What the teams said – Race day in Azerbaijan
Perez managed to get past Leclerc off the line and led the race in the early stages. But once the Ferrari man pitted under the VSC, it left a straight fight between the Red Bull team mates. In the end Verstappen was able to manage his tyres better and had the pace to overhaul the Mexican, going on to claim a fifth win of the season. Perez at least picked up the bonus point for fastest lap on a great day for the team – but was left at a loss to explain why he couldn’t get the best out of his tyres on race day.
Max Verstappen, 1st
“Today we had incredible pace in the car, we could really look after the tyres and we could chip away for the lead. Checo did a good job at the start getting ahead of Charles, I got blocked in and couldn’t go anywhere. Once I was on the hard tyres and in the lead and I could just manage it and could control the gap. It would have been good to have had a battle with Charles today but he had a DNF. To get a 1-2 for the Team was really good, we’ve scored some good points today and made the gap bigger to Ferrari. There’s still a long way to go, it’s a long season so we need to keep pushing as a Team.”
Sergio Perez, 2nd
“I started really well, we were leading and felt we had things under control. We were a little unlucky with the timing of the VSC which made things a bit more difficult for us. When you are leading the race for the first stint, which is normally the harder one, then you think you are looking strong but that wasn’t to be the case today and that is racing. I got some bad degradation on my rear tyres, which meant I couldn’t keep Max behind, he was extremely fast and it made sense for him to pass me rather than fight it. We were told to keep certain pace on the hards once both Ferraris were out of the race and we managed the rest of it well. We have to understand where we could have got more out of the car today and go forward to Canada and make sure we are in contention once again. Today was a great result for the Team and a good day in the Constructors’ Championship.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“It’s a fantastic result for us today on a track that never fails to deliver the unexpected. I think it’s a shame that the fans didn’t get to see how the strategy would have played out today, Ferrari stopped very early under that virtual safety car, and with us going onto the hard tyre that much later, I think that would have given us the advantage towards the end of the race. But we managed to capitalise on the events within the race with both drivers driving fantastically. We asked them to race each other cleanly and fairly and that’s what they did. They’re doing a great job for the Team and we’re very proud of what the whole team has achieved today.”
A disastrous day for the team that saw both cars retire from the race. Sainz was the first to go, pulling over with what he originally thought was a brake-by-wire problem, but turned out to be an issue with the hydraulics. Leclerc had been running second after losing the lead with a lock up into Turn 1 at the start, but having pitted early under the VSC found himself back ahead. He was being chased by the fresher-shod Bulls when his engine let go. No points in the championship on a day their rivals took home the spoils is a tough pill to swallow.
Charles Leclerc, DNF
"It’s a disappointing outcome for us today. At the beginning of the first stint on the Mediums we weren’t particularly strong, but towards the end of it, we started catching Checo (Perez). During the Virtual Safety Car, we decided to take the opportunity and pit for Hards, which was the right thing to do. It put us in a position where we could lead the race and what we had to focus on from then on was managing the tyres to the end. We then had an issue with the power unit and had to retire. It’s time to go home and reset before Canada. We have to get on top of things and come back stronger there."
Carlos Sainz, DNF
"Today’s result is hard to accept. After the start we opened the gap to manage the tyres and try to extend the first stint longer into the race. Unfortunately, a hydraulic problem occurred on lap 9 and that was it. Together with Charles’ issue, this is definitely a difficult day for the entire team and our fans, as we lost valuable points and mileage. For one reason or another, it’s been complicated to build a strong momentum so far this season. However, we are a very strong team and I have absolutely no doubt we have the ability and determination to come back stronger. There is still a long way to go this year. On to Canada."
Mattia Binotto, Team Principal
"This is undoubtedly a bad day. Compared to last year, we have made great progress in terms of performance, however there is definitely still room for improvement on the reliability front. In a week’s time we will be in Canada where we will aim to make up for this. Before then, we will analyse the failures we experienced here and will try to manage them until we can get on top of them. There is definitely still work to do."
Russell had a reasonably straightforward day – he gained two places thanks to the Ferrari cars bowing out, and drove a composed, mistake-free race to grab his third podium of the season. Hamilton had to work harder for fourth place, after dropping behind Vettel in the pit stops and also finding himself behind plenty of traffic. The Driver of the Day pulled off some good overtakes to climb back through the field, but was seen struggling post-race with back pain after complaining about the bouncing of the W13 at this track.
