Driver Interviews: 2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix – Sunday
Location: Baku City Circuit, Azerbaijan
Today, we had another race and it was the 2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix which saw Valtteri Bottas take his 5th career victory – his second of the 2019 Formula 1 season and his first in Azerbaijan.
Whilst the race might not have provided as much entertainment, we did see some battles throughout along with the Virtual Safety Car following an issue for Pierre Gasly.
Red Bull Racing were another team who looked strong and even though Ferrari were on the front-foot all weekend, there was a lack of pace especially for Sebastian Vettel on the first stint.
Charles Leclerc however did manage to make his way through the grid – leading the race at one point but this is where my questioning comes in to play….. why didn’t Ferrari bring in Leclerc when there was a buffer between him and Mercedes? Why didn’t they take advantage of the gap?
As I’ve said before, it just seems like Mercedes as a team work better – things connect for them, they connect like a jigsaw puzzle with everything slotting into position. Ferrari, at the moment, don’t have that yet and it shows in their racing.
Despite this, Mercedes managed to make their way back to the front of the pack – with a battle between Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton however Bottas remained in the lead.
The race ended as the top 3 started – Valtteri Bottas winning the Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton in P2 and Sebastian Vettel in P3.
Lets take a look at what the drivers had to say following the race.
MERCEDES – 2019 AZERBAIJAN GRAND PRIX
Valtteri Bottas: “This victory feels really good. When you’re starting from pole, you hope for a straightforward race – the less drama, the better it is. I didn’t have the greatest start; after the wheelspin in China I was maybe just a little too cautious. Lewis had a better start so we went side-by-side into Turn 1 and 2; it was good, respectful racing between the two of us and I’m glad I could pull up in front of him.”
“Lewis was very quick today and was able to put on some pressure at the end of the race, so I had to make sure to not make any mistakes. I’ve already said it on the radio after the race: ‘What a team!’ The level at which everyone is performing at the moment is very impressive, both here at the track and back at the factory, and I’m really proud of everyone. We need to make sure we keep delivering at this level.”
Lewis Hamilton: “This is a great result for the team. I think this team is stronger than it’s ever been and it’s all down to teamwork. Both Valtteri and myself are pushing the boundaries of the car and are delivering, as are the team in the pitstops, the engineers, and everyone back at the factory. I don’t think we have ever performed at this level before and I’m really grateful for all the hard work from everyone. Baku is not my strongest race, it’s always been difficult for me. I came close to the win today, but not close enough.”
“I didn’t get the job done in Qualifying and then I was a bit too cautious at the start. I also had an issue with the VSC and that made it tough to catch him up. But those are all ifs and buts; Valtteri drove a great race and deserved the win. It was great that the team let us race though. I’ll work hard to bounce back and pick up the performance for Spain.”
Toto Wolff: “I’m really happy, this was another fantastic performance from the entire team. We didn’t make any major mistakes today and that’s what has won us this race; our car was quick, the strategy calls were right, the pit stops were executed flawlessly and the drivers didn’t put a foot wrong.”
“We let the two drivers race today; we told them to take it easy at the beginning of the second stint because we didn’t know how long the tyre would last, but both at the start of the race and in the end they were free to fight each other. Both of them perform really well under pressure and neither of them made any mistakes today, so it was a calculated risk but it was good to see them race each other in a clean, respectful manner. I’m very pleased with the result and happy that Valtteri found some redemption after his bad luck here in Baku last year.”
FERRARI – 2019 AZERBAIJAN GRAND PRIX
Sebastian Vettel: “That was fun driving today, although not so much in the first stint when I couldn’t get the tyres to work and I didn’t have as much grip as I’d expected. We were not quick and the performance was uneven because I damaged the tyres trying to get them up to temperature and then, once they were there, they didn’t give the performance I’d expected because, they were damaged.”
“After the pit stop I really got a good pace and I had fun because I felt the car was fully under control and I felt free to push, even if it wasn’t enough to put our rivals under pressure. At the restart following the Virtual Safety Car, I set my fastest lap and I managed to get the gap to Verstappen to a second. I think that by then he realised he couldn’t attack me and so I was able to drop the pace a bit in the closing laps. Our pace was alright today, but not good enough. The whole team is working to the maximum and so I feel confident. I believe in this team and I know we can improve. We have a good car, but we’re not using it in the way to get the results we should be getting. It’s like a Rubik’s cube where you have to have everything in the right order. We have a lot of clever people in the team who could solve that puzzle in less than two minutes, but in this case the cube is a bit bigger.”
