The fourth round of the 2023 Formula 1 World Championship will take place on the Baku street circuit in Azerbaijan on Sunday 30th April. After the test dispute in the southern hemisphere, the world championship moves between Eastern Europe and Western Asia. The Azerbaijan Grand Prix is the second and last round scheduled for April, as well as the third time, after the 2018 and 2019 editions, that the Grand Prix has been held in this month. Compared to the last edition of 2022 held in June, the Federation moves the appointment to April. For the third consecutive race weekend, the championship disputes an appointment on a street circuit. The Grand Prix follows a four-week break after the previous race, the Australian Grand Prix. At the stipulation of the calendar, the return of the Chinese Grand Prix should have taken place between these two races for the first time since the 2019 championship, before it was canceled for the fourth consecutive year due to the problems dictated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The contract for the race on the world calendar, also on the Baku circuit, is valid until the 2026 season: this renewal is made official on the eve of the race. For the third consecutive edition and fifth overall, the Grand Prix does not have a sponsorship in the official name, as it already happened in the 2017, 2018, 2021 and 2022 editions. Only the j2019 edition was sponsored by the local oil company SOCAR and natural gas. Present on the Formula 1 world championship calendar since the 2017 season, the Azerbaijan Grand Prix sees its sixth edition held. The Grand Prix has always been held on the Baku circuit, the country's capital. The circuit is 6.003 meters long, the fourth longest after those of Spa-Francorchamps, home of the Belgian Grand Prix, Jeddah, home of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, and Las Vegas, home of the homonymous Grand Prix. The track was also the site of the last edition of the European Grand Prix, held in 2016. The organizers of the Grand Prix, already at the end of the same season, asked the Federation to be able to change the name of the race on this track to the Grand Prix of Azerbaijan, starting from 2017, a request then granted by the world motoring body, thus replacing the old denomination. During the 2021 championship, the organizers of the Grand Prix opened up to the idea of hosting one of the Sprints of the season, which then did not materialize.
The idea has been resumed this year, as the 2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix will be one of the races of the year characterized by the Sprint Race formula, for which a new qualifying session called Sprint Shootout, aimed at defining the starting grid of the Sprint Race. The Azerbaijan Grand Prix is in fact chosen as the first event, out of six scheduled for this championship, where the race weekend is characterized by the Sprint format, a 100 km race with free choice in terms of tire compounds and without need to make pit stops, the result of which gives valid points for the drivers' and constructors' classification to the first 8 classified. The Federation, Liberty Media and the teams reach an agreement for the number of Grands Prix to use the Sprint format, tested in 2021 and confirmed in 2022, both with three appointments. From this year, however, the number of events in which the Sprint is present again will be increased to six. The Grands Prix to host the Sprint format are: the Grand Prix of Azerbaijan, Austria, Belgium, Qatar, the United States of America and Sao Paulo. In addition, an accident that occurs during a Sprint is now a fixed amount per team: $300.000, doubled from last year. In each Sprint a novelty is introduced regarding the use of the Drag Reduction System after the start or after the restart in the event of a safety car: the mobile rear wing can be used after only one lap and not two as has been the case up to now . If the experimentation is successful, the novelty will also be introduced at full capacity in Sunday races starting from 2024. The restrictions regarding the parc fermé during a weekend in which the Sprint is held are eased, giving greater freedom of movement with regard to damaged pieces . The rules will apply from qualifying on Friday through to the race on Sunday. The scoring system to be awarded during the Sprint, still valid for the driver and constructor classifications, has not changed compared to 2022, always including the first eight classified, who in order receive 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 point. In the meeting of the F1 Commission on the eve of the race, the idea of a change of format for the Grand Prix where the Sprint is held is discussed, to be adopted in this appointment where the first of the six Sprints of the championship is the object.
