Latest / Feature

What the teams said - Race day in Azerbaijan

29 Apr 2018

A round-up of all the action from an incident-packed Formula 1 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix at the Baku City Circuit...

Mercedes

Bottas opted for a long first stint and after pitting when the second safety car was called, looked set for his first victory of the year. But he was unfortunate to run over a piece of debris when leading which caused a puncture and led to his retirement. That helped promote his team mate into the lead after Vettel messed up Turn 1 at the restart. Hamilton, having struggled for pace on his soft compound tyres, was fortuitous to inherit the win but as he said post-race, he never gave up and that made a big difference in a chaotic race...

Lewis Hamilton, 1st

"I have very mixed emotions today. Valtteri deserved to win, he did an exceptional job and had a faultless drive. This is such a crazy and exciting race and I never gave up. I was constantly pushing but it was a real struggle. I feel incredibly grateful to come out with the win. You have to take the ups with the downs and I can't complain that I won; I will take it and hopefully learn from today. But Valtteri was very, very unfortunate, a one-two would have been a great result for the team. I would not have got by him in the remaining laps if he hadn't had his tyre blow. It looks like Ferrari still has the better car, they outperformed us most of the weekend. We were able to just hold on to them during the race. We definitely have some work to do, but we are in the mix and it's going to be very close. We have to keep our heads down and keep working."

Valtteri Bottas, DNF

"I'm absolutely heartbroken. It hurts a lot. But this is racing; some days are good, some days are bad - and some days are very bad. A small piece of debris destroyed my entire weekend. We had a good race until the puncture. The car felt really good and we were fast. I thought I had everything under control on the Safety Car restart, but then suddenly my tyre exploded. I didn't see the debris and I couldn't feel it until the tyre blew. It was really close the last couple of races, so it's good that our team won today, but I'm obviously still very disappointed. I'll try again in two weeks."

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport

"That was just a brutal race and probably exactly the kind of Grand Prix that fans want to see, with twists and turns at every point. In the garage, it was a real rollercoaster of emotions for the whole team and I am really pleased to see us get our first win of the season with Lewis but equally incredibly disappointed for Valtteri who drove a perfect race. We went from looking like scoring a solid double podium, to suddenly having the possibility of a one-two before it was snatched away from us with Valtteri's puncture, to still winning the race. For Lewis, I guess that his luck has come full circle after the misfortune earlier in the season, and it's probably fair to look at today as him getting back the win he lost in Melbourne. The race began pretty quietly, with clean starts for our guys and then everything unfolding steadily. Lewis got caught out with a gust of wind under braking, flat spotting his first set of tyres. This forced him to stop on lap 22 and take the Soft compound to the finish. Meanwhile, Valtteri stayed out and was just getting faster and faster; we stayed on track because he was building the gap to Vettel, and perhaps had a chance for the win with a late charge on UltraSoft, when the Safety Car came out for the Red Bull accident. We pitted both cars and, after Sebastian's mistake on the restart, we were set for the one-two finish when Valtteri hit a piece of debris that was on the track. Clearly that perfect result wasn't meant to be today in such an unpredictable race. So it's a bittersweet feeling: fantastic to get the win on the board and to be leading the drivers' championship, but also disappointed because the quickest guy DNF'd with a puncture - and because we know there is still work ahead of us to improve the pace of the car in what will be a close three-way fight for the rest of the season."

James Allison, Technical Director

"After three races where we had opportunities to win that we did not take, it's great to have victory come our way this afternoon in Baku. I am as pleased for Lewis as I am sad for Valtteri after the race. Both drivers delivered fine performances but it was a cruel blow to have the prospect of a one-two finish dangled in front of us and then whisked away at the last when Valtteri drove over some debris following the Safety Car period. That's two races running where he has deserved a much better outcome and I am confident it will come for him in the future. For Lewis, this was perhaps not the kind of swashbuckling victory he relishes but it nonetheless represents a measure of compensation for some of his misfortune in earlier races this season. On the operational side, the entire team performed well to recover from a difficult Friday and secure solid grid positions which were the foundations for today's races. We delivered quick pit stops and excellent strategy decisions, all of which keep us in the game as we work to improve the car, in what is shaping up to be a dramatic and very memorable season."

