brake later, but a tailwind would have the opposite effect and required more caution under braking.

Baku's tight corners and narrow streets mean any incidents in the race will likely draw out the safety vehicle, and could offer chances for drivers starting farther back.

Ferrari, though, will be confident they have the pace to stay out of trouble. "Anything can happen, safety cars are very, very likely".

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Vettel made a mistake at Turn 3 on his final attempt in Q3, preventing him from improving on his time, but he is sure he could have extended the advantage.

Asked how he felt about his inability to produce the ideal lap so far this year, he added: "I've been a few times disappointed. We'll see what we can do".

Meanwhile, Stroll's teammate Sergey Sirotkin finished 12th, and will start ahead of McLaren's Fernando Alonso and Sauber's Charles LeClerc.

"When I then aborted the lap and came in I was told "pole position", so I was quite happy - really happy". "No big problems. I think it'll be a close battle".

Ricciardo, the victor in Baku previous year, is coming off victory two weeks ago in China.

Nico Hulkenberg qualified ninth for Renault but the tall German will collect a five place drop for an unscheduled gearbox change, lifting his Spanish team mate Carlos Sainz to that position instead.