Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Baku City Circuit, 2019

Hamilton: Leclerc was two-tenths quicker than Vettel and would have dominated in Baku

2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Charles Leclerc would have dominated the Azerbaijan Grand Prix if he hadn’t crashed his Ferrari in qualifying, Lewis Hamilton believes.

The Ferrari driver was consistently quickest throughout practice, but crashed in Q2 while trying to set a qualifying time on medium compound tyres so he could start the race the the strategic advantage of harder rubber.

Hamilton believes this strategy would have paid off for Ferrari. “Having looked back I’m not surprised [they did that],” he said. “I think he had the pace to get through on that tyre. And if he had got through on that tyre and qualified in Q3 he would have been on pole.”

Leclerc’s crash left Sebastian Vettel as the only Ferrari driver running in Q3. Vettel was unable to get a slipstream for his final Q3 lap, partly due to Mercedes’ ‘dummy’ practice start tactics, and was bumped back to third by the silver cars.

But Hamilton believes Ferrari “definitely were quicker” than Mercedes in Baku. “Our estimates are Vettel would have been two-tenths quicker than Valtteri [Bottas] if he’d had the tow that, for example, we had. And on top of that Leclerc was always two-tenths quicker than him all weekend.”

Starting on the medium would have put Leclerc at a greater advantage as the soft tyres did not work well in Baku, Hamilton added.

“There are races that we go to that, if you can get through on the harder tyre, it is better. Especially in a race like that where the start distance is so short, the benefit of a softer tyre is minimised.

“So if he’d started on that tyre we would not have seen him. He would have disappeared as we all struggled on the soft tyre throughout the race.”

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27 comments on “Hamilton: Leclerc was two-tenths quicker than Vettel and would have dominated in Baku”

  1. Adding fuel to fire, nothing new here.

  2. Pedro Andrade
    10th May 2019, 7:45

    This year’s Mercedes PR strategy is getting really tiresome, really fast… Just own up your 4 straight 1-2s!

    1. I don’t understand why they are so desperate to be seen as underdogs when literally everyone sees them as favourites.

    2. To be fair though, the comment about Leclerc being about 0.2s faster than Vettel in Baku is actually pretty consistent with the results of the practise sessions, with a similar gap in qualifying as well.

      1. ColdFly (@)
        10th May 2019, 9:57

        In the race though Leclerc wasn’t that special; roughly as fast as Gasly (on the same strategy) during the first stint.
        Or maybe Lewis believes Gasly could have won as well ;)

    3. I agree that this ‘Ferrari is quicker than us’ trip that Toto and Lewis are on is getting lame.. but Lewis’ analysis of Baku is kind of true. If Leclerc hadn’t made that mistake in Q2 and the Ferraris had the tow in Q3. There was a very high chance of Leclerc being on pole. This was another weekend squandered by Ferrari, as was Bahrain.

      Lewis though.. is definitely playing mind games with Vettel. Telling the media that Leclerc was the quicker of the two Ferrari drivers and capable of taking the win just before this race weekend is just an attempt to destabilise Ferrari further.

      1. Have been thinking the same, not the first time Hamilton praises Leclerc.
        Not sure Ferrari could stay ahead of the Mercedes at the start on medium though…

    4. Ferrari could / should have won two races with Leclerc, while the whole Ferrari is favorite line is getting old it has some merit. Also I believe that last year Ferrari could have won the championship if HAM was behind de wheel or VER or RIC. VET just isn’t good enough (anymore?)

      1. Definitely, verstappen no, he made too many mistakes early in the year with a real competitive car, unlike 2019, ricciardo perhaps and hamilton would’ve surely won 2018 with fearrari, and of the recently active drivers can’t leave alonso out, much more consistent than vettel and also a bit faster.

  3. Love the mind games. It’s like the good old Ferguson Man U days when he used to do his press talks and make small comments about the ref or the opposition goalkeeper.
    Once you have heard it, you can try and shut off out the thoughts but they will still be there and disrupt you even if it’s by a fraction.