Ferrari

Vettel led from pole at start and seemed set for victory until the safety car played into the hands of Bottas. In second, the German had solid points in the bag but opted for a brave overtake attempt at the final restart, but out-braked himself, which flat spotted his tyres and dropped him to fourth. Raikkonen had an even more eventful race - a collision with Ocon at the start led to an early stop for a new front wing, and despite dropping back to 13th he drove calmly from there to grab his third podium of the season.

Sebastian Vettel, 4th

"We are not entirely happy, because we could have won. In fact, I am very upset about losing the position at the restart, because I didn’t want that to happen, but there are also so many positive aspects to take from this race. When the safety car pulled away, I saw a gap and I went for it, but obviously it didn’t work. So, now it’s easy for everyone to say that it was too big a risk, but I was driving at 330 kph on the straight, there was no reference on the left and I didn’t really have many options. Lewis was on the right, while Valtteri was ahead, but I couldn’t really go to the right. I also wanted to go for the inside, but once I locked up, it was tough luck. After that, with the flat spot, it was a shame that I had to give the position to Sergio. Apart from that, I think it was a very good race; we had a good pace and were in control. Anyway, this is how it goes sometimes. I had a chance to win and I tried. It just didn’t work. It was a quick decision, so there was a chance it wouldn’t be right. Now I think we need to look ahead because we had a strong car today. We’ll see what the other races will bring, but we need to stay hungry and keep working."

Kimi Raikkonen, 2nd

"It was not the easiest or most enjoyable race. After the accident with Esteban on the first lap, I had to come in to change the nose and switch to soft tyres. I don’t know if my car was damaged, but overall the feeling was ok. The tyres were not consistent, a bit on-and-off; I was struggling to keep them warm enough and had some difficult moments. Some laps they felt good and some others it was more tricky. After that, things went back to normal. I tried to stay out of trouble, pushing when it felt right to do so and do my own race. I was expecting something to happen sooner or later. It’s never too late; you need to be ready, because you never know what can happen until the race is finished. We are pretty confident for the future, because we have the speed, and this is the main thing. We just need to minimise all the mistakes and the issues to be up there all the time. Today obviously feels better than yesterday, it worked out pretty ok. I will happily take this second place, considering the tricky race we had."

Maurizio Arrivabene, Team Principal

"As we had already seen yesterday, today our car proved to be very competitive and capable of doing well on any kind of circuit. We were controlling the race with Sebastian, but the double intervention of the Safety Car cancelled the gap we had built up. As for Kimi, after the accident on Lap 1, he charged back to second place. All weekend long, the team reacted strongly and calmly and now we’re looking ahead to the next race in Spain."

Red Bull

Verstappen passed Ricciardo in the early stages, and despite suffering from some battery issues, was able to keep the Australian at bay despite his repeated attempts to pass. He did eventually get through only to find himself back behind Verstappen after the pit stops and on warmer tyres, went for a move... which ended in disaster for the team. Did Verstappen move too many times in defence? Should Ricciardo have waited? Stewards reprimanded both men...

Daniel Ricciardo, DNF  

“For sure it was a chaotic race and I guess we caused most of that. I have watched a few replays and the only thing we can both say is sorry to the Team. This is the last thing we wanted. We want to be able to race and I’m thankful that the Team let us race. We tried to keep it clean and give each other room but we were racing hard and in the end it cost us. I’m not going to talk about the incident but this was the worst case scenario and everyone is pretty heartbroken. I will personally apologise to the Team and once again I’m just sorry we are all in this situation when everyone has worked so hard to give us such a good car.”