The format is ratified and consists of a single free practice session in the early afternoon of Friday, followed by qualifying which takes place in the late afternoon, which establishes the starting grid for the race; on Saturday morning there will be a new qualifying session called Sprint Shootout which determines the starting grid of the Sprint run in the afternoon, characterized by a race distance of 17 laps for this event or a maximum of 60 minutes according to the regulations; the race is scheduled as usual on Sunday afternoon. The new Saturday qualifying, introduced to replace the previous second free practice session, provides for the same course as the traditional qualifying, but with a reduced time: SQ1 has a duration of 12 minutes, SQ2 10 and SQ3 8. Among each stage includes a seven-minute break. For each segment, drivers are obliged to mount medium tires in SQ1 and SQ2, and soft tires in SQ3. In the F1 Commission meeting on the eve of the race, new rules on the expenditure limit relating to the budget cap are approved; exemptions are provided for sustainability projects and initiatives such as donations to charities involved in the promotion of environmental sustainability projects will not be counted in the spending cap. Furthermore, it is decided to increase the number of usable elements of the internal combustion engine, the turbocharger, the MGU-H and the MGU-K from three to four. The rule is valid only for this season. British racing team Williams appoints Paul Asencio as new Chief Revenue Officer. The newcomer will be in charge of the team's commercial and marketing operations. The manufacturer promotes the Briton Luke Browning as the new driver of the Williams Driver Academy.
Ferrari announces Francesca Montini as the new head of defining and leading the global communication strategy, replacing Charlie Turner, who is leaving the Maranello team. McLaren formalizes a new support program for young talents, which will be directed by former driver Emanuele Pirro. The German team Mercedes announce the exchange of roles of James Allison and Mike Elliott within the team. Allison leaves after just over a year the role of Chief Technical Officer to assume that of technical director, previously employed by Elliott. French racing team Alpine receive the three-star Federation environmental accreditation for its initiatives aimed at protecting the environment. AlphaTauri announces that next season Ferrari's sporting director, Laurent Mekies, will move to the Faenza-based team to become the new team principal, taking over from Franz Tost, who will move to the role of consultant. The new CEO of the team will be Peter Bayer, former general secretary of the Motor Sports Federation. Former Formula 1 driver Enrique Bernoldi is appointed assistant commissioner. The Brazilian has performed this function on several occasions in the past, most recently in the previous Australian Grand Prix. It is the German car manufacturer Mercedes, as in the previous race, that supplies the safety car and the medical car. For this Grand Prix, Pirelli, the sole tire supplier, offers the choice of C3, C4 and C5 compound tyres, the type of softer compounds that characterize the entire range made available by the company that supplies the tires for the championship. for the first time this season. For the third consecutive edition of the Grand Prix, the Italian manufacturer nominates the same type. At the same time, the compounds for the following Grands Prix in Miami, Emilia-Romagna, Monaco and Spain were chosen. To such Mario Isola, Pirelli Motorsport Director, declares:
"Baku presents a unique set of characteristics on the Formula 1 calendar with a very slow section that's typical of a street circuit, as well as other parts of the track that are very fast. We're bringing the three softest compounds in the 2023 range, which are well suited to this venue. One of the most crucial aspects to the weekend will be not only finding the right compromise in terms of setup, but also balancing the tire management. The tyres on the front axle needs to be warm enough to guarantee optimal grip - despite the long straights cooling them down - but it's equally important not to overheat the rears in the traction phase. So, the key is to balance the temperatures successfully between front and rear, because there's a big risk of lockups and the walls in Azerbaijan take no prisoners, as we've seen in previous races here. This year, the Sprint Shootout makes its debut on Saturday morning to determine the grid for the Sprint Race in the afternoon, with drivers obliged to use one set of mediums for each of the first two Shootout sessions, then a set of softs for the final session. This presents an extra challenge for the teams and also for Pirelli as there will be less long run data available, but we're confident that it provides an opportunity to add to the spectacular show of a Formula 1 grand prix weekend".
