2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix Review

Bet you weren’t expecting that were you? I sure wasn’t. I am talking about last weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix. 

Not the most exciting if I’m honest however there was drama even before lights out.

With three drivers starting from pit lane, there were a few gaps in the grid order.

Pierre Gasly, Kimi Raikkonen and Robert Kubica all starting from pit lane after being disqualified from qualifying on Saturday.

However that to me was pretty much all the drama that happened with a mostly uneventful race on Sunday.

A slightly disappointing race all round I think unless you are a Mercedes fan, with only the opening and closing laps providing any excitement.

Now, let crack on with my thoughts on how each team fared this weekend. 

 

Mercedes

Merc front row lockout
Mercedes produced their third front row lockout in four races this season en route to a fourth consecutive one-two finish. (Image Credit: Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport)

Race Result: Valtteri Bottas – 1st, Lewis Hamilton – 2nd

Once again Mercedes have shown the world that they are the team to beat with their fourth straight 1-2 finish, which is a new all-time record for the start of any season.

Bottas deservingly got the win that he should have had last year, had his rear tyre not blown up and also became the first pole to flag winner of 2019 as he reclaims the title lead from Lewis Hamilton.

The Finn however was lucky to take pole after two red flags in qualifying saw the track temperature swing into his favour, and he took full advantage after carefully controlling the race and fending off various challenges from teammate – Hamilton

It’s hard to say who really has the better car this season from what we saw in Bahrain I was getting excited until China and Azerbaijan happened.

Mercedes just look unbeatable at the moment if compare the constructor’s standings to last year, when they were just one point ahead of Ferrari, compared to a 74 point lead now.

Will we finally see these two fight for the win next time out?

Personally I hope so as seeing one team win constantly is rather boring, great for the team but boring for us as fans.

 

Ferrari

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Race Result: Sebastian Vettel – 3rd, Charles Leclerc – 5th 

Ferrari had a tough start from Saturday.

With Leclerc crashing and Vettel only managing third, it looked like they had it all to do.

To add insult to injury, Leclerc also started on what was thought to be the worse tyre for the start as he had crashed whilst having the medium tyre on.

However he did manage to take the lead until his tyre gave out and had to stop for fresh rubber. This on paper wasn’t so bad as he would have the fastest tyre available when everyone around had the slower and much older tyre.

Sadly nothing came of it as to me they kept him out far too long,  compromising his strategy again.

Had he come in earlier he may have mounted a real challenge for the Mercedes or at best finishing directly behind his teammate.

Vettel on the other hand pretty much had a quiet race. He was close at the beginning but was never really in the fight.

No one was really and in the end, the best they could achieve without any incident was third and that’s what they got.

Would Leclerc be closer had he pitted earlier? Possibly but that’s all up for speculation now but in my view he would have been far closer to his teammate at least.

 

Red Bull

Red Bull
Red Bull had a decent weekend of progress, although reliability cost Gasly a sixth-placed finish. (Image Credit: Red Bull Content Pool)

Race Result: Max Verstappen – 4th, Pierre Gasly – Retired

It was a tough weekend for the Bulls with Verstappen being the only one to finish.

The spec two Honda engine worked better than many thought, allowing Verstappen to get closer to the Mercedes and Ferrari drivers, although a loss of tyre temperature cost him the chance to chase down Vettel for the final podium spot.  

However it was Gasly who suffered the mechanical failure of the new engine with his Red Bull losing power before stopping.

It would have been a great recovery drive from pit lane for Gasly after he had missed the weighbridge during FP2 to earn himself that pit lane start, and he would of matched his result in China if the car had reached the checkered flag. 

Definitely a weekend of progress for Red Bull with room for improvement in coming races, as Gasly continues to settle into the team. 

 

Racing Point 

Perez
Sergio Perez enjoyed an impressive weekend as he led Racing Point to a double points finish (Image Credit: SportPesa Racing Point)

Race Result: Sergio Perez – 6th, Lance Stroll – 9th

A great race for the team with a double points finish and a very promising start from Perez.