Max Verstappen, DNF

“Today was just really disappointing for the Team and we lost many points unnecessarily. I don’t think we need to speak about fault because at the end of the day we are racing for a team and representing a lot of people, so when this happens it is not good for both of us. The tow was very strong and our speed was very similar, so we were then always very close to each other. Before the accident it was hard racing but fair I think and we gave each other space, we had a little brush with the wheels but I think in racing that can happen, but what happened afterwards is not good. We will learn from this and have to make sure it doesn’t happen again. I don’t think not letting us race anymore is the way forward but of course we will talk this over as a team and learn from it. We are always very fair to each other and have spoken immediately about this. For now, I’m just sorry and want to apologise to the people we represent here and at the factory as well.”

Christian Horner, Team Principal

“It was a really frustrating race for the Team today. After some hard racing between the two drivers throughout the Grand Prix, unfortunately, contact was made after the pitstop resulting in the retirement of both cars. Obviously, for the Team it is hugely disappointing. We allow our drivers to race wheel-to-wheel, which they have done to great effect during the last two years. Unfortunately, today has happened and there is no blame apportioned to either side. It is hugely frustrating for the Team and the drivers have apologised. The most important thing is to learn from today and ensure that we avoid a repeat situation.”

Sauber

Ericsson collided with a Haas at the start and despite pitting early with damage, somehow managed to come home just outside the points. Leclerc, meanwhile, grabbed the headlines - he had a great start, making up three places and from there not only stayed calm and composed in amongst all the chaos but also had the speed to keep Alonso behind in the closing stages and grab the first points of his F1 career.

Marcus Ericsson, 11th

“It was a difficult race for me. I was involved in an incident at the beginning of the race, and picked up some damage to the car. I was struggling to keep everything together after that, and I gave everything to catch up with my direct competitors. In the end, it was good to manage to finish in P11. As a team, we have scored points for the second time this season, which is very motivating, and our potential is becoming more clear with every weekend. We must keep up the good work now. I look forward to the next race weekend in Barcelona.”

Charles Leclerc, 6th

“It was an amazing race today – I am very happy with my result. It was definitely eventful, with many incidents on track making it especially challenging and fun to drive. I felt comfortable in the car, and did my best to gradually advance to the front of the midfield through the race. It is an incredible feeling to score points for the first time in Formula 1. As a team, we can see our potential, and know what our strengths are. I am very pleased, and look forward to continuing on this positive path.”

Frederic Vasseur, Team Principal

“We are very pleased with the job that we have done this whole weekend starting from Friday and then a good qualifying session. Charles scored his first points in Formula 1 today, finishing in P6. He had a strong pace and did a consistent job. It was a huge step for him to make and he can be proud of what he has achieved. Marcus put up a good fight. He was involved in an incident at the beginning of the race, which set him back and made it tough for him, however, he managed to recover and catch up with the midfield. He finally finished in P11 and was very close to scoring points. It is a great achievement for the team, not only for the points but also for the pace shown especially in the first stint. Now we have to stay focused in order to continue this good work.”

Williams

Sirotkin drove into the back of Perez in the opening corners - for which he was given a three-place grid penalty for the next round - before getting squeezed between Alonso and Hulkenberg. The resulting suspension damage meant he retired immediately. Stroll provided much consolation, however, as he came home in P8 to score the team's first points of the season.

Lance Stroll, 8th

"It was a crazy race. So much happened. I am pretty happy with the race, there were perhaps one or two more positions if we did everything perfectly, but no one had a perfect race today. In that battle with Fernando at the end I think I should have held him there, but he surprised me into turn three. I didn't really see him coming back on the inside and he just managed to sneak through, but that was probably the only little bit we missed today. The wind was strong, I could feel the car getting pushed around a bit so it was definitely noticeable. All in all, I am happy with P8 and it was a good race for the team. We can't assume this pace will carry on to Barcelona, we have to understand our issues and keep working but that is just what we are doing."

Sergey Sirotkin, DNF

"It was such a mess in the first few corners. I was between two cars heading into turn three and I was just slowly and progressively squeezed between the two cars, as I was in the middle. At a point I saw I was not going to avoid a crash so I just lifted, hoping they would squeeze me but not hit me that much, but then already there was nothing I could do. We touched, my car jumped and when I landed, I broke my front suspension and my wing. I am just really sorry for this, as it is such a long race, but I understand that we all want to gain positions at the start, which is important. It is a shame in a race in such conditions. Parking the car in turn three is not the best feeling. This was the best weekend so far for us and I am sure we could have squeezed some points out of it."