The Federation establishes the two usual zones where the riders can activate the Drag Reduction System: the first zone is established on the long main straight of the pits, with the point for determining the gap between the riders at turn 20, while the second zone in the section between curve 2 and curve 3, with the detection point placed before the second curve. The Federation also analyzed the DRS zones during 2022, introducing changes for 2023 to make overtaking easier or more difficult at some circuits where it was felt the zone to use the mobile device was too easy or difficult at the time. order to overtake. The Baku circuit is one of the tracks subject to these changes. The mobile device trigger point along the pit straight is moved 100 meters further and placed 447 meters after turn 20. Compared to the 2022 edition, one new vehicle access is introduced on the left-hand side at the pit lane entrance and two new accesses on the left-hand side at the pit lane exit. The vehicle access gate on the right-hand side at the pit lane exit has been replaced, while the vehicle access opening at turn 14 on the right-hand side has been replaced with a steel gate. At turn 11 on the right apex a curved concrete wall was inserted. From turn 16 to turn 13 new asphalt pavement was inserted. Light panel number 1 located on the right on the straight is installed slightly further back, as is light panel number 20, located on the right between turn 19 and turn 20. Light panel number 17 is moved further back, being installed on the right before turn 16. The Federation announces that at the end of the race of the previous Australian Grand Prix, Max Verstappen's Red Bull was drawn among the top ten cars for the technical checks. The inspections covered the front and rear suspension components, front and rear internal suspension components, all front and rear shock absorbers and all sensors. All inspected components were found to comply with the technical regulation.
Before the start of the free practice session, the curb on the left-hand side of Turn 1 is removed and replaced by a painted one, while the curb on the left-hand side of Turn 2 is also removed, with the walls having been realigned. The second gearbox and second transmission are installed on the car of Esteban Ocon, Fernando Alonso, Kevin Magnussen, Nico Hülkenberg, Alexander Albon and Logan Sargeant. All drivers are not penalized on the starting grid as the new components installed are among those that can be used in the maximum number established by the technical regulations. The second internal combustion engine unit is installed on the cars of George Russell, Lewis Hamilton, Oscar Piastri, Lance Stroll, Alonso, Yuki Tsunoda, Albon and Sargeant. The second turbocharger unit is installed on the cars of Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz Jr., Russell, Hamilton, Piastri, Stroll, Alonso, Magnussen, Hülkenberg, Tsunoda, Albon and Sargeant. The second unit relating to the MGU-H is installed on the car of Sainz Jr., Russell, Hamilton, Piastri, Stroll, Alonso, Magnussen, Hülkenberg, Tsunoda, Albon and Sargeant. The second unit relating to the MGU-K is installed on the cars of Russell, Hamilton, Piastri, Stroll, Alonso, Hülkenberg, Tsunoda, Albon and Sargeant. The second unit relating to the exhaust system is installed on the cars of Max Verstappen, Sergio Pérez, Leclerc, Sainz Jr., Ocon, Pierre Gasly, Zhou Guanyu, Hülkenberg and Tsunoda and on the cars of Russell, Hamilton, Piastri, Stroll, Alonso, Albon and Sargeant the third unit. All the drivers are not penalized on the starting grid as the new components installed are among those that can be used in the maximum number established by the technical regulations. At Alpine, Esteban Ocon declares that he took advantage of the break after the Australian GP to carry out a careful debriefing:
"It it was good to have a little break after the Australian Grand Prix to properly debrief after the race and analyze the weekend as whole. Obviously, it did not end well for us but there were many positives to take from the weekend, and we are fully focused on bouncing back strongly in Baku. As a team we've already been looking forward to Baku for a while now so we're all glad this new race week is finally here. An upgrade is planned for this race too, it's a slightly new format with the Sprint, so that means we'll have to be on the pace straight away. We need a positive weekend and aim to leave Baku with deserved points for the team".
