Sergio Perez, Valtteri Bottas and George Russell were RaceFans’ star performance of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix weekend. Here’s why.
Sergio PerezSergio Perez has had more spectacular results in Baku than his sixth place on Sunday, but this was as hard-earned as either of his podiums.
He was nearly four tenths of a second quicker than his team mate in qualifying, and while Lance Stroll went out in Q1 Perez took his Racing Point into Q3 and claimed a superb fifth place on the grid. At the start of the race he took the fight to Max Verstappen and briefly dislodged the Red Bull driver from fourth place. He stayed ahead until lap five when Verstappen shot past with DRS and Perez, sensibly, realised his fight was with the cars behind them.
Charles Leclerc inevitably bumped Perez down to sixth as he made his way through the field, but for the remainder of the first stint the Racing Point driver kept the McLarens behind, despite Lando Norris attempting to get ahead through an early pit stop.
Mercedes appeared to be on the back foot as the weekend began and Ferrari headed all three practice sessions. Not unexpectedly they were much closer in qualifying, but without Leclerc’s crash they might not have swept the front row. Although it was Hamilton’s turn to decide the running order of the Mercedes drivers Bottas denied his team mate pole position on the final run in Q3, aided by running in Norris’s slipstream
After the lights went out Bottas kept his nose in front of Hamilton as the team mates battled side by side through the first three corners. This proved crucial for the rest of the race, giving him the strategic benefit of first call on pit stops.
He maintained a safe gap and controlled the race from the front and only had to dispose of Leclerc which was straightforward since the Ferrari driver was on older tyres. Towards the end of the race Hamilton mounted a late charge but his turn 16 error meant Bottas was home free for his second win of 2019 and a one-point championship lead.
George Russell arrived in Baku suffering from a respiratory infection. His Friday morning shock can’t have helped: he ran over an improperly secured drain cover in first practice. The team were forced to use a new chassis which meant he went in to Saturday having done virtually no running.
Despite the setback Russell looked by far the more comfortable of the Williams pair who were hustling a grip-less car around a low-grip circuit. He ended the session four tenths clear of his team mate, who stuck his car in a wall. Russell ran a long opening stint on mediums, fell back to 19th, but by the end of the race he finished 15th thanks to retirements ahead. This was a very respectable effort given his terrible start to the weekend.
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Renault were nowhere in practice, experimenting with a low-downforce set-up which didn’t work. Ricciardo ruined both sets of tyres in second practice, meaning he couldn’t do a race simulation.
He signed to have finally caught a break in qualifying when he set a time quick enough for Q2 a few fractions of a second before the session was red-flagged due to Kubica’s crash. Promoted to tenth on the grid by penalties, Ricciardo was inevitably passed by Leclerc but also lost a place to Stroll.
It all went wrong in the second stint when he tried to lunge down the inside of Daniil Kvyat for tenth place. Perhaps the move would have worked with a Red Bull’s braking capability, but the Renault skated into the run-off, taking Kvyat with it. Making matters worse, Ricciardo didn’t realise Kvyat was behind him and in his haste to get back up to speed reversed into the Toro Rosso.
Both drivers ultimately retired due to damage and a frustrated and apologetic Ricciardo was handed a three-place grid penalty for the Spanish Grand Prix.
On the other side of the garage the spirits weren’t much higher as Hulkenberg struggled for pace all weekend and was eliminated in Q1 when his final run was cut short by the red flags.
He opted for an early stop to try and undercut the packed midfield but his pace wasn’t good enough and by the end of the race he was struggling for grip. Of the finishers he only managed to beat out the Williams drivers as Renault’s struggles continued.
The FP1 crane driver
Although we should always be grateful to Formula 1’s dedicated volunteer marshals for keeping the show on the road, the recovery truck driver who brought Russell’s damaged Williams back to the pits in first practice did not cover himself in glory.
Failing to realise his crane was too tall to pass beneath the bridge over the pit lane, he clattered into it, severing a hydraulic line and spraying fluid all over the FW41.
The phrase ‘you had one job’ comes to mind…
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And the rest
Hamilton got too close to Bottas at the start of his final run in Q3, losing time through the opening sector, though he almost clawed enough of it back to snatch pole. He had a chance to get pas his team mate at the start but stayed his hand, and minor errors during the Virtual Safety Car restart and at turn 16 ultimately meant he had to settle for second.
Ferrari looked like the favourites once again after practice but Leclerc’s crash in Q2 ended his chance of pole position and compromised the team as well as his himself in the race. Vettel never had the pace to challenge the Mercedes drivers and simply followed them home in the race.