Paddy Lowe, Chief Technical Officer

"Firstly, it was very disappointing to lose Sergey at the start after a coming together with Alonso and Hulkenberg put an early finish to his race. As usual, we had a highly eventful afternoon with lots of incidents right to the very end, so it was great to get eighth position with Lance. I’m happy in one way but disappointed in another, because I think there were many more points possible for us today. Even so, it was a great drive by Lance, all weekend in fact. He kept the car in one piece which is actually one of the key things at this circuit. It is great to get our first points on the board this season and we need to keep this momentum going."

Toro Rosso

Hartley pitted three times but by keeping himself out of trouble, managed to score his first ever championship point. Gasly had the best start out of the field, making up six places, but from there struggled for pace. He collided with Magnussen in the closing stages, sustained significant damage to his STR13 and limped home in 12th place.

Brendon Hartley, 10th

“That was an interesting race! From my point of view, I kept it clean but we didn’t really have the pace today to challenge in the midfield. In the areas we needed to overtake we just couldn’t get close enough. There was a lot of drama around me, but I managed to keep my nose clean and take home my first World Championship point in F1, which is great! It was important for me to get to the end of the race today - especially after yesterday! I think at times during the race the pace was OK, but on the Ultrasoft tyre at the end I didn’t feel like I could challenge the cars in front. I would have loved to attack a bit more but let’s be happy with a point on the board…I’ll take this momentum into the next race!”

Pierre Gasly, 12th

“I had a really good start to the race, from 17th I managed to get into the top 10 after the first lap, but after that it was really tough to hold my position! I couldn’t do much to keep the cars behind on the straights and I was overtaken by quite a few. It was so difficult! After the final restart, I had an incident with Magnussen where he put me in the wall, breaking half of my floor, my mirror, and bending my steering. It was quite a frustrating race because with all of the retirements and without the collision I could have been in the points.”

Franz Tost, Team Principal

“Generally speaking, it was a difficult weekend for us. We struggled yesterday in Qualifying and therefore we had to start from 17th and 19th position on the grid. I was quite upset yesterday when we didn’t achieve Q2 - which was realistic because Pierre showed quite good performance and he was on a fast lap when the incident with Brendon happened. However, looking into it afterwards I must say that we have to be quite happy that nothing major occurred between them. Regarding today’s race, I want to congratulate Brendon for his first point in F1! We knew Baku would have been a difficult race for us, but our performance this weekend was not on the level we expected. We will work hard to improve and be in a better position in the next races.”

Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director

“After a difficult first two days, both drivers did well to stay out of trouble in the early chaos and managed to move up the order, with Pierre running inside the top ten in the early part and again towards the end until the coming together with Magnussen. In the end, we benefited from the mistakes of others for Brendon to take his first F1 point. The whole package lacked top speed today, more so than on the first two days and we must now look at the cause for that. However, it is clear that part of the reason for this is that we are still slightly down on power compared to our rivals. We knew this and are working hard on development to improve, while not compromising the reliability of the PU components.”

McLaren

Vandoorne struggled all race and seemed destined to trail home towards the back of the field until a very late stop for fresh rubber gave him an advantage over the final few laps, which he took full advantage of, surging from P14 to finish ninth. Alonso suffered a double puncture at the start, but from there drove a great recovery race to give McLaren another double points finish.

Fernando Alonso, 7th

“Today’s race was very complicated – right from the very first lap.

“The first lap in the midfield is the same old story; people preferring to crash into other cars rather than lifting off. But it’s also up to us to qualify further towards the front, where it’s usually a little bit cleaner.

“On that opening lap, my car was heavily damaged – I had two punctures, with one flat tyre damaging the floor. I also had a damaged front and rear wing.

“I really thought that would be the end of my race, but after the team fitted a new front wing and fresh tyres, I went back out, fought all race long, and actually found the car to be quite competitive.