Lewis Hamilton, 4th
"I just got through that race on adrenaline, biting down on my teeth through the pain. I can’t express the pain that you experience, especially on the straight here. And at the end, you’re just thinking of all the people relying on you for the points. But we’re in such a good position still! Third and fourth is a great result for the team. The team did a great job with the strategy and once we’ve fixed this bouncing we’re going to be right there in the race. We’re losing over a second for sure just with bouncing, or at least a second. I’ll be at the factory tomorrow, we’ve got have some good discussions and keep pushing."
George Russell, 3rd
"We were smashing the ground every single corner and every lap for 90 mins, it was pretty brutal – I’ll sleep well tonight! It’s what we’ve got to deal with it at the moment, there’s not much we can do in the short-term. There’s lots of intelligent people, hugely talented engineers in the sport so I’m sure we’ll find a solution. We didn’t get the podium on pure pace today but we did it because the team have worked very hard to deliver a reliable car, we did a good job to be ahead of the midfield and obviously we picked up on Ferrari’s misfortune. As a team, we take that as a positive and kudos to everyone at Brackley and Brixworth on all the hard work. We know we aren’t quick enough and we’ve got a long way to go to bring performance. We’re experimenting and trying things, one week turnaround to Montreal will be tough to find the solution but hopefully we’ll get there soon."
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"This is where we are at the moment – not as quick as the front runners but clear of the midfield. We never enjoy our rivals’ misfortune, we want to see a strong fight at the front and we’re hoping to catch up and join so there’s six of us there fighting. A strong job from George today, he managed the race and took his podium well. We need to find a solution for the bouncing because the car we gave Lewis today was so tough to drive, you could see the pain in his back all weekend. After running on Friday, we knew we had big limitations with the car in Baku so it was a case of maximising our strategy, driving and our operations. The team did a great job on all three to ensure we were in the mix and ready to take advantage of any opportunity that came our way. Today, it paid off and we leave Baku with a good haul of points but we are under no illusion of the job we have ahead of us to get back to the front. There are no holy cows, everything is being looked at and we’ve got a great team trying to solve our issues."
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
"We can be pleased with the result today as we’ve achieved the maximum possible – both drivers raced well, the strategy was good and it was a welcome reward to see George on the podium again. However, we were lucky to inherit the Ferrari positions today, the gaps to the front are just as big as Monaco, we’re currently heading up the midfield and that won’t leave anyone in Brackley or Brixworth satisfied. So, lots of work to do to; we’ve got to improve the ride quality for the drivers as they have tolerated it today but it’s not acceptable to put them through that every Sunday and we’ve clearly got to find a huge chunk of laptime. The bumpier tracks seem to be a particular problem for us and Montreal is not especially smooth so we’ve got one area there to work on over the next few days before we get running again. The team is determined to continue pushing to find solutions, to find performance and to get back to racing at the front."
AlphaTauri pitted both cars early on under the VSC, asking them to go the distance on rapidly aging tyres. Gasly made the strategy work, running fourth for much of the race before losing out to a fresher shod Hamilton late on. Tsunoda looked on for sixth before his DRS malfunctioned, with only half the mechanism opening. Called back to the pits for a fix, that late stop dropped him out of the points.
Pierre Gasly, 5th
“It’s been pretty incredible for us today. Finishing in the top five is really good, especially considering how the start of our year has played out. We’ve not had that much luck so far, so it was important to get a clean weekend, which is what we’ve achieved here in Baku. We made no mistakes this weekend, we showed great pace in practice, then we had the best Quali of the year yesterday and today we finished in our highest position of the season to date. We also enjoyed a nice little battle with Lewis, which was fun. We knew at the start of the race that it would be relentless, as we headed in with just one new set of Hards, so we were really hoping for a clean end to the race but unfortunately, we had the second Virtual Safety Car, and we knew that wouldn’t play out in our favour. I tried to defend against Lewis the best I could, once he pitted for new tyres, but he was much faster – I tried to nurse my tyres through the race, but they really weren’t in great shape by that point. At the end of the day, to be in a position to fight with the Mercedes means that we’re doing a really good job, so it’s great for the team to come away with lots of points today.”