His teammate, Pierre Gasly, declares that he loves the Baku circuit, and it is no coincidence that it represents his last podium conquered in 2021:
"The Baku City Circuit is an insane track for Formula 1. I love it there. We have an interesting format to get through and it's going to be all about staying alive in both races and capitalizing on any opportunities that might come up. I've had past success in Baku from just keeping it clean and taking chances - including in 2021 for my latest podium in Formula 1. You just never know in Baku...anything can happen! I've been to Enstone over the past few days and I'm excited by what the team is bringing and by what we have in the pipeline. It's time to keep my head down, work hard and aim for strong performances that are rewarded with what we deserve".
Finally, Matt Harman, Alpine’s Technical Director, declares:
"We are bringing a new floor to Baku amongst some other aerodynamic and mechanical items. We then have a further development at the following race in Miami and something further for Imola after that. This consistent thread will continue throughout the season with more upgrades planned at most events.In the short term, what we have for Baku, Miami and Imola is a reasonable step - though not as significant as some media speculation in recent weeks - and it's important we keep this aggressive rate of development up if we are to keep moving forwards towards our performance expectations.Credit must be given to the work going on behind the scenes at both factories in Viry and Enstone in meeting development targets and finding the improvements to make the car faster".
In Alfa Romeo, the first words on the occasion of the Baku GP come from Alessandro Alunni Bravi, the Team Representative, who declares:
"Three weeks away from the track meant we had a chance to regroup and focus on the work we need to do for the next few races. It's been an intense start of the season, in which we scored in two out of three races, and it's been good for the team to have some time to analyze our performances and see in which areas we can make improvements.We have made steps forward compared to last year - our reliability, just to name one - but we know we need to keep working hard to be competitive in such a tight field. We head into the first sprint of the season knowing that anything can happen on this track. We saw how quickly a race can change in Melbourne, and once again we will need to be at our best to maximize the potential of our car and of any opportunities that may arise".
Valtteri Bottas declares he is enthusiastic about returning to Baku, albeit totally concentrated on improving his performances in view of a long championship full of opportunities:
"I am looking forward to getting back to racing this weekend. Baku is a place I like - I've won this race and been on the podium here before - and I want to get a good result this time around as well. My focus, as well as that of the team, is on keeping improving: the season is still long, and there are still many points to be scored. I used the three weeks' break to get prepared to be at my best. It is going to be interesting to race in the sprint here, and I am looking forward to this challenge. We have looked into the last few races, and we have been working really hard to get back to the level we showed in Bahrain. I am confident we have what it takes to improve: if we all do our homework, we can be in the mix for another points finish".
Staying at Alfa Romeo, Zhou Guanyu declares:
"Scoring my first points of the season in Australia was a good motivation boost - just what was needed before heading into the three-weeks break. Still, it wasn't holiday time for us: we kept working hard, in the sim and at the factory, as we all need to do to make further steps forward ahead of the upcoming races. I quite enjoy Baku and its unpredictability - and we must consider the sprint race element being added to the mix. I am keen to keep up the work I did in Melbourne, where I had a solid, clean race, and aim for another top ten finish. It's going to be tight, as it always is this year, and a tenth or two could make a real difference in terms of placements, but we have a chance to do well here".
Guenther Steiner, Haas’ Team Principal, comments enthusiastic the first points of this championship obtained from Nico Hulkenberg:
"It was one of those moments where you thought he could make points and do it, and hopefully a lot more. Then immediately the frustration sets in with what could've been if there had been a different decision from the Race Director. In the end, we're happy with seventh place, and the six points we scored takes us forward in the Constructors' Championship again. All in all, a very good race weekend for us in Australia. With the unintended break, we tried to make the best out of it. Firstly, I told people to rest a little bit and get ready for a tough season in front of us as, the real season starts now with the double-header and then the triple-header. The design team is working on the last little bits for upgrades that we bring in the next races, starting in Miami. We also put a few things in place like the race team going to a team bonding event for two days in Wales".
We arrive in Baku, city in which Haas does not earn points from 2017, and Steiner declares about it:
"I think our car isn't perfect, but I don't know where the rest of the cars are perfect this year. I let myself be surprised when we go out in first practice and see what we can do, but this year it could be possible that our car scores points in every race. That's the aim anyway so let's hope after 2017, 2023 is the year that we score points in Baku".
