Scuderia Ferrari leaves Baku having secured its first podium finish of the season courtesy of Charles Leclerc’s third place. The team also got its best points total of the year so far, thanks to the ten scored by fifth placed Carlos Sainz. The podium is a morale booster for Leclerc and indeed for the whole team and a reward for all the hard work this weekend and over the past few weeks, highlighting the progress made with the SF-23. It is clear from qualifying and race performance that development is going in the right direction, even if there is still much to do to be able to fight for the win.
The race. The race was not very eventful: Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez made the most of their straight-line speed to get ahead of Charles and then, almost the entire field pitted for the compulsory tyre change when the Safety Car came out following Nick de Vries’ accident on lap 10. That’s what Charles and Carlos did, with the mechanics performing a perfect double stop, in 2.4 and 2.9 seconds respectively, the drivers rejoining in second and fourth respectively. At the restart, Verstappen had dropped to third after pitting just before the Safety Car, but he passed Leclerc, while Fernando Alonso got ahead of Carlos. From then on, nothing changed for the Scuderia duo. In the closing stages, with his tyres clearly able to get to the chequered flag without any problem, Charles was lapping in similar times to Perez and Verstappen, fighting for the fastest race lap, while keeping the gap to Alonso. Carlos had Lewis Hamilton tailing him for the second part of the race, but the Englishman was never really able to attack.
Next stop USA. The pace of the season is picking up, with the championship resuming next Sunday with Round 5, the Miami Grand Prix.
‘We are still not quite there in terms of race pace and we know that’s what we have to work on the most at the moment. We maximised every session throughout the weekend and couldn’t have done anything differently, so that’s something to be happy about and the team did a great job. The bottom line is that we have to focus on race pace and tyre management and push to make even more progress in the coming races.’
‘This has been a very difficult weekend. P5 brings home some points but I must put my hand up and admit I lacked confidence under braking and the pace was not there. On the Medium tyre I could push a bit more, but with the harder compound I simply didn’t feel the car. Now I look forward to a reset, as Miami is just around the corner and I can’t wait to jump in the car again and keep pushing.’
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal
‘Overall, this has been a positive weekend for the team. We took two pole positions and one podium finish with Charles and our overall points total, thanks also to Carlos’ fifth place, is satisfactory. There were signs of progress in Melbourne, but they were overshadowed by the poor race result. In the four week break, we worked hard in Maranello and here in Baku we have made further progress which translated into a good result.
‘We definitely are back to where we wanted to be in terms of qualifying, but there’s still a significant gap to Red Bull in the race. However, we aim to fight them for the win and we are gearing up to do just that. It’s a morale booster for the whole team to finish on the podium, something which we will carry forward as we prepare for next weekend’s race in Miami.’