Yuki Tsunoda, 13th
“I’m really disappointed today. Until the reliability issue the race was going really well for me, we were really in control of the tyres and the pace was good, so I think we could’ve easily finished in P6 today. I wasn’t fully aware of the issue, as it wasn’t causing too much of a change to our performance, that’s why I was a bit shocked when I was called in. It’s such a shame to be coming away without points from my side of the garage, as the team have done such a great job this weekend and we’ve been strong in every session.”
Guillaume Dezoteux, Head of Vehicle Performance
“We’ve got mixed emotions here in Baku today. We are all extremely happy to achieve a great, and well-deserved, fifth place with Pierre. However, we are very disappointed for Yuki, who lost a possible sixth position due to mechanical damage around the rear wing DRS mechanism and flap. The race was intense and following a strong first stint on the medium tyre, we decided to use the opportunity of the first Virtual Safety Car period to pit both cars and switch to hard tyres. It was a little bit earlier than we had hoped and we knew it would be a long way to the end of the race. Both drivers did a fantastic job at managing the tyres and the car, everything was looking good and steady. Unfortunately, thanks to the second VSC, Hamilton could fit a second set of Hards and pass us just seven laps before the end of the race. Pierre kept his head down and finished the race P5 with good pace, considering his very old tyres. For Yuki, the mechanical damage meant we were forced to stop and repair the issue, losing many positions. We apologise to him, he did a fantastic job this weekend and deserved this result. Anyway, this weekend boosts our morale. We have been able to close the gap to sixth place in the Constructors’ Championship and the target is to confirm this good form in Canada next week.”
Vettel had a solid race, picking up a place off the line and another in the first round of pit stops. He then undid that hard work by losing two positions after overcooking it into Turn 3 when passing Ocon, but made his tyres last the distance to climb back through the field. Stroll couldn’t make up as much ground after starting down the back, and was retired late on after his car suffered unusual oscillations.
Sebastian Vettel, 6th
"Sixth position is really great – I think we can all be pleased with that result. We have been pushing the limits of this car, and it is starting to pay off for us now. Today, we were faster than Alfa Romeo and matched Alpine and Alpha Tauri, and that changes the game for us a little bit. The team did an amazing pit-stop, which enabled me to jump Lewis [Hamilton]. After that, I was sure I had got past Esteban [Ocon], but I thought he would battle more for the position, so I took to the escape road and lost some time. Without that incident, I think I could have battled for fifth position. Nevertheless, this is a great result."
Lance Stroll, DNF
“It is a shame that we had to retire the car. The engineers could see the car was suffering from a vibration issue, so they asked me to retire the car. We are still not quite sure what the problem was, so we will have to do some work over the next week to investigate it and fix things. Sebastian proved our car has the pace, so hopefully we can come back stronger for my home race in Canada next week, which I am really looking forward to.”
Mike Krack, Team Principal
“Sebastian capped a solid weekend with a good drive to sixth place in Baku today, thereby scoring eight valuable points in the constructors’ world championship. Lance was disadvantaged by a power unit issue in qualifying yesterday and a vibration problem today, which finally caused us to have to retire him a few laps before the end of the race. So we had mixed fortunes this weekend, but our car showed encouraging pace throughout. Next up is Canada in just a few days’ time - one of our home Grands Prix - where we will work hard to put up a competitive and trouble-free performance for both drivers on the streets of Montreal.”
The Alpine set-up proved one that was difficult to overtake, with both Alonso and Ocon keeping quicker cars behind for much of the race. Ocon started on the hard compound trye and benefitted from the late VSC to lose less time pitting, coming home in the points. Alonso had to work hard to keep the McLaren pair behind, but made no errors under pressure as he came home seventh.
Esteban Ocon, 10th
"It was a very challenging race today, so to come away with a double points finish and another top ten is a positive. Like always, we’ll debrief as a team to see what areas we can improve for next time. We were quick on both Friday and Saturday – we can count ourselves slightly unfortunate in qualifying which did not help our track position today - so there is definitely more potential there if we can piece it all together. We can leave Baku feeling positive and we’re already looking forward to returning to Canada next weekend where the aim is to keep scoring points.”
