F1 – Azerbaijan GP – Race
Salam, MiniFans! Baku has always been home to surprises and coming here usually means getting a result that wasn’t too expected. Ferrari and Red Bull came out on top in qualifying, once again, while the midfield had scrambled itself a bit. However, Azerbaijan always has a trick or two up its sleeve…
The first surprise came when looking at the tyres: No one had chosen soft tyres for the start of the race, instead fitting mediums or, in some cases, hards. Surprisingly, the first corner was clean, but Pérez managed to squeeze past Leclerc, who had to block his right front tyre in order not to leave the track.
The first penalty came courtesy of Latifi, whose mechanic had touched the car to push it back into place once the allotted time to do so had finished. Once the first attempts at overtakes were over, the race settled until the first virtual safety car appeared. Sainz’s car had a hydraulics problem that couldn’t be solved and he was forced to retire.
A few teams decided to try and go to the end of the race with hard tyres by taking advantage of the VSC, including, very surprisingly, Leclerc. His stop exceeded five seconds due to a problem with the front jack, but the play seemingly turned out well for them, as he was just twelve seconds behind Verstappen with one more stop.
Lap 15 was the start of change. Verstappen overtook Pérez after the Mexican was told not to fight rather than change positions, and this meant he stopped the following lap, getting a slow stop and leaving the pits barely in front of Russell. Verstappen followed through soon after and the race changed leader to Leclerc, but the cheery atmosphere in Ferrari wouldn’t last long.
In a show of lack of reliability, the last Ferrari standing in the race had to abandon when it was in the lead, due to engine problems, leaving Red Bull in a very comfortable 1-2 and Russell in a position to get yet another podium. Another virtual safety car was needed when yet another Ferrari powered car had to retire, as Magnussen had been told to stop the car as soon as he could. This slowed session was used by the drivers who still hadn’t stopped to squeeze their tyre change in and lose less time than usual.
With fifteen laps to go, the podium seemed settled and Tsunoda added the sprinkle of weirdness we tend to see in F1, as his rear wing was broken and only half of the top flap opened when he pushed the DRS button and earning himself a black and orange flag.
Red Bull did everything right in Baku. Pérez overtook Leclerc at the start and the drivers didn’t battle for position, but rather worked together to change them. They were aided by Ferrari’s problems, as they had been previously outsmarted by the Italians and their strategy during the first VSC, but once they grasped the lead of the race, they held it with an iron fist and never let it go until they crossed the chequered flag and penned a new name into the list of Baku winners.
What had presented itself to be another great battle between Ferrari and Red Bull was left without one of its legs soon into the race. The Italian team’s reliability has been suffering lately and it struck not only the main team, but also those it gives engines to. An Alfa Romeo and a Haas suffered from what looked like engine problems, which added to Leclerc’s, as well as Sainz’s hydraulic ones, doesn’t look too good for the Maranello based structure, which will have to work non stop to return to the form they showed at the start of the season.