The Haas team principal then expresses some reflections on the new format of the Sprint Race:
"I definitely prefer the new set-up because Saturday morning practice is pretty pointless as you couldn't change anything on the car, you just went out there, did laps and tried to understand the tires - I don't think that's very interesting for the fans. A second qualifying is a lot better for the fans and also for us as it gives you excitement. We've got a lot of things going on at the weekend, two qualifying sessions and two races, and I think that's great for the sport".
Kevin Magnussen declares that he spent the break after the Australian GP in Denmark, and it was a period when he was able to train and think back to the race that just ended:
"I spent my time in Denmark and the three weeks were great for really getting into training. It's not often during the season that we get such a continuous period of time where you can train routinely every day and get into it. That's been great and of course just spending time with my family recharging the batteries. My race wasn't great, of course, not finishing but on the other hand, Nico scored some good points and that's really great . When you don't have a good race yourself, your team-mate can make up for it and we want to finish as high as we can in the Constructors' Championship and improve on our P8 last year. That's what it's going to take all through the year, both of us delivering on a consistent basis".
As for the Baku GP, Magnussen says:
"I hope we can score some points this year. Last year, we were in the running towards the end of the race but then my engine broke down. So, last year we had the pace but didn't finish it off because of reliability and hopefully this year we can have a strong weekend again and not have any issues. I'm positive that we can be strong".
What makes the Haas driver enthusiastic is certainly the format of the Sprint Race, which last year made him bring home some points:
"I don't think there's any particular reason we scored points every time but of course I'm hoping we can keep that streak going, that's the aim. I think we have good pace in the car at the moment and hopefully we can capitalize on that in both the Sprint and the race".
Just about the new qualifying format, Magnussen declares:
"I think it's good that we get two qualifying sessions because it means that you can go for it a little more in the Sprint. There's not the extra penalty of having to start at the back for the race on Sunday if you don't finish, even though of course you want to. There's a little more reward in the risk versus reward ratio for taking risks and that's good for the show, good for us drivers and it's more fun".
The weeks off after the Australian GP were an opportunity for all the riders to train, improve their physical shape and strength in view of the months full of races. The same is for Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg, who declares:
"Obviously it was a calmer , quieter time but we did the normal debriefing from Melbourne and then some preparation for Baku and Miami. It's about to get pretty hectic so we also had a simulator day setting-up and preparing those two races. I've done a lot of training also, trying to maintain the best fitness possible and as a family we moved to Mallorca for two weeks to recharge the batteries and get ready".
And just about the Australian GP, and the first points earned, he says:
"Getting your first points is always positive and it's a box ticked, it's done. I feel in the first two races - even in Jeddah - a lot of progress was made behind the scenes and a lot of good work was put into the car and the set-up. We're still experimenting a lot with that so hopefully there's more to come but definitely it was a nice feeling to have a strong, solid race and come home with points into the break".
The German comment about the imminent first Sprint Race:
“It's the first Sprint for me and obviously from a spectator's point of view it's very interesting. For me also it's much less practice, only one hour, and straight into a meaningful session - it reminds me of my junior days - and I used to like that. I go into it with an open mind just accepting the challenge, which is less preparation time, and you need to hit the sweet spot earlier. Baku is a pretty spectacular and challenging high-speed circuit so we're gearing up for a tough but interesting weekend".
At McLaren, Lando Norris declares:
"I'm looking forward to Baku and to go racing again. It's been a productive three weeks off with sim work and analysis with my engineers but also taking time to rest and reset ahead of a busy few races. I'm also excited that we're at another street circuit and trying out the new sprint format. It will be interesting to see how it works and hopefully it will make good viewing for the fans. The track is narrow so it's as important as ever to be on it as there are lots of opportunities for mistakes. This is even more important as we optimize and learn everything, we can about the new parts we're bringing to the track this weekend. Let's get back to it".
