Leclerc got it wrong as he was entering the Turn 8 corner that brings the cars around the castle section of the circuit, ending up embedded in the same barrier where Williams’ Robert Kubica had finished Q1, and causing the biggest qualifying upset so far this season.
That left Sebastian Vettel to defend the honour of Ferrari in Q3, but the German could only manage P3, 0.302s adrift of Bottas’ pace despite the Scuderia’s apparent speed advantage this season.
Bottas was ahead of team mate Lewis Hamilton by just 0.059s, while Max Verstappen will line up in P4 for Red Bull, his best-ever start in Baku.
Behind, the trio of Racing Point’s Sergio Perez in fifth, Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat in sixth and McLaren’s Lando Norris all did fine jobs, while Antonio Giovinazzi secured his best qualifying position of the season in eighth, but will lose that when he has a 10-place grid penalty applied for taking a new Control Electronics element on his engine – with his team mate Kimi Raikkonen inheriting the place.
Leclerc will start the race in ninth, having set a time good enough to make it through to Q3 before he crashed and benefitting from the grid drop for Giovinazzi, while the second McLaren of Carlos Sainz will jump up to 10th.