Valtteri Bottas declared himself "proud" with his and Mercedes' qualifying performance in Baku despite losing pole position to teammate Lewis Hamilton.
After a mixed Friday practice, Bottas and Mercedes finished quickest in FP3 and the Finn had provisional pole in the closing stages of the Q3 shootout. A late red flag, 3:33 from the conclusion of the session, seemed to have aided Bottas' chances of a second career pole as it limited him and his rivals to one final flying lap late in the session, rather than two to properly warm the tyres.
Despite improving his benchmark, Hamilton crossed nearly 0.5s quicker with a remarkable lap, leaving Bottas to concede his teammate did the better job of getting his tyres up to temperature.
When asked how clean his final attempt had been, he replied: "Not clean enough! I think Lewis had a really good lap and I didn't. I wasn't quite comfortable with the tyre temperatures. It was the first time we tried to go for a time in the first lap of the tyres and I couldn't get them to work as well as Lewis."
"I didn't have enough grip. The run before was good, and before the red flag everything was going OK."
Mercedes finished the session over one second clear of its nearest rivals, margins more familiar during the team's three-year dominance before the 2017 rule changes. Having been "lost" on set-up earlier in the weekend Bottas hailed the world champions for its turnaround.
"In the end I'm disappointed to lose the pole position, as that was definitively the target for me today, but I'm really proud. We've made quite big changes through the practice sessions, we were quite lost, to be honest, in the beginning and we managed to turn it around, so for that I'm really, pleased. For tomorrow we, as a team, definitively have a great starting position and we're going to have a good fight and try to get another one-two for the team."