• Red Bull have dominated the start of the season, taking the pole for and winning all three races so far, while Ferrari have struggled, especially in races.
• Underlining the quality of his performance, the 25-year-old was a massive 0.813secs quicker than team-mate Sainz in fourth place.
Ferrari's Charles Leclerc became the first non-Red Bull driver to take a pole position this year with a stunning lap at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Leclerc beat Red Bull's Max Verstappen by 0.188 seconds. Sergio Perez was third in the second Red Bull ahead of Leclerc's team-mate Carlos Sainz.
Lewis Hamilton took fifth ahead of Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso.
Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate George Russell failed to make it into the final session and will start 11th.
Leclerc, who excels at street tracks, has now set pole position at the high-speed Baku street circuit for the last three years and this one could be the best of the lot.
Red Bull have dominated the start of the season, taking the pole for and winning all three races so far, while Ferrari have struggled, especially in races.
But Leclerc went toe-to-toe with Verstappen and Perez and came out on top.
Underlining the quality of his performance, the 25-year-old was a massive 0.813secs quicker than team-mate Sainz in fourth place. The Spaniard said he "wasn't feeling quite at home with the car and couldn't get into my groove and was lacking confidence".
His tricky day, which included a number of off-track moments, meant he had only one set of new tyres in final qualifying, putting him at a further disadvantage.
Leclerc said: "For sure I'm surprised. We came into the weekend thinking it would be a great weekend if we are in front of Mercedes and Aston in qualifying and in the end we are on pole. I was very happy with the lap.
"We must not forget our race car is still behind the Red Bulls so it will be difficult to keep the lead but that is the target."
Leclerc has become renowned for his speed over one lap, which often seems to put the Ferrari in grid positions it does not deserve. Baku two years ago, when Ferrari's car was not competitive, was one example; this appears to be another.
Asked whether it was his best 19 pole positions in F1, Leclerc said: "I feel like whenever you have the excitement of pole you want to say: 'Yes.' I feel like 2021 it was even more of a surprise but it was definitely a really good lap.
"On street circuits, for the last lap you put everything in and see how it goes. It was a close call in Turn One, but overall it was quite a clean lap."
Perez described it as a "tremendous lap" by Leclerc, and it was a welcome boost for a Ferrari team who have had a difficult start to the season, especially for Leclerc, who has retired from two of the first three races.
A tight battle at the front
Verstappen and Leclerc had set the exact same time on their first runs, but the Dutchman was classified ahead because he posted it first.
But he brushed the wall on his final lap at Turn Two and could not make up the time over the remainder of the circuit.
He said: "It is tough to put a whole lap together around here and the last run was maybe not the cleanest. I tried something a bit different on the out lap and I didn't really feel it was better and when you have that feeling already you are not as confident as the cap before and that's why the lap time did no come out of it.
"But we know we have a quick race car so all in all it is not too bad."
Anew look to this F1 weekend
This is the first 'sprint' weekend of the year and it runs to a new format to those events in the last two years. This qualifying session decided the grid for the grand prix on Sunday.
Saturday is a whole separate day, starting with a qualifying session - known as the 'sprint shoot-out' - that sets the grid for the shorter 'sprint' race later on.
Hamilton's fifth place was a strong result in the end for a Mercedes team who had appeared to be struggling for speed until the final session of qualifying, the Baku track exposing the car's weaknesses.
Hamilton had been 0.3secs slower than Alonso in second qualifying but he snuck ahead of his old rival by 0.076secs. Alonso said he had some problems with his DRS overtaking aid, "which cost a few 10ths".
Hamilton said: "Timing and getting into the rhythm is not easy on this track. In Q2, I struggled. Q3 run one was a really sweet lap. Just matched it on the second run, needed a little more time to get ahead of the Ferrari."
Russell said Mercedes "just weren't fast enough this weekend" and that he had made a mistake on his final lap in the second session, from which Hamilton only just progressed.
Hamilton was just 0.004secs quicker than Russell in the second session, but that tiny margin was the difference between making it into the top 10 and not.
Once there, Hamilton made the most of it, on the first occasion he has out-qualified Russell this season.
Lando Norris impressed in the heavily updated McLaren to line up seventh, and there was an upset from Yuki Tsunoda, who put the Alpha Tauri eighth, by far their best performance of the season so far.
Aston Martin's Lance Stroll and Norris' team-mate Oscar Piastri completed the top 10.
Tsunoda's team-mate Nyck de Vries crashed early in the first session at Turn Three, bringing out the first of two red flags, and qualified last. Shortly after the first session resumed, Alpine's Pierre Gasly did the same, causing another stoppage.
It made for a trying day for Alpine, who had spent the time between practice and qualifying repairing Gasly's car and fitting a new engine and gearbox after a major fire.