The resurgence of Scuderia Ferrari was set to continue in Azerbaijan following a second pole position in as many races for the team’s talismanic driver Charles Leclerc. With the Monegasque driver’s teammate, Carlos Sainz, starting from 5th, Ferrari Team Principal Mattia Binotto’s hopes were high – despite the company line in the media playing down their chances before the race. However, having seen his drivers cross the line in 4th and 8th position respectively, Binotto has announced ‘we were expecting something better’.
A fortnight ago, Monaco GP pole-sitter Charles Leclerc could not start his home Grand Prix in the principality but the Prancing Horse still found reason to be cheerful. Carlos Sainz making his way to the second step of the podium was a real confidence boost for the Italian manufacturer. As such, when Charles Leclerc defied the odds and claimed pole position for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, aided by a red flag in the closing stages of Q3, many wondered whether his pace could be carried over to the race.
In true 2021 Scuderia Ferrari fashion, the Maranello-based team deflected any talk of victory. Such a belief then became apparent to the viewing audience shortly after the lights went out in Baku. The Tifosi and all those watching the exploits unfold could see for themselves that Scuderia Ferrari did not have a pace to match Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team or Red Bull Racing around the streets of Baku.
Nevertheless, with the Azerbaijan Grand Prix being famously unpredictable, there was still a good chance for a large haul of points. However, no one expected Carlos Sainz to make an error on lap 11 by running down the escape road at Turn 8 which compromised his entire race. So much so, that 8th position would be the best the Spanish racer could muster – a very different outcome from his podium in Monaco.
As for the pole-sitter, Charles Leclerc, his race story was one of being overtaken whenever the lights went out. First, by Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen and eventual race-winner Sergio Perez in the opening laps. Followed by Sebastian Vettel and Pierre Gasly once the race restarted for a frenetic two-lap shootout after Max Verstappen’s well documented tyre blowout.
Speaking to the media after Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Scuderia Ferrari Team Principal Mattia Binotto made clear that improvement is needed after such a difficult race:
“It was not the best race today from us,” said Binotto. “I think we were expecting something better after the quali. It has been a difficult race, we have not been perfect in many areas. The result is what it is, as usual it is a lesson learned. There are things we can improve, I’m sure of that.
“I think there are still two cars ahead of us that are stronger, no doubt,” added Binotto, in reference to Red Bull Racing and Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team. “It was great to have pole positions both here and in Monaco, but I don’t think that’s reflecting our true performance overall.
“But we are progressing. We are progressing because we are learning the car, we are exploiting it better than at the start of the season and we know that there will be some developments coming in the future. Overall I think that’s where we are, and today I think we were hoping for a better pace overall having seen the quali.”
Despite not gathering as many points as they may have hoped, Scuderia Ferrari’s weekend’s tally was enough to leapfrog their rivals, McLaren, into the top three in the constructors’ standings. Albeit with a gap of just two points between the Prancing Horse and the Woking-based manufacturer in the table.
“Overall, it’s still a good weekend and we should keep our heads up and [be] positive. We had a pole yesterday, which I think was outstanding, second pole in a row, showing the progress of the team and the car. And I think that we are third in constructors’ championship – it’s only by two points but it shows we are progressing. I think there are positives from the weekend but certainly at the end, as I said, things to be learned.
Speaking to the team’s official website, Ferrari.com, Mattia Binotto revealed:
“The gap to those behind is small and definitely smaller than it could have been. However, we have to move on from this and see it as further motivation to improve in every aspect of our work."
We are just 6 races into the 2021 F1 Season and we have seen 8 different drivers reach the podium – Valtteri Bottas, Pierre Gasly, Lewis Hamilton, Lando Norris, Sergio Perez, Carlos Sainz, Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel. Therefore, with such variety it shows fans are getting the closely contested season they had hoped for after so many months prior of ‘Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen’. No doubt the shape of the season will be somewhat clearer as next up is a triple header made up of the French Grand Prix and then two race weekends in Austria.
With races coming thick and fast, Mattia Binotto knows the task ahead:
“Now we have three races in a row in the next weeks. Certainly the team will be focused, positive and try to do better in the future.”