Verstappen was close to the two top teams all weekend but never managed to get ahead of them on pure pace. He was held up by Perez for the first few laps which kept him from catching Vettel, but in the second stint Verstappen was the fastest man on track for awhile. As he set continuous fastest laps he gained on Vettel until the VSC ruined his momentum and his tyre temperatures fell.
Gasly’s hopes to finally get close to his team mate were ended on Friday when he failed to stop at the weighbridge which meant he was starting from the pit lane. He made solid progress on a strategy that saw him do a long first stint on medium tyres. Before he had a chance to stop for softs at the end of the race his drivetrain failed and he pulled to the side of the track, which deployed the VSC.
McLaren scored their first double points finish since Baku last year but a late change in strategy did not pay off for Norris. Having beaten Carlos Sainz Jnr into Q3 he was running ahead of his team mate when the VSC was deployed. McLaren gave him a ‘box to overtake’ instruction, which he followed, but the extra stop for a set of softs backfired badly. The stop was slow, he had little grip afterwards, slipped a wall, and it ultimately cost him a place to his team mate.
Stroll hit the wall in second practice and again failed to reach Q2 in his Racing Point. The race went better – he made rapid progress at the start and brought the car home ninth.
Kimi Raikkonen rounded out the top ten despite starting from the pit lane after he was disqualified from qualifying due to a technical infringement. Antonio Giovinazzi’s weekend was again compromised by the team’s reliability woes – he incurred a 10-place grid penalty – but despite starting ahead of Raikkonen fell behind him in the race and finished 12th.
Haas continued to struggle with neither driver able to crack the top 10 in qualifying or the race. Toro Rosso seemed to have strong pace with Kvyat who made it into Q3, but an issue during his opening stint meant he tumbled down the order until he got fresh mediums. He began to make his way back through the field until his incident with Ricciardo forced him to retire. Meanwhile, Albon missed out on the points by one position.
Kubica’s accident in Q1 meant he had to start from the pit lane. The team brought his car out too early which resulted in a drive-through penalty and ruined his race.
Video: Every F2 driver’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix reviewed
Over to you
Vote for the driver who impressed you most last weekend and find out whether other RaceFans share your view here:
2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix
- Leclerc impressed by Binotto’s handling of Baku crash
- Hamilton: Leclerc was two-tenths quicker than Vettel and would have dominated in Baku
- Haas overheated Grosjean’s brakes trying to warm his tyres
- Top ten pictures from the 2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix
- Ferrari are “struggling more with tyres than in previous years”, admits Vettel
31 comments on “2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix Star Performers”
1st May 2019, 11:23
LOL at the crane driver 😁
1st May 2019, 11:49
That had me in splits as well.
To be fair… Kubica needs to be added to the strugglers list as well.
1st May 2019, 12:01
Roberts race pace is ok-ish though really. He has had alot of bad luck and the rotten end of the deal on many occasions and we are told his car isn’t the same(no idea if that is true).
Regards the marshals. Really it is F1 responsibility and then the tracks to make sure the tracks equipment can be driven round the track. The driver should just get in and drive it really. But it is high time these guys are paid for the job they do, this would mean they are classed as professional and therefore held responsible if their performance isn’t up to par.
We can’t go racing without them so they should be paid. We don’t let someone being the track doctor just for the love it and we shouldn’t do the same with the rest of the track team.
1st May 2019, 19:37
Well said! On both accounts… F1 should not be leaning on volunteers!
Alianora La Canta (@alianora-la-canta)
6th May 2019, 11:59
@q85 The chief doctor is paid but I’m not sure all the medics underneath the chief doctor are (historically, a lot of them have also been volunteers).
1st May 2019, 14:39
Or was it the bridge builder :P
1st May 2019, 12:50
Danny Ric was going really well considering the Renault, much better than the Hulk, and then he done 1 middling mistake and straight away done 1 really dumb mistake. Went from a top performer to a top struggler in a few seconds.
1st May 2019, 13:30
Wouldn’t be surprised to see both Haas drivers gone at the end of the year, I do feel they’re underperforming massively. To be replaced with perhaps Sirotkin and Ocon? Both of whom deserve to be back in F1.
Also, how long will Renault put up with the lack of progress from its F1 team? Patience must be running short.
1st May 2019, 14:35
@tflb The lack of pace of the Haas-drivers is more down to them not getting the tyres into the window than that they’d necessarily under-perform on their own.
1st May 2019, 15:11
@jerejj In my view Magnussen has been underwhelming ever since his superb first race with Mclaren, and Grosjean can be quick but not consistently. I’m not saying they’re wholly to blame for Haas’ lack of performance in this race, or any race, but I think the team will decide it’s time for a change.
2nd May 2019, 7:57
As @jerejj mentions, it hardly seems fair to blame the drivers for the car just not working with the tyres during the race @tflb.