Fernando Alonso, 7th
“The race was difficult to execute today but we did well, and I am happy with seventh. We obviously benefited from a few retirements, but these things happen, and we were there to capitalise on them and really maximise our strengths. I overtook a few cars on the new tyres and we were very fast on the straights so that was useful. Our power-unit is looking strong and competitive, so this is always a good thing. We are very close with a number of cars at the moment, and I expect it to be quite similar in Canada. Let’s aim to score more points there!”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal
“The aim today was to have both cars finish the race inside the points and we’ve been able to achieve that. The characteristics of the Baku City Circuit brings a unique challenge to both the drivers and the cars and we felt if we could get both cars across the chequered flag we would be in the points. There was more potential in our package this weekend. Esteban was unfortunate in qualifying, which put him slightly further back on the grid than we would have liked. That said, both drivers drove smart, well calculated races today when it counts for points and we can be pleased that both made up places and into the top ten. We’ll debrief over the next couple of days and we look forward to heading back to Montreal next weekend for the highly anticipated return of the Canadian Grand Prix. We’ve moved into fifth in the Constructors’ and we’re looking ahead to make further inroads on fourth place.”
McLaren split their strategies, starting Norris on the medium tyre and Ricciardo on the hards. The C3 hard tyre proved quicker and the Aussie was right behind his team mate, but ordered to hold position. Fast forward through the pit stops and this time around Ricciardo was ahead having run a long first stint, but on the less favoured medium tyre. He was being pushed by Norris, who wanted to be let past before the team opted to bring both cars home in the points.
Lando Norris, 9th
“I’m as happy as I can be with that, we just got unlucky with a couple of positions as a result of others boxing under the VSC, which happens in Baku. It’s just a case of different strategies. So, we lost out a little bit on that, but the pace was good. We found it difficult to overtake with our package here, but the actual pace of the car was strong. I think today was the best we could achieve, all things considered. But of course, we want more, so we’ll keep working on our weaknesses and aim for a better performance next time out in Montreal.”
Daniel Ricciardo, 8th
“I’m happy to have scored some points, obviously for the team and for myself – it’s been a while. It was an eventful race with split strategies, so at the beginning I was a bit quicker than Lando on the Hard tyre, and there were some team orders, and then at the end he was quicker on the Hard and there were further team orders. Ultimately, I don't think we were quick enough to challenge Fernando, as even if we got close on the straight, he was just so quick. So, obviously we’ve got to try and take a bit of drag out the car. That was our Achilles’ heel here this weekend – but otherwise, I think we maximised our result. I’m happy to have had a smoother weekend.”
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal
“Given our starting positions and the performance we had in our package this weekend, we are happy leaving Baku with six points for the team. Daniel and Lando worked together with the team and maximised all that was in our hands today. We knew before the race that, with our top-speed deficit at this track, we would struggle to overtake Alonso on track, which in the end didn’t allow us to progress further up the field despite trying a different strategy. We’ll keep working on understanding the car and see how we can optimise it further for the next race in Montreal, which is only a few days away.
“Thank you to the entire team here at track, back home at MTC and our colleagues at HPP, as well as Daniel and Lando for all the hard work again this weekend. I’d also like to thank our amazing fans for their continued support throughout this season so far, wherever we go. The whole team are working tirelessly to unlock more performance within our car, so that we can keep up the fight in the Constructors’ Championship. Next stop Canada.”
Zhou was left disappointed after being called back to the pits to retire for the third time in four races, especially given he'd looked strong in the opening stages. As for Bottas, he made progress forward but lacked the pace to really take the fight to the midfield. It’s the first time he’s seen the chequered flag but failed to score this season.
Valtteri Bottas, 11th
“We came here hunting for points and we leave with none, so I am obviously not very pleased about how our weekend went. Today it felt like a very long race as we were lacking pace: I believe there was something fundamentally wrong with the car, something we need to investigate. We will need to figure out what exactly happened before we get to Montreal, but I am convinced we will understand it and address it. Other than the outright pace, we did well as a team in terms of strategy and race execution, but that wasn’t enough to bring home the points. I feel quite sorry for Zhou as he was doing a really good race prior to his retirement: today was not our day, but I am looking forward to Canada next week. It’s been a while since we raced there and it’ll be nice to be back.”
Zhou Guanyu, DNF
“It’s frustrating not to finish today, but I want to focus on the positives of my performance. Until the issue, my race had gone really well: I didn’t do any mistake, I was competitive and I was running in the points. I had good pace and I know we could have brought home a good result. What happened is unfortunate, but the most important now is that we, as a team, solve this issue for the future so that we stop missing out on the opportunities we have. We’ll investigate what the issue is in detail and we’ll make sure we do come back stronger.”