And Oscar Piastri says:
"I'm excited to go racing in Baku and I feel rested and ready after the three-week break. I've raced here previously in Formula 2 and it's a cool circuit with the backdrop of the city and the castle.It's a tricky circuit to get right from a car set-up perspective, given the long straight at the end of the lap, combined with the tighter sections of the track.We've been doing a lot of work in the simulator to ensure we hit the ground running on Friday, especially given the Sprint format, which I'm looking forward to taking on for the first time in Formula 1. I'll be hoping to build on the momentum from Australia where I achieved my first- ever F1 points. We still have a lot of work to do and a long way to go so I'll keep my head down and keep working hard".
Finally, Andrea Stella, Team Principal of the Scuderia, claims to be glad to go back to Baku after the results achieved in Australia:
"We come to Baku following a solid result in Australia, a short period away from track to refocus and with good spirits in the team so we're ready to go again for the first double-header of the season. Whilst the result in Australia was positive, we know we've still got a lot of work to do and this time away from the track has actually been very busy at the factory. We also bring some new components to the MCL60.Although, we recognize that in Baku we may not immediately see most of the benefits of these new spec parts, this is just one of many steps in a wider plan to push us forward in the Constructors' Championship.The team are also looking forward to the first weekend of the new Sprint format. At any street circuit, there is always more risk associated with events like this, but the team have prepared well and we look forward to going back to racing".
In AlphaTauri, Nyck de Vries says he took advantage of the post-Australia break to train on the simulator. Not only work however, as the Dutch driver has also dedicated time to his private life and to feed his passion for other sports:
"Initially post-Melbourne I returned quickly to the UK to spend a day in the simulator, to do some correlation work and also look ahead to some of the races coming after this break. I had a short trip to the Netherlands for a couple of commitments after which I was invited to the Milan-Napoli game. It was a really cool experience as the Champions League is a very big deal. It's always cool to witness sports in real life, as I think sometimes TV doesn't do it justice, and this was a really unique experience. When you're in a stadium with 80.000 people watching the 22 players on the pitch, the atmosphere and emotion gives you goosebumps. It was the same at the start of the year, when we were in New York for the livery launch and got to see the NBA game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Chicago Bulls. I just love the real sports action. After that I attended the Monaco Tennis Open, which should have been a bit quieter, although I went with Stef (Red Bull Athlete Stefanos Tsitsipas , ranked 3 in world tennis) which made it a bit more challenging to be quiet! I follow tennis very closely as a lot of the top players live in Monaco and go to the same gym I use, and some live in the same building as me".
"My trainer was with me in Monaco where we did a lot of work, and it was also nice to spend some time at home. Now I'm ready to get going again with five races coming up in six weeks, so it will be an intense time. Baku will be my very first Sprint weekend and that will be particularly challenging with just one hour of free practice before qualifying, but I've been to the track before, with three second place finishes in Formula 2. We're all excited to go racing again after this long break. The track is quite unique in the sense that, usually on street tracks, overtaking is very challenging, but the extremely long straight produces opportunities, which is why the races at Baku have often been quite eventful, so hopefully things will go our way and we 'll have something to cheer about come the end of it. I feel we are making progress, but the midfield is still very tight, and it is very challenging to fight for points because in a "normal" race the top ten is solidly occupied. We need to make sure we are ready to capitalize on any mistakes made by those who would normally be top ten. While I see signs of progress, Baku demands a lot of straight-line speed and so far, our straight-line speed has not been that competitive. Let's wait and see how it works out".
