Victory for Bottas, a double-triumph for Mercedes – culminating in the Silver Arrows’ fourth 1-2 of the season- and yet another podium for Sebastian Vettel. The 2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix wasn’t as crazy as previous editions but it taught us much.
Once again, Mercedes provided too big a challenge for Ferrari to equal, let alone better, as the 51-lap contest at Baku produced an all too familiar result.
So, are Mercedes simply unbeatable or could it be that Ferrari
Up first, a key question…
Is there a lot to be learned if you’re Mattia Binotto and Ferrari?
While Vettel was the first among the two Ferrari’s to pit, the German eventually holding on well for a comfortable third place finish, the 2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix pitted Ferrari and Mercedes directly in a race of strategy, aced by the Toto Wolff- led outfit as the Scuderia’s plan for Leclerc left a lot to be desired.
The 2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix asked a key question of the Italian team, and had the Tifosi scratching their heads.
Did the Scuderia bungle a good chance for a Charles Leclerc race win?
That’s right, not Sebastian Vettel, who has clinched pole twice in the past and secured a P2 in Azerbaijan, but Charles Leclerc, the man who eventually finished behind Verstappen for a relatively harmless fifth, albeit setting a new track record at 1:43:009.
One wondered what was the point in having Leclerc do a longer stint, having him pit so late in the race, with little opportunity to maximise the benefit of being on soft tyres? While the idea was to play for a safety car or even hold up Bottas to bring Vettel closer to Hamilton, did it really pay-off?
If the qualifying fiasco on Saturday wasn’t enough to upset Leclerc’s track position for the start of the 2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, it didn’t help that he had to fight doubly hard to get the fresh rubber to play its role with only a handful of laps to go.
Therefore, all the good work done by car number 16 – in the form of some brisk overtaking as seen during the move on Verstappen (lap four) in the battle for fourth and also with Sergio Perez early on – was undone by Leclerc’s struggle during the closing stages as he played catch up to the Dutchman who he’d earlier passed.
Still Fight Left in the Iceman
We also learned that there’s a bit of fight remaining in Kimi Raikkonen. After his Alfa Romeo’s front wing failed the deflection test, Kimi was forced to begin his Baku challenge from the pitlane.
That’s not where you want to be on a track where it’s tough to overtake – right? Yet, Raikkonen’s steely moves on both Haas cars as seen during the middle stages reminded one that the Iceman’s still got it.
We also found that perhaps there’s not such a thick bond between the Baku street circuit and its consistent non-finisher, Romain Grosjean.
It’s not the greatest love-story is it?
Seeing Grosjean, who’s failed to secure a point here ever since the first instalment of the race, in 2016, retire again – locking up at the third corner of Lap 32 – didn’t make for a pretty sight.
That told, the biggest thing we learned is that Charles Leclerc is the real deal in 2019. In setting the fastest lap of the race, and a new track record, the man who could have been in control of the race may be feeling that his first win is just around the corner.