The F1 Chinese GP did not give as much drama as the Friday of Azerbaijan GP had with Ferrari pace the hot topic while Kevin Magnussen again in news with Lewis Hamilton this time.
Starting with the pace-setters, the Ferrari duo looked quick to start the F1 Azerbaijan GP weekend despite the loss of FP1 session. Charles Leclerc ended up on top but he and Sebastian Vettel worked together heavily, be it practicing towing at main straight.
The biggest difference from China was Ferrari’s pace in the corners which has been the lack so far in 2019, with Mercedes certainly wary of the Italian manufacturer’s show. But the Ferrari drivers took things with caution as they could see Mercedes stronger in long run.
“I think we are pretty strong,” said Leclerc to the media. “On the other hand, I’m absolutely sure that there’s a lot more to come from Mercedes. They were very quick on the long runs, so there’s no reason [to think] they are slow on the short runs.
“So I’m pretty sure that Saturday when they put everything together it’s going to be very tight. [But] I am confident with this track, the car felt good in the only practice session and that’s all that matters.”
Ferrari teammate Vettel concurred with his teammate while talking about being comfortable mostly in the car, which hasn’t been the case for the German much in the season. At the same time, Mercedes went about the same way they have been doing.
The talk from Hamilton already hinted on ‘playing a catch’ up role to Ferrari, even though the German team have enough in the tank. It didn’t seem to be Bahrain like situation as Hamilton could match with the Ferrari cars in the long run.
“It’s been a bit of an odd day, but I still enjoyed it,” he said. “FP2 went really well, I was feeling good out there and I was more comfortable in the car than I was last year. However, the Ferrari is clearly very quick and it looks like they’re quite a bit ahead of us.
“So, we’ll need to investigate to see where we are losing time compared to them. It’s unlikely that we will find seven-tenths over night, but we’ll do everything we can to push the car in the right direction.”
He, however, admitted that the long run pace looked pretty solid, even if the short ones didn’t. His teammate Valtteri Bottas did not look as comfortable with multiple offs for the Finn as he finished even behind Red Bull Racing‘s Max Verstappen.
The Red Bull – at the hands of Verstappen – looked pretty solid but doesn’t seem to have the pace to out-fight the Top 3 drivers and probably even Bottas. Pierre Gasly, on the other hand, had another difficult outing to start the Azerbaijan GP weekend.
The Frenchman is gaining confidence but still needs much to do. His day worsened after he was handed a pitlane start penalty for missing the call to weigh at the end of FP2 – a harsh but a fair penalty considering the past offenders in the case.
At the same time, the Toro Rosso duo looked much better with both Daniil Kvyat and Alexander Albon well inside the Top 10. Even though the Russian missed much running due to power steering issue, he clocked the sixth quickest time to be the best of the rest.
RED FLAG 🔴
"I'm sorry guys – the suspension has gone"
— Formula 1 (@F1) April 26, 2019
He did hit the barrier towards the end to cause a red flag. Joining them in the Top 10 were the McLaren drivers but Carlos Sainz was adamant that his session was nowhere being comfortable as he did not feel quick at all – he was surprised with the lap time.
“I didn’t feel quick at all,” he said. “I was quite surprised to see [my] lap time, because honestly, in the car, it felt quite stressful not being able to warm up the rear tyres, struggling in pretty much every braking zone, every corner entry.”
Meanwhile, the two Renault drivers felt similar to what the McLaren duo did. In fact, it was strange for Daniel Ricciardo to end early as he had no tyres left after damaging both his sets due to hard locks-up. Nico Hulkenberg simply felt lack of everything.
For the rest, it was a day of halves as Racing Point’s Sergio Perez completed his run, while Lance Stroll not after his crash. Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi joked about missing another session but the Italian had a better FP2, where he beat Kimi Raikkonen.
The Finn was pretty disturbed seeing the FP1 happenings in Azerbaijan GP, which he described to be ‘amateur level’ things. “It was far from ideal for everybody and we looked like amateurs here,” he said. “It should not be like this.
“It’s up to the FIA to make sure that the track is like it’s supposed to be. It seems to be that every year some drainage hole comes loose, or something slides up. Luckily nobody got hurt, but it obviously destroyed everybody’s day.”
Coming to Haas, it looked like Kevin Magnussen had a better outing than Romain Grosjean but both lamented their long run pace as they have been saying for some time now. The Dane though was involved in a bit of scuffle with Hamilton towards the end.
The two were wheel-to-wheel after FP2 for apparently no reason. Magnussen said the yellow flags were out and so he was asked to slow down and pit but he saw Hamilton going together with him as they tussled for few corners which he thought was ‘unnecessary’.
Hamilton, though, did not say anything. Aside the track fight, it was a good show of humanity from Magnussen, who will be sporting a plain black helmet in Azerbaijan GP in a tribute to three children of ASOS billionaire and sponsor Anders Holch Povlsen.
— Haas F1 Team (@HaasF1Team) April 26, 2019
Povlsen’s three children – Astrid, Agnes and Alfred – were holidaying in Sri Lanka when they were killed in a massive terrorist attack. Magnussen is also carrying three A’s on his plain helmet with the team also showing their tribute with a memory sticker.
Finally, the day’s big headline went to Williams – not for their continued downward performance – but for the incident in FP1 for which the session was cancelled. George Russell was the biggest loser in all of it as he lost the whole of FP2.
With the chassis to be changed, the British racer will only get track time in FP3 – the only saving grace is that Russell knows the Azerbaijan GP circuit. “It came out of nowhere,” he said. “You can’t see these drains when you’re going that fast down the straight.
“And you’ve got so many on the track it’s just normal to run over them. The second I did there was a huge bang. I didn’t feel anything through my back so that was good but I could tell it had ripped the floor off.”
“[The impact] set the fire extinguisher off and because of that the car ended up turning off. Because the fire extinguisher was so cold it almost felt like it was burning me, so I didn’t know what was going on really at that point. I just jumped out as quickly as I could.”
— Formula 1 (@F1) April 26, 2019