Yuki Tsunoda says instead that he spent the break after the Australian GP in Italy:
"Since Australia, I've spent most of my time at home in Italy, with occasional trips to Milan, focusing on my training, so I'm feeling fit and fresh, and ready to go racing again.Last week I was back in the simulator.In the past, I performed quite well in Baku, qualifying eighth the last two years, and finishing seventh in 2021, although last year I had that DRS failure when I was running in sixth place and ended up down in P13.I have good memories from there and I like the track.The past two years our car suited that circuit and we had a good understanding of the track, so I hope that will again be the case this year and we can aim for points this weekend. We've got some updates coming, particularly for the rear wing to suit the low downforce configuration for this track. So far this year, we have struggled a bit in terms of top speed, and you definitely need straight line speed for Baku.This should help and hopefully the pure set-up of the car should suit the Azerbaijan circuit. I will approach the weekend in my usual optimistic way and I'm looking forward to being back in the car after such a long break. This will be our first Sprint weekend of the year, and with the changed format I'm feeling more excited about it than usual. The changes mean that the work we have done in the simulator becomes even more important to make up for less practice time on track. It will be vital to have a good car right from FP1. Certainly, our last simulator session was very useful, starting with looking back at Australia to get a better understanding about the car and then looking at these next couple of races in Baku and Miami, as we will be going straight to Florida from Azerbaijan".
Great news come from AlphaTauri as they announce that the former FIA executive Peter Bayer will join the team as Chief Executive Officer later this year, while Franz Tost will step down from the role of Team Principal at the end of the 2023 season. Laurent Mekies, currently Sporting Director at Ferrari, will join Scuderia AlphaTauri as its new Team Principal at a date to be confirmed. Then, we talk about a key figure in the development of both Scuderia AlphaTauri and its predecessor Scuderia Toro Rosso, Franz Tost who joined the Faenza squad as Team Principal upon its creation in 2005 and led Toro Rosso to its first victory, on home soil, at the 2008 Italian Grand Prix . Following its rebranding as Scuderia AlphaTauri, Franz again led the Team to victory in 2020, winning at Monza for a second time. With the Team also charged with the development of young drivers for future F1 success, during his time with the team Franz also helped progress a generation of grand prix winners and champions, including four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, two-time world champion Max Verstappen and race winners Daniel Ricciardo, Pierre Gasly and Carlos Sainz.
Recognizing his longstanding contribution to the Team and its drivers, Franz will continue to work with Scuderia AlphaTauri in a consultancy role in 2024. Peter Bayer joins Scuderia AlphaTauri as CEO having most recently acted as F1 Executive Director and Secretary General for Sport at the FIA. Peter will oversee the strategic direction of the team at its facilities in Faenza and in the UK. Laurent Mekies ' appointment as Team Principal at Scuderia AlphaTauri brings Ferrari's current Sporting Director back to the Team with which he achieved many of his early successes, first as a race engineer and ultimately as Chief Engineer and Head of Vehicle Performance. After his first stint in Faenza, Laurent spent four years at the FIA as Safety Director and Deputy Race Director, before joining Ferrari in 2018. With Laurent being responsible for the day-to-day operation of the team, including Technical, Manufacturing, Support Function and Race Team operations and in conjunction with Peter's strategically focused role, they will create a new and dynamic leadership team with equal responsibility. AlphaTauri’s Team Principal Franz Tost says:
"First of all, I would like to thank Dietrich Mateschitz, who gave me the incredible opportunity to be Team Principal of Scuderia Toro Rosso and Scuderia AlphaTauri for the past 18 years. It has been a true privilege to lead the Team for such a long period and a great pleasure to work with so many motivated and skilled people, who share my passion for Formula 1. With 67 years old it is time to hand over and with Peter as new CEO and Laurent as Team Principal, we found two very professional people, who will bring the Team to the next level. I want to thank everyone for the good cooperation".
Incoming AlphaTauri’s Team Principal Laurent Mekies says:
"Firstly, I'd like to pay tribute to Franz for the great job he has done over almost two decades in charge at Faenza. I wish him well for the future and I know that both Peter and I will rely on his input and advice in times to come.Looking forward, I am honored to take on the role of Team Principal and to return to the Team where I spent a large portion of my early career. Scuderia AlphaTauri has all of the ingredients necessary for greater success in the future and in tandem with Peter I'm looking forward to making that happen".