“We were able to overtake a Sauber and a Renault thanks to the Safety Car, which enabled us to recover a couple of positions. It was one of the best races in years for us, I reckon.”

Stoffel Vandoorne, 9th

“What a mad afternoon! This race is usually a bit crazy, and we saw that again today.

“By mid-race, I think I was last, and that there was zero chance of making something work. But then the Safety Car came out: I made a good call at the end to put some hot rubber on when everyone else seemed to be struggling with tyre warm-up. Being at the back at that point wasn’t necessarily a bad thing – at the restart, I felt really confident, managed to overtake a few cars, and got myself back in the points.

“We still lack straight-line speed, which meant it was a struggle to attack or defend in the race, so there’s still some work to do there. Nevertheless, I’m pleased that we got some more points this weekend.”

Eric Boullier, Racing Director

“To bring both cars home in the points today was a pleasant surprise after a relatively tricky weekend in Baku. It’s really worth crediting the teamwork of our strategists, engineers and mechanics, who ensured we were well positioned to benefit from what’s always a tough and demanding race.

“But I also want to highlight the efforts of our drivers today: after a hefty knock on the first lap, which was so heavy it punctured two right-hand tyres and broke part of the floor, Fernando drove with relentless focus and intensity, fighting until the last to bring his car home seventh.

“Stoffel didn’t feel particularly comfortable on the Option tyre, and cannily realised that he, along with those drivers immediately around him, was struggling with warm-up issues while behind the late-race Safety Car. It was a good team decision to box for a fresher, hotter set of Options, a gamble that enabled him to quickly pass a cluster of cars ahead and earn another points finish.

“It’s races like these where you earn your mettle, and, while we still have work to do to close the gap to the front, it’s rewarding that we head home with more well-earned world championship points.”

Haas

Magnussen tangled with Ericsson at the start which dropped him down the field. From there he almost recovered into the points until a late collision with Gasly earned him a 10-second time penalty. Grosjean had worked his way through the field after starting last, but lost control while weaving to keep his tyres warm under safety car conditions and ploughed into the barriers.

Romain Grosjean, DNF

“This hurts a lot and I want to apologize to the team. We were in the middle of an amazing race, starting last and running P6. Seeing (Sergio) Perez on the podium, knowing I was fighting with him, is very painful for all of us. It was going very well. The conditions were tricky, there was a lot of wind, the car was going left and right, pushing then not pushing. I was warming up my tyres and bumped into a switch that I’d moved by two positions. When I touched the brakes, the brake balance was locked rearward – it just locked the rear wheels and I spun.”

Kevin Magnussen, 13th

“Obviously, things aren’t going our way at the moment. We still have a car that is performing well, so I’m looking forward to the rest of the season. We’ve got a competitive car that we can score points with, and on a regular basis if we have smooth weekends. I’m sure we’ll be alright. It’s just been a tough start to the season, especially when you see the potential in the car, it’s even more frustrating. We’ll come back from this. It was just a tough weekend overall.”

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal

“A very disappointing finish to the weekend. There’s nothing more to say.”

Renault

Renault looked to have serious pace, with both Sainz and Hulkenberg battling hard with the Red Bull duo in the early stages. Hulkenberg made a rare mistake when he tagged the wall mid-race to end his five-race points scoring streak. Sainz was unlucky - running as high as fourth, he wasn't as fortuitous as others with the timing of his pit stops, but nonetheless recorded his best finish of the season with fifth.

Nico Hulkenberg, DNF

“It’s wild and just crazy here as it’s so tight. We started well but I just lost the rear end at the end of turn four and that was my race done really. I had some rear locking going into that corner and the wind was difficult and it didn’t take much to throw me off. It’s unfortunate but that’s how it is sometimes. Let’s look forward to Spain.”

Carlos Sainz, 5th

“It’s a very strong result for the team. I’m very happy and it was a really fun race, as always in Baku. It was crazy out there as the grip was difficult today. The first stint was very strong and I was able to overtake both Red Bulls on track. Then, the soft tyre was trickier for us and in the end we had to battle for that fifth place. It is positive for the team to go into Europe in a strong place in the Championship. I need to keep working hard with my engineers to keep building the car to my liking and to keep the points coming. Next stop is Spain and I really look forward to it.”

