Today the single-seaters took the track at the Baku City Circuit for the first two free practice sessions of the Azerbaijan GP to kick off a weekend that sees among the main protagonists the two Scuderia Ferrari ’s drivers, back from the last race weekend in Monaco that did not prove very lucky for the team.
During FP1 Charles Leclerc set a time just over a tenth behind leader Sergio Perez but ended up a quarter of a second ahead of the Red Bull driver setting the best time in FP2. The Cavallino’s driver, explained later at the media, was quite satisfied about the performance improvement today.
“We’ve had a hard Friday because overall I think we’ve improved quite a lot from FP1 to FP2 but there’s still another step that we have to do from today to tomorrow. I also feel Iike in FP2 nobody really put a lap in and neither did we – actually I think Max and Carlos didn’t actually improve on the softs, so there’s still quite a lot of question marks.
“I think the positive to take away from today is that the tyre degradation was good and the race pace was very strong, so that is good.”
In the course of FP2 the Monegasque driver complained a loss of power over the radio, but he was quickly reassured by the pit wall.
“Actually it was no power unit problems, - Leclerc explained - it’s just me that forgot that I had changed something, which obviously made me lose power. But yes, nothing weird.”
Asked if he thinks he might be in the condition to take back the championship lead this weekend, facing a nine-point deficit to Verstappen, Leclerc replied: “Well I hope so. Whether it will be this weekend or not, I don’t know, but if we do everything perfect I’m confident that we’ll take it back at one point.”
His teammate, Carlos Sainz, finished fourth then fifth in the respective practice sessions. However he said the team made gains from FP1 to FP2 and he felt much more comfortable as the day went on.
“Yes, it was a tough session, a tough couple of sessions, like always here in Baku on Friday, getting used to the speeds, the walls, the bumps. With these new cars you can feel a lot more the bumps and the challenges of this circuit.
“But it was a good day, I think we made good steps as a team, we moved in the right direction with the car and we certainly felt more competitive in FP2 than in FP1, together with feeling a bit more at home, so we’ll get there.”
Still one thing that worries him a lot is the excessive bouncing he felt on the Baku’s long straights.
Several other drivers reported that the cars were porpoising severely, however the Spaniard said that it was “particularly bad” for him and evidently worse on his side of the garage compared to the experience of team-mate Charles Leclerc.
“It’s certainly something I’m looking into,” Sainz said. “Today for some reason I struggled a lot with this phenomenon that hasn’t been there in the last few races.
“It looked particularly bad on our side of the garage. It’s something I need to dig into in the data with the engineers because it is something really annoying around here. It was taking out a bit of [my] confidence on the straights, in the braking. So hopefully for tomorrow we can solve it.”
Regardless Sainz considers himself quite satisfied with his Friday, believing Ferrari made a strong step forward from one practice session to the other. As for the fight with the Red Bull team, the Ferrari’s driver expects nothing but a very tight battle.
“I think it looks super tight between us [Ferrari and Red Bull]. They tend to have more straight-line speed, we tend to be a bit stronger in the corners.
“I think it’s going to be a tough fight with them. Checo [Perez] looks to be on form here again. So it’s going to be a tight battle with them, like it has been the whole year, really.”