(Baku) Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) will start the Formula 1 sprint race in Azerbaijan after setting the fastest qualifying time on Saturday in the streets of the capital Baku.

The Monegasque driver will start ahead of the Red Bulls of Mexican Sergio Pérez, 2nd, and championship leader Max Verstappen, 3rd for the sprint race, which will start later in the day at 3:30 p.m.

Just over 100 km long, swallowed up in about thirty minutes, this race offers points for the championship: from eight points for the first to one point for the 8th place.

Before the cars arrived on the streets of Baku, Verstappen, the last winner in Azerbaijan, was 15 points ahead of the championship (69 pts) over Pérez (54 pts) and 24 over the Spaniard Fernando Alonso (45 pts), qualified 8th for the sprint.

Verstappen will start on Saturday ahead of the Mercedes of Briton George Russell, 4th.

In order to determine the starting grid for the Grand Prix on Sunday, the drivers contested a first qualifying session on Friday which had already seen Charles Leclerc shine. The Scuderia driver will start in a leading position ahead of Verstappen.

The Azerbaijan Grand Prix, round 4 of the season, is the first of the six races of the year to offer the sprint format inaugurated in 2021. But unlike before, the sprint now has its own qualifying session called “sprint shootout”, shorter than a classic session.

This first “sprint shootout” in the history of F1 was also marked on Saturday by a single red flag at the very end of the first part of qualifying (Q1), when the American Logan Sargeant came to hit a wall, damaging heavily the right-back of his Williams.

The Azerbaijan Grand Prix will be on the Formula 1 calendar for three more years, until 2026, the discipline’s promoter announced on Saturday, on the sidelines of the race this weekend.

Formula 1 has taken its habits on the shores of the Caspian Sea since 2016 with an urban circuit in the heart of Baku, a clever mix of speed (over 350 km/h at the end of a 2 km straight line) and driving in the old town.

“It’s an incredible circuit that always provides plenty of spectacle and has hosted some of the most exciting races in recent history,” F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali said in a statement.

In the streets of the Azerbaijani capital, the outcome is often unpredictable since six different winners have won in six contested races.