Scuderia Ferrari absolutely needed to deliver an outstanding performance at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. After dominating the second (and only) free pactice session on Friday, Mercedes showed their true colours during qualifying, helped by Charles Leclerc’s mistake. Let’s see how the race then panned out.
The first few opening laps of the race see Sebastian Vettel defending his position, while Bottas and Hamilton battle in the front. The poleman eventually keeps the Brit at bay. Further behind, harder tyres mean that Charles Leclerc loses two positions, which are promptly regained. Sergio Perez manages to snatch P4 from Max Verstappen, and keeps it for a great number of laps. By the first ten laps, Leclerc has already overtaken both and puts his car in P4, right behind teammate Vettel.
Ferrari then prompts the pit window, by attepting a successful undercut with Sebastian on medium tyres. The interval to the Silver Arrows drops as soon as they both pit too. At the other side of the garage, the split strategy at the start means that Leclerc stays out until lap 35, although leading the race. The Monegasque proceeds in fitting softs and getting out in P5. A contact between Kvyat and Ricciardo only triggers yellow flags, while many teams were counting on a safety car to manage the tyres.
A few laps later, even Sebastian’s podium is at risk when Verstappen’s interval drops drastically. However, Gasly has to stop for a power loss and race direction issues a virtual safety car. From that point onwards, the last ten laps see unvaried positions. Verstappen is unable to overtake Vettel, and Leclerc pits again to (successfully) score the fastest lap on softest tyres, while Bottas and Hamilton battle it out at the front.
Azerbaijan Grand Prix: Ferrari still hunting
The Azerbaijan Grand Prix was set to be a chance at redemption for Ferrari and the SF90. However, the team has once again proven that, despite the drivers’ best efforts, there’s much work to be done. The feeling seems to be that not even the pit wall has understood how to unlock the SF90’s potential. A string of inconsistent performances throughout the weekend, oscillating from being the fastest on the grid to struggling with handling, perfectly proves that.
The Baku race also proved to be difficult to manage in terms of ideal tyre usage windows, as the soft tyre didn’t perform as expected. All may also be traced back to the limited amount of on-track testing this weekend. However, Mercedes has racked up eight podiums (four 1-2s) from the start of the season. The team in Maranello is settling with three P3s. The Championship may be long, but this is going to be a very steep ride for the Prancing Horse.