2nd May 2019, 12:00
@basCB Not on this occasion maybe, but I don’t feel unfair blaming them for underwhelming performance for almost all of last season.
2nd May 2019, 13:10
Fair enough I guess @tflb, both Haas drivers have had their share of underperforming part of the last 2 years.
1st May 2019, 13:51
Kubica should be in the strugglers and Kimi should be one of the stars.
1st May 2019, 15:14
Kimi was beaten by 6 tenths by Giovinazzi in qualifying. He had a good race but qualifying can’t be overlooked.
1st May 2019, 14:37
Stars: Bottas, RP, and Mclaren.
Strugglers: Hamilton, Ferrari, Haas, and Renault.
1st May 2019, 14:41
I do not agree with that. Sainz overtook Norris and Perez in the track before pit stops. Then McLaren decided to pit Norris first, making a perfect undercut to Sainz, who lost two places after his first pit stop. So, Sainz lost two places he deservedly earned in track, due to McLaren strategy.
1st May 2019, 15:02
You can not be more accurate!!!
1st May 2019, 16:57
BOT also did not get a tow from NOR, while HAM did from BOT. And KVY didn’t just begin his recovery drive, he was at best at the end of it actually. The McLaren’s were out of reach.
2nd May 2019, 8:47
I missed when Sainz overtook Perez on track …
2nd May 2019, 13:04
No. I just rewatched onboards replays and Sainz never overtook Norris. Then on lap 40 a VSC for Gasly’s car prompted McLaren to pit Norris.
2nd May 2019, 19:08
Take a look at the “2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix lap chart” in here. As the chart shows, Sainz overtook Norris on lap 7, and Perez on lap 9.
1st May 2019, 14:44
As much as I like the guy, Leclerc should be a struggler as well.
Verstappen was a struggler last year in Monaco and that was only FP3 and had a solid race after that.
1st May 2019, 15:16
@coldfly I suppose the difference is Verstappen’s error was a lot more costly, as he had to start from the back. At least Leclerc had the sense to crash once he was assured of a top ten place.
1st May 2019, 16:41
Indeed, big difference.
2nd May 2019, 7:13
That makes it worse, I was angry with the italian commentators, who said all those from, I don’t remember the name, but someone even ahead of leclerc, had to run again to make sure to get into q3, while it was pretty obvious he had done a good enough lap, so shouldn’t have tried to improve further, while vettel had a much slower lap, so it was a no brainer, perhaps should’ve retried with mediums though.
1st May 2019, 15:34
Making it to Q3, starting from the pitlane and finishing in TOP-10 in a Sauber isn’t good enough for Star Performance? Okay then.
Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
1st May 2019, 18:02
agree with this but would certainly add Leclerc to this as a struggler. Crashing in qualifying like he did was very poor and his finishing position timewise was not impressive at all. Take the strange strategy and extra pit stp into it and take off a generous 40 seconds, that is still nearly 20 behind Vettel who didn’t have a great weekend. Also, leclerc has what I think is a somewhat unfair advantage. Any drivers in the same situation would have it though. He crashed in qualifying during Q2 but got through to Q3. That is fair enough. But drivers are meant to use the tyres they did their Q2 run on, or at least a used pair. And yet he still was allowed to stat on brand new tyres because of his own mistake. And he was aided to start 8th by 2 drivers either not taking part in Q3 or being knocked down due to penalties. So he did have some luck on his side. But i don’t see how he can’t be a struggler given what happened this weekend. Even with the strategy taken into concideration, his weekend as a whole was certainly poor.
The other races he has been excellent during the majority of the race and Bahrain was brillient. So this likely will be a rare thing for him. But I feel the reasoning for not saying he’s a struggler could possibly be to do with forgiving him because he’s usually good or because he’s new to the team. If a driver like Kvyat had this sort of weekend at a top team, you can pretty much guarentee he would be heavily critisised in comparison. The drivers past seems to influence decisions on how some rate them for an individual race IMO. Just Because Leclerc is usually great doesn’t mean he can’t be poor.
1st May 2019, 18:39
I don’t know what is wrong with Vettel. His driving lately is like just another wealthy man taking his Ferrari out on a Sunday drive. I guess after 4 world titles what else is there to accomplish in F1.
1st May 2019, 19:11
I do not find anything related to Hulk’s driving in the text to classify him as struggler..
2nd May 2019, 8:00
I would agre there “jamt”. Since him qualifying badly was more due to “running into the red flag” than anything he could do, it’s not fair to judge him for that. Rather I would agree with those adding Leclerc to the strugglers since he binned a great chance to win this race from pole. Also his speed in the last stint never was good enough to be able to chase down Verstappen.
Comments are closed.