Charles Leclerc: “We extracted the most we could have done out of today’s race. After the setback in qualifying, I started from P8 on medium tyres. It was a bit tricky in the beginning, because everyone around me was starting on the soft compound while I struggled a little bit to get up to speed. Once I got the tyres up to temperature, I had good grip and the situation improved.”
“We had a strong first stint and were able to gain some positions there. After the pit-stop it became clear that we would not be able to move further up the order, so we decided to stop pushing to save the tyres, pitted for a new set and so I was able to bring home the point for the fastest lap at the end. Overall, it hasn’t been the best weekend but our potential was clearly there and I hope that we will have a much better performance at the next GP in Spain again.”
Mattia Binotto: “Our performance did not live up to our expectations today. Qualifying had not gone the way we would have wanted and, on this track, grid positions make a big difference, as starting further back makes everything more difficult. In the race, there were no Safety Car periods to take advantage of, which might have played into our hands against our rivals.”
“Sebastian produced a solid performance, always close to the two leaders and he fully deserved to finish on the podium. Charles ran a great race, moving up the order, after losing a few places at the start, because it was harder for him to get his Medium tyres up to temperature than it was for those on the Softs. Today, our pace was not good enough and our rivals were faster. We have to go home, identify the areas where we are weak and push in our way of working, to make more aggressive choices to get back to where we deserve to be.”
REDBULL RACING – 2019 AZERBAIJAN GRAND PRIX
Max Verstappen: “In general we had a good race. I always had the Mercedes and Ferrari in sight and I was just trying to close the gap. At the start I was blocked and couldn’t really brake deep into the corner, which allowed Perez to get past me. Of course, that lost me a bit of ground but you don’t want to risk everything on Lap 1. Once I got back past, we went a little bit longer than the others on the soft tyre and I had a good feeling with the car.”
“We had good pace, especially on the medium tyre in the second stint where I closed the gap by seven or eight seconds. With the Virtual Safety Car, I think I lost too much tyre temperature and I couldn’t get it back as quickly as the others. Around here, tyre temperature is key and you end up sliding a lot more with low temperatures so it wasn’t worth risking the position in the final laps. The performance in Barcelona will of course depend on the upgrades that everyone is bringing but hopefully we can be even more competitive and close the gap even further.”
Pierre Gasly: “This weekend has been a lot better than the first three races. I felt better with the car and I’ve been able to drive more the way I want to. In qualifying I managed to show some good performance with a good lap in Q1. In the race, starting from the pit lane, we knew it would be tricky to fight at the front but we had a car fast enough to come back and score good points.”
“Things in the race went pretty well and we got to P6 but unfortunately we didn’t make it to the end as I had a driveshaft failure. Overall, I’m adapting myself and we’re going in the right direction. I think the car’s a bit more predictable and I’ve changed my approach in the car too. I still need to work on some things but each weekend it’s improving and together with the Team, we’re going in the right direction.”
MCLAREN – 2019 AZERBAIJAN GRAND PRIX
Lando Norris: “Overall, it’s a good race for us as a team. A double-points finish, the first one of the year, which is a good thing. The whole race was pretty good. My start was probably the best I’ve done all year and I made no mistakes. I lost the tyres a little early in the first stint so boxed onto the Mediums, had a good middle stint and we took the decision to try the Softs after the VSC.”
“The thinking was that the other tyres, the Medium, while not worn, had done a lot and wouldn’t be able to turn on as well. It looked like they did, so it was the wrong decision. It could have worked, maybe if it had been a bit colder, but it didn’t and that’s just something we have to look back on. It always happens in racing! A good weekend altogether.”
Carlos Sainz: “Happy to score good points today after yesterday’s setback with that yellow flag. I knew it was just a matter of time and having a clean race. Today we showed solid pace throughout the whole race.”
“Congratulations to everyone in the team for our first double-points finish of the year. Great effort from everyone. We need to keep pushing though, we have to be ambitious and aim higher! It’s a nice boost ahead of my home grand prix.”
ALFA ROMEO RACING – 2019 AZERBAIJAN GRAND PRIX
Kimi Raikkonen: “Not an easy weekend for us. Wasn’t the plan to start from the pit lane but it is what it is so one point is kind of the maximum we could achieve today. We pitted earlier to get out of the traffic but then I struggled for the whole race with switching the tyres on – it’s disappointing as I was expecting a lot more but I have the feeling that the next race will be easier for us.”
Antonio Giovinazzi: “It was a challenging race. We started from P17 on the grid due to my 10-place grid penalty. I lost too much time to stay out in the first stint and got stuck in traffic. It’s a shame because I had a good pace today but unfortunately, there was no safety car and I couldn’t challenge for a place in the Top Ten. Now, I have to stay focused and keep working for the next race in Barcelona.”