F1 sprint LIVE as Leclerc on pole over Verstappen for 62-mile dash

F1 preview: A lap of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix

It’s time for F1’s first sprint race of the 2023 at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix as Max Verstappen looks to further increase his lead atop the Drivers’ Championship standings. The Dutchman, seeking a third title in a row, starts P3 in Baku with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc on pole just as he will be for tomorrow’s Grand Prix.

Today’s sprint is the first of the year and the first since rule changes were introduced. Earlier this morning we had the first ever sprint shootout, a shortened format of qualifying for the sprint race, which saw Leclerc come out on top despite crashing.

Leclerc has admitted that Ferrari “need to be realistic” about the rest of the weekend because they are “on the back foot in the race compared to the Red Bull”. That is despite their single-lap pace giving the Monegasque pole yesterday and today, for both the Grand Prix and the 17-lap, 64-mile (100km) sprint which is a dash to the finish without pit stops.

Sergio Perez will meanwhile hope to claw back some points as he looks to bridge the gap to team-mate Verstappen in the championship and starts P2, with the Dutchman one behind. George Russell is P4 in the Mercedes with Lewis Hamilton starting sixth, the pair sandwiched by the Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso.

Express Sport provides live coverage of the F1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix sprint race below…

Sprint changes

A quick reminder before we get underway, in case you didn’t know…

The result of this sprint race does NOT determine the starting order for tomorrow’s Grand Prix as it did previously.

The grid for Sunday’s race is already set and you can see it in full right here.

The sprint will instead solely pay out points for the top eight finishers.

Hamilton still waiting on sprint win

Lewis Hamilton is still yet to win an F1 sprint race – with Max Verstappen (three), Valtteri Bottas (two) and George Russell the only 64-mile (100km) dash victors so far.

Today’s pole-sitter Charles Leclerc was second in the sprints at Imola and Austin last year. Hamilton’s best was a P3 in Brazil.

Speaking ahead of this race, the Briton – who starts in sixth – said: “It’s only 17 laps, so not a massive amount you can do, I would assume, in the time, but I hope we get some sort of race.”

Sprint scoring system

Forgot how many points the drivers are competing for? There’s 36 up for grabs in total, split across the top eight positions. Here’s a breakdown…

P1 – eight points

P2 – seven points

P3 – six points

P4 – five points

P5 – four points

P6 – three points

P7 – two points

P8 – one point

Esteban Ocon starts in pit lane

Alpine’s Esteban Ocon will start the sprint race in the pit lane and will do the same for tomorrow’s Grand Prix.

Changes were made to Ocon’s suspension while teams were still in parc ferme. 

Ocon, who qualified 13th, starts in the pit lane with team-mate Pierre Gasly 17th.

No Logan Sargeant

There will be no Logan Sargeant after Williams withdrew their American driver from the sprint.

Sargeant crashed out of the sprint shootout when he collided with the barriers at turn 15. And an FIA statement read:  “The Stewards have received a request from Williams Racing to withdraw Car 2 from the Sprint following the Sprint Shootout incident.”

He had been due to start 15th but the damage caused by the crash is too severe to fix in time.

Sargeant said: “I’m sorry to the team for that and the damage that I caused but I feel like the people in front of me could have helped me out a little bit. 

“It was pretty heavy. A lot of work for the boys, so again I feel bad about that.”

Sprint starting grid

1) Leclerc, Ferrari

2) Perez, Red Bull

3) Verstappen, Red Bull

4) Russell, Mercedes

5) Sainz, Ferrari

6) Hamilton, Mercedes

7) Albon, Williams

8) Alonso, Aston Martin

9) Stroll, Aston Martin

10) Norris, McLaren

11) Piastri, McLaren

12) Hulkenberg, Haas

13) Magnussen, Haas

14) Zhou, Alfa Romeo

15) Bottas, Alfa Romeo

16) Tsunoda, AlphaTauri

17) Gasly, Alpine

18) De Vries, AlphaTauri

PIT LANE: Ocon, Alpine

WITHDRAWN: Sargeant, Williams

Good afternoon!

Good afternoon and welcome to Express Sport’s live coverage of today’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix sprint race.

This is the first of six sprint races this season with others to come in Austria (July 1), Belgium (July 29), Qatar (October 7), the United States (October 21) and Brazil (November 4).

It’s a 17-lap dash to the finish – so who will come out on top? Let’s take a look at the starting grid…

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