Back from a week off after the Monaco Grand Prix, Scuderia Ferrari approached the eighth race of the season in Baku with really high expectations. But as we know Formula 1 can be often unpredictable and unfortunately things didn't go as planned for the Cavallino team.
In Monaco the Maranello squad had to deal with some unfortunate circumstances and miscalculations, but this time the real issue was reliability of both cars as the sporting director and head of race strategy Inaki Rueda explains in his race analysis.
Sainz managed to start the race P4, behind the leading trio composed by Verstappen, Perez and teammate Leclerc. Rueda explains that since being the last of this group of fast cars, the team decided to adopt for the Spanish driver a strategy opposite from the above-mentioned group.
“If that group stopped early, Carlos would go long. If that group went long, Carlos would stop early.”
As planned this strategy turned out to be the best option for Sainz: "Because of that Carlos saved a lot his tyres in the first few laps and you saw him drop back. This was all part of the plan to then come back at the end of the race and challenge Verstappen and Perez for P1 and P2. As Carlos was starting to push on on lap six and seven, he was starting to make ground on that group.”
Unfortunately, however, his race ended on the next lap, when the Spanish driver due to a hydraulic failure was forced to retire.
With Leclerc the strategy adopted was totally different, said Rueda. The Monegasque on Saturday managed to get a very good qualifying lap which gave him pole position, ahead of Perez and Verstappen. So during the race, he was fighting for the lead with the two Red Bulls.
The sporting director explains how important it was, ahead of Baku, the work done by the team on the DRS, which was decisive in the last races.
"Verstappen got within DRS range of Charles and this is something we’ve been working on lately because with such small margins with Red Bull we find ourselves winning or losing games with DRS overtakes. For Baku we brought a different rear wing and we worked on our strategy.”
Then the development of the VSC on lap 9, due to the issue on Sainz’ car, was a crucial opportunity for Leclerc’s race.
“Crucially when Carlos stopped, we realised that it was very likely going to be a Virtual Safety Car Period and we got ready with Charles to pit in case the race direction thought that they had to deploy the Virtual Safety Car. This was crucial for our race.”
“A pit stop under VSC cost roughly ten seconds less than a normal pit stop. And because of this Charles was able to do his only pit stop of the race with much less of a penalty than both Red Bulls.”
“So after the VSC period on lap nine, Charles set off to the end on the Hard tyres. Red Bull tried to go as long as possible on the Medium tyres but they were dropping a lot. The medium tyres had a lot of degredation and Perez lost a lot of time to go longer and longer to offset himself to Charles.”
Sadly for Ferrari, while Leclerc was the leader of the Azerbaijan GP and probably set to become its winner according to them, he suffered a PU failure after eleven laps on the hard tyres.
“Unfortunately, after 11 laps on the hard tyre, Charles suffered a power failure and this cut our race short. Our simulations indicate that had there not been another Virtual Safety Car period, Charles would have won the race comfortably against Verstappen."
In the end, the sporting director admits that there is definitely a lot of disappointment for not having scored the amount of points they should have but the team remains very positive and confident ahead of the Canadian GP.
“We have a very strong performing car, both in qualifying and in the race. We’re capable of fighting in every possible scenario. Our reliability is a weak point. We are aware of this and we will address this in the future. Now we’re going to Canada. Our ambitions are still high and our aim hasn’t changed.”