    1. It would be mind games if the championship was close…

      This is just PR

      1. Matteo (@m-bagattini)
        10th May 2019, 8:33

        This is more BS than PR

        1. ColdFly (@)
          10th May 2019, 9:58

          And a bit of ZQ.

    2. I do agree it is mind games, or at least an attempt at mind games. Trouble is Lewis is just not good at this kind of thing and never was. Crude to say the least.
      And look at how well Bottas is doing in that car….. I hope the Smithsonian Institute in the US can get one just to preserve in the museum. The Mother of unbeatable F1 racing cars!

      1. It is mind games for sure and they are working. HAM’s mind games are aimed at VET and Ferrari and looking at their respective performance, the mind games are working very well. HAM’s separate comment about being ‘too friendly’ is a start to get into BOT’s head. Let’s see if it works as well.

        1. Agreed

  4. But he didn’t and I kinda expected him to crash actually as he was pushing limits from P1.

    I do believe that Ferrari might dominate a few races this year but sadly they seem to lack the “whole team” cohesiveness of engineering strategy and drivers that some of their competitors have.

    This year they’ve almost followed the Williams 2014 model – make it blindingly quick in a straight line, but that’s not necessarily going to make it a winner as there is so much more to winning a race than just having the most powerful PU.

    Let’s hope they do master it all for a few races and put in a few 1, 2’s themselves or we’ll be seeing the silver arrows bolting away into the distance.

  5. LH gets the knife right in early this race weekend!
    He is the master of the mind games.
    Particularly at SV. These little digs from LH succeed in setting the mind/brain worm loose in his rival’s psyche.

    1. @wildbiker Such a waste of talent! With a Psychiatrist/Psychologist degree in hands, I bet you have one, there are ordinary people out there who really need you and willing to pay tons of money. You should consider it.

  6. Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies…

  7. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
    10th May 2019, 10:12

    The way the race played out showed us that starting on mediums and switching to softs late was a busted strategy. They would have reeled him in.

  8. It’s not exactly mind games, Leclerc could have won 2 of the last 4 races if it wasn’t for bad luck and a small misjudgment. In that case he would be 3rd in the championship 9 points behind Bottas.

    Certainly not time for Mercedes to get complacent.

    FYI If Leclerc had won in Bahrain and Baku the championship would be looking much more exciting:
    Bottas: 81
    Hamilton: 76
    Leclerc: 72
    Vettel: 49

    That’s assuming Ferarri would still have screwed up Leclerc’s strategy in China after he won in Bahrain, if not he could be 2nd in the championship with 77 points.

    Basically 2 unforced errors are making Mercedes look invincible, that can all change very quickly though.

    1. That is interesting to look at the numbers. Your tally for BOT is incorrect and the respective total would be:
      Bottas: 77
      Hamilton: 76
      Leclerc: 72
      Vettel: 49

      So if China had panned out differently, he could be join leader with 77 and Vettel 4th with 44 points… Incidentally, 77 being Bottas’ car number and 44 Hamilton’s!

  9. Neil (@neilosjames)
    10th May 2019, 12:33

    It’s quite funny that Toto’s ‘crying Wolff’ repeatedly over the years means many people now respond to even entirely reasonable (maybe even entirely factual) statements from people in the team with the same eye-rolling, ‘Mercedes falsely talking themselves down’ comments.

  10. Panagiotis Papatheodorou (@panagiotism-papatheodorou)
    10th May 2019, 14:56

    You can’t really know whether Leclerc would keep that advantage in Q2 and Q3 or in the race though. Leclerc made a critical mistake and paid for it dearly. Sometimes, the better driver isn’t the one who is the fastest but perhaps the one who is also a bit more cautious. In the case of Baku, Vettel was better than Leclerc.

  11. Adub Smallblock
    10th May 2019, 16:40

    I also believe, to some extent, that this is “mind games” on the part of Lewis. To those that say mind games aren’t necessary with four 1-2s, I just say, you use all your weapons, all the time.

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