As Sebastian Vettel celebrated his third successive pole position, his teammate Kimi Raikkonen was left wondering what could have been after losing his shot at P1 in a moment of sudden oversteer.
Raikkonen looked switched on around the fast Baku streets, topping the first two qualifying sessions for the Scuderia and setting himself up to seize his first pole position in almost a year.
He set two purple sectors on his final run of the top-10 shootout while provisional pole-sitter Vettel locked up and abandoned his final attempt, but in at the tricky Turn 16 Raikkonen went wide and allowed his car to briefly snap from underneath him.
He recovered, but what had been a two-tenths of a second advantage became a one-second deficit by the time he crossed the line, leaving him sixth on the grid.
“I went sideways,” said the dejected 38-year-old. “That’s about it.
“No excuse. I took it easier even on the entry because obviously it’s been a bit tricky all day.
“I went sideways, I got it back, but at that point already I knew it was all gone as it’s all flat out and long straights.
“Today we had a good speed but it didn’t really work out.”
Vettel acknowledged his good fortune, admitting that Raikkonen had been the stronger performer for much of the weekend and indeed the season.
“I think it’s been incredibly close this year so far,” he conceded. “To be honest, most of the Fridays I think he’s had the upper hand so far.
“Here and there I was struggling a little bit to understand the car and feel the car. Knowing him, knowing his strengths, he’s incredibly talented and able to drive around problems.”
But Raikkonen’s error was ultimately good news for Vettel, who converted the same good feelings Raikkonen had about the car into a strong result.
“The car was amazing; it just kept getting better,” he said. “I think around this place you need to have the trust, otherwise you don’t dare go as quick as you might be able to.
“At the end of the session yesterday I was quite confident, so today I was able to carry that into the day.”
Pole will obviously hold in good stead Vettel’s hopes for a third victory for the season, but with Mercedes making rapid improvement from Friday to Saturday, the German kept his expectations in check.
“I think it will be an intense race and anything can happen as a safety car is very likely,” he said. “So I think the good job is that our car was very good this afternoon which should mean we are in a good place for tomorrow.”