Incoming AlphaTauri’s CEO Peter Bayer says:
"I would also like to thank Franz for his dedication to Scuderia AlphaTauri and its predecessor, Scuderia Toro Rosso. His commitment to developing young talent has resulted in a Formula 1 grid where 25% of the drivers have benefited from his guidance. It is a great privilege for me, too, to take on the role of CEO at the Team and working alongside Laurent. Scuderia AlphaTauri has a fantastic team of people and great infrastructure in Faenza and in the UK. I am very much looking forward to building on those key elements to increase performance, on an off track, and to bring the Team even more success in the coming years".
To comment the movements in AlphaTauri, also Oliver Mintzlaff, Red Bull’s Chief Executive of Corporate Projects and Investments, states:
"Firstly, I would like to thank Franz Tost for his hard work at Scuderia AlphaTauri and Scuderia Toro Rosso over the past 18 years Throughout his time at the team Franz has been driven by a singular vision - the pursuit of ever more performance from machine and from driver.His leadership resulted in outstanding victories and in the development of some of the finest talents ever seen in Formula 1. Replacing him as he steps back has not been easy and has resulted in a redefinition of the management structure at the Team.I am therefore very pleased to welcome Peter Bayer as CEO and Laurent Mekies as Team Principal.Both have huge experience in top positions in Formula 1 and together I am sure they will take Scuderia AlphaTauri to even greater heights in the future".
In Aston Martin, Lance Stroll recalls his first podium with pleasure, achieved right here in Baku in 2017:
"It's been good to have a short break after a busy few races, but nothing compares to racing and, given the strong start to the season, I can't wait to get back out there. Baku is a venue that holds great memories for me - taking my first podium in Formula One back in 2017 - and we enter this weekend hoping to continue our early-season form, it is a wild ride, a really fun track. We also will have the first Sprint of the year this weekend and with another new format, which I think will be great for the fans. We need to hit the ground running as there will be little time to prepare for qualifying and the races, but the team have done a fantastic job this year so I know we're up for the challenge".
Fernando Alonso says he has recharged his batteries to be ready for the next races in a championship that is extremely fun for him and full of positive surprises:
"It 's good to be back after a few weeks away from racing. I have recharged the batteries after a high adrenaline start to the season, and I am now looking forward to Baku.The circuit presents us drivers with a unique challenge, as we face lots of tight slow-speed street sections and then extremely high-speed straights that create lots of opportunities for risk and reward.I'm excited to see the return of the Sprint this weekend too. We've seen some fun races in the past there and I'm sure it'll be no different, especially now with two qualifying sessions and two races. After three races we know our car better, but we need to pick-up where we left off in Australia and keep up the development push over the next few races".
At Williams, Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance, declares:
"Following a short break, the season resumes in Azerbaijan as we begin an intense period of racing, which sees five Formula 1 races in six weeks . This weekend we take on the Baku City circuit in the first Sprint Event of the 2023 season.The format of the weekend is a little bit different to the sprint events of recent years with Saturday now a self-contained day and Friday evening qualifying alone setting the grid for the Grand Prix on Sunday.The streets of Baku always provide an exciting event and this year will be no different.The circuit is challenging for the drivers and the engineers and with, very little time to set the car up ahead of Friday evening qualifying, there will be more uncertainty than normal when the cars enter Parc Ferme.The FW45 should be well suited to the layout in Azerbaijan, but we will need to be agile and pragmatic to get the most out of it given the track resurfacing, the cooler temperatures and the lack of free practice time. Pirelli have provided their softest compounds for this weekend and this is the first time that we have used the C5 compound competitively this year. The tires should all work well at this circuit, but an allocation that is different to previous Sprint Events will add to the variability as the weekend progresses. We are all excited to be racing again and we are looking forward to the weekend ahead in Baku".
Alex Albon says:
"Going into Baku, the main talking point is the new format, with the need to get it right on Friday more important than it's ever been. The team has done our prep on the sim