Ferrari Surprise On Opening Day In Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan GP

At a circuit they didn’t expect to do well at, Ferrari have surprised everyone with their pace, finishing in P3 and P4 in FP2 at the FORMULA 1 AZERBAIJAN GRAND PRIX 2021.

The team got through all its planned programme for Friday free practice, with the priority being for the drivers to get comfortable with the Baku circuit and its walls. Between them, Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc completed 86 laps, using all the available tyre compounds and evaluating two different aerodynamic configurations.

In the first session, Leclerc and Sainz completed twenty laps each. They started out on the hard tyres, waiting for the track to clean up after a lot of dirt had blown onto the circuit with the strong wind over the past few days. When the conditions improved, both drivers switched to the softs, setting their best times: 1’43”227 for the Monegasque and 1’43”521 for the Spaniard. In the final minutes, the team switched them back to the hard compound to work in race configuration.

In the afternoon, the programme continued with Sainz and Leclerc going out on the medium tyres, with which Charles did a 1’43”162 and Carlos stopped the clocks in 1’43”210.

After a red flag period, when Nicholas Latifi stopped on track, Sainz and Leclerc went back out on the soft tyres for a qualifying simulation. Naturally, their times improved: 1’42”243 for the Spaniard and 1’42”436 for the Monegasque.

Then came the only unplanned moment of the day, when Charles hit the barrier at turn 15, damaging the front wing. Apart from that, the car was fine and he was able to drive quickly back to the pits and then go out for a race simulation, as did Sainz. Carlos, who also tried the soft tyre with a heavy fuel load, completed 24 laps, two more than Charles who only used the medium compound on his long run.

2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Friday - Carlos Sainz (image courtesy Scuderia Ferrari press office)
2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Friday – Carlos Sainz (image courtesy Scuderia Ferrari press office)

Carlos Sainz Not Getting Carried Away

Despite being third fastest in FP2, just behind the two Red Bulls, Carlos Sainz isn’t getting too carried away as he looks to make further improvements ahead of qualifying.

“Today we were a bit quicker than we had expected. However, the timesheets can be misleading, with cars getting tows on the straights – myself included – and others not finishing flying laps for various reasons. Still, it was an encouraging first day for the team here in Baku. Tomorrow afternoon will obviously be a better indicator ahead of qualifying, so we need to work out where we can gain a bit of lap time on the short runs, as well as finding a good compromise to make the tyres work on the long runs. There could be opportunities this weekend and we need to be ready to make the most of them,” said Sainz.

Charles Leclerc Tests The Limits

Despite hitting the barrier in FP2, Charles Leclerc was pleased with his performance, one that tested the limits of both man and machine around the street circuit of Baku.

“It was definitely a better day than we expected, but it’s only the first day of practice. The pace looked promising, and we will keep working overnight to be as competitive tomorrow. I felt quite comfortable in the car today, especially in terms of braking, maybe even too comfortable, pushing a bit too much into turn 15. But in the end, that’s what free practice is for – testing the limits. I was on a good lap there and we will see what we can do tomorrow. Our main competitors are quick, even though they haven’t shown it yet. We have to make sure we do everything perfectly. We have to maximize our potential and hopefully we can have a good qualifying,” added Leclerc.

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