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal
“We end our Sunday here in Baku with a feeling of disappointment, as our streak of consecutive points finishes comes to an end after five good races. It was a big blow to lose Zhou with a technical issue today: until then, he had delivered an excellent performance, without a single mistake, and he was destined for the points. He deserved a good result today, but at least we can look at his performance knowing he’s on an upward path. Valtteri had a difficult race and we have to analyse what went wrong: we weren’t able to extract performance from the car throughout the weekend, and it’s something we need to address before Montreal to make sure we return to the level we have been competing at this season.”
Magnussen was making pretty good headway and was on the edge of the points and fighting hard with Ocon when he suddenly pulled over with what looked like a PU failure. As for Schumacher, starting last was always going to make his afternoon tricky and he kept out of trouble, but couldn’t make it higher than 14th.
Kevin Magnussen, DNF
"It looked like we were back in the game and in a position to maybe score a point or two, so it’s disappointing. I know I lost power but I don’t know what exactly broke so it’s unfortunate but on to the next one. We’ve just got to stay at it, keep positive and keep working hard as it will go our way sooner or later."
Mick Schumacher, 14th
"There wasn’t a safety car, or a red flag and I think I was betting on three safety cars and a red flag, at least, but it didn’t happen. We did our maximum, but the pace just wasn’t there. From Saturday onwards, things went a bit smoother but on a track like this it’s the Friday that matters and we only had one session to find the perfect set-up for qualifying, so it’s not easy and that’s what made everything a little bit more difficult. We just have to look ahead."
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
"It’s not what we wanted today but the good thing that we take away is that we were in a good position when we had some PU issues, but we still have to find out what it is. As I always say, our car is good enough to get into the points, we just need to make it happen. Kevin was fighting and was in the fight and Mick also put in a solid effort."
Latifi’s race was off to a bad start before the lights had even gone out, a ten second stop and go penalty awarded after a mechanic was seen pushing him back into his grid slot after the track should have been cleared. He also picked up a five second time penalty for ignoring blue flags. Albon got stuck in, fighting hard with the Haas pair and was well placed to capitalise had there been any more chaos up front.
Nicholas Latifi, 15th
“It was tricky being so far off from the pack then the cycle of blue flags and getting caught by the leaders very early on. The race ended up being a very long and lonely one. We managed to get more mileage and laps with the car, but overall a challenging weekend on this track. A day to forget but excited to be heading straight to Canada for my first home race.”
Alex Albon, 12th
“It was a fun race here in Baku! We just got a bit unlucky with the VSC timing, otherwise we would have been in a better place to fight for points today, but again our race pace was actually really strong. If you look at our pace relative to the midfield it was very strong; we were as quick if not quicker than a lot of cars in front of us. We had a good start, optimised what we had, and it was a well-executed race for us.”
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance
“Alex raced very well and the pace of the FW44 in race trim was good today. The timing of the VSC which allowed Bottas to stay ahead was frustrating, but that is racing; at least we forced the situation by stopping Alex for a second time and played an aggressive hand in pursuit of a better result. At the end of the race, we stopped the car immediately as we could see something on the data that we were not comfortable with.
“Nicholas had a tough day, with an immediate penalty for a minor breach of the regulations on the grid. The penalty is mandated by the regulations and we were at fault, albeit only momentarily so we need to review our process and ensure that it doesn’t happen in the future. From there, Nicholas was always going to have a tough race, but he successfully completed a one-stop race, which was not easy in today’s hot conditions. We will take the learning from this weekend on to Canada. We are looking forward to returning to Montreal and competing on another exciting circuit using the softest of the Pirelli compounds.”
Mario Isola, Motorsport Director
"In all likelihood, this would have been a one-stop race, but the opportunities presented by the virtual safety cars for pit stops with minimal time loss were too good for several of the teams to ignore. This influenced the timing of the pit stops and therefore the strategy. We still saw seven of the 15 finishers stopping only once, which underlines the durability as well as the performance of the tyres here. With the conditions as they were, on a hot track featuring high speeds, it was clear that the harder compounds were best suited to today’s race: a fact that many of the teams had anticipated by saving more than one set of hard tyres for the grand prix."