Having qualified in P5, the Mexican managed to get the jump on Verstappen at start to briefly take fourth, before going on to finish a comfortable sixth after Gasly’s retirement. 

Stroll who had a bit of a clumsy weekend managed to finish ninth after making progress from P14 on the grid. Now he can hopefully build upon this and keep the momentum going into the next race.

In fact, let hope that this is the start of a upturn in Racing Point’s fortunes after a slow start to this season.

 

McLaren 

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Race Result: Carlos Sainz – 7th, Lando Norris – 8th

So after a dismal Chinese Grand Prix, McLaren have a double points finish here, despite Sainz finishing 17s ahead of Norris. 

Sainz had the better race of the pair, coming from P10 to finish in front of his teammate who had a under-par race by his standards after starting P7 and finishing eighth.

Still on the positive note. they did finish in front of a racing point who were best of the rest.

 

Alfa Romeo

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Race Result: Kimi Raikkonen – 10th, Antonio Giovinazzi – 12th

Raikkonen was one of three drivers who started from the pit lane, after his front wing was declared illegal by stewards just hours before the race.

Gaining positions straight away, he then pulled through to finish not only in the points but two positions ahead of Giovinazzi, who had begun in P17 due to a ten-place grid penalty but could only improve five spots. 

Not bad considering that it is his first full season in the sport, and the fact that he crashed out in China a few years back.

 

Toro Rosso

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Race Result: Alexander Albon – 11th, Daniil Kvyat – Retired

It was a mixed weekend for Toro Rosso as Kvyat’s birthday on Friday ended with him in the wall at turn seven during second practice.

The Russian however recovered on Saturday to P6 where he made a promising start in the race, but after a botched over take attempt by Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo the pair came together after locking up and heading down the escape road.

Ricciardo however was slightly too eager to re-join the race and accidentally reversed into Kvyat, handing himself a three-place grid drop for Barcelona. 

This didn’t immediately end Kvyat’s race but later on, he had to retire due to damage sustained in the knock.

Albon’s race didn’t amount to much as the most we really saw was a few laps of the pair battling it out, with Albon getting ahead of his teammate.

Starting P11 and finishing in the same position, Baku hadn’t gone the way he or the team had hoped for.

 

Renault

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Race Result: Nico Hulkenberg – 14th, Daniel Ricciardo – Retired

Speaking of Ricciardo, we come to Renault.

Having enjoyed a decent race battling for the final point prior to his incident with Kvyat, Ricciardo retired with irreparable damage from the hit to make it three retirements from the opening four rounds. 

Nico Hulkenberg meanwhile didn’t achieve that much in the race having only made up one position from his starting spot of P15. 

Another sad ending to the race for Renault in what should be a season to prepare to challenge the top three teams.

 

Haas 

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Race Result: Kevin Magnussen – 13th, Romain Grosjean – Retired

Haas had a fairly dismal weekend with neither driver looking capable of challenging for  a top ten finish, never mind points. 

After a poor qualifying session, Haas endured a fairly dull race as Grosjean retired with brake problems whilst Kevin Magnussen finished 13th. 

Hopefully we see a stronger performance next time out from Haas who are currently underperforming.

 

Williams 

 

Race Result: George Russell – 15th, Robert Kubica – 16th 

Williams yet again finished dead last of those who did finish – TWO laps down on Bottas.

That result is however the least of their worries after George Russell’s collision with a manhole cover in the opening practice session on Friday, which necessitated a chassis change. 

Russell however recovered well on Saturday to outqualify Kubica then finish ahead of him in the race.

As for Kubica, this was another weekend to forget after a crash at turn eight in qualifying caused him to start from the pit lane, where he picked up a drive through penalty for a start procedure infringement. 

For me, a ticking off would have sufficed given that he was really never going to make any impact on the race. .

Join us here next time for the Spanish Grand Prix.

Craig Telford.

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