Cyril Abiteboul, Team Principal

“We were not sure what to expect for this race, but fifth for Carlos is a great result, our best since returning to the sport two years ago. We have to admit it came in exceptional circumstances, but it is very positive. Carlos drove a very mature race, managing his tyres well, and fighting with multiple cars throughout the race. It is very encouraging to look at how the grid has changed since last year; the gap to Red Bull and from the Renault engine to the rest of the field is obvious evidence of all the progress we have made and continue to make every weekend. Nico had some misfortune, but it was his only mistake last year and if it has to be his only mistake again this year, he will be more than forgiven. Overall a very good weekend; as a team we scored another handful of points and more than McLaren, so the deficit is now very close as we head towards Europe.”

Force India

Ocon's race was over on the first lap after he was pitched into the wall by contact with Raikkonen - in what the stewards deemed a racing incident. Perez was also caught up in the first-lap dramas, being hit from behind by Sirotkin and forced to pit. From there the Mexican played the long game, grabbed some fresh rubber under the final safety car and kept out of trouble to grab his second Baku podium and open up his points tally for the season in style.

Sergio Perez, 3rd

“I’m extremely happy. Our race was a rollercoaster. We started with an incident on the first lap when I was hit from behind by a Williams [Sirotkin]. That pushed me into Kimi [Raikkonen] and broke my front wing so I had to pit. I was at the back and then I was given a five seconds penalty. I was able to make my way through the field and when the Safety Car came out we managed to keep our position. The team did a great pit stop and I was able to serve my penalty and still come out in front of Grosjean. I was looking after my tyres because we only had SuperSofts left and warming them up was very difficult. I was struggling and every corner was a lottery, but then I saw the cars in front of me were struggling too. I passed Seb [Vettel] but then he recovered and put pressure on me. I had to give it everything in the last two laps: my pace was unbelievable and I think they were the best two laps of my life. This podium means a lot to me, I am very pleased and proud for myself, my family, my team and Mexico.”

Esteban Ocon, DNF

“It’s disappointing not to finish the race on a day in which we had such good pace. I had a flying start and I managed to pass Kimi [Raikkonen]. I was ahead of him all the way to turn two and when we went into the corner. I was behind Ricciardo but Kimi made a lunge and put me in the barriers. I feel it was my corner and I was on the racing line, but he locked up and hit me. I feel the mistake was on his side: we’ll see what the Stewards say but that won’t change the outcome for me. It’s a shame because Sergio showed we had the pace to do really well here today. I am still very pleased for the team’s result and I hope we can carry our performance forward to Barcelona and beyond.”

Otmar Szafnauer, Chief Operating Officer

“Huge congratulations to Sergio and the entire team on a fantastic podium finish in Baku. We have been quick all weekend and it’s very satisfying to convert our potential into solid points. Sergio drove a remarkable race, recovering from damage on lap one to snatch the podium finish from Sebastian [Vettel] with just three laps to go. He did everything we asked of him and the strategy was spot on, even allowing us to recover from a five seconds penalty. This result is down to a tremendous team effort and feels all the more enjoyable after a difficult start to the season and some unlucky races. Of course, it was disappointing to lose Esteban on lap one when he was taken out by Raikkonen because he would surely have scored points as well. The result gives us a nice boost as we return to Europe and shows just how much progress we have made over the last month to bring performance to the car.”

Pirelli

Mario Isola, Head of Car Racing

“There were a number of different strategy combinations at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix and it was interesting to see all three compounds used extensively during the race, with varying strategies for each driver. The safety car’s intervention had a strong influence on the race outcome, but Bottas also managed an extremely long stint on the supersoft tyres before the win went to his team mate Hamilton, who capitalised on every opportunity and again used all three compounds. With the cool conditions, long straight, and yellow flag plus safety car interruptions, maintaining tyre temperature was a challenge, particularly at the re-starts. Congratulations also to Formula 2 champion
Charles Leclerc, who took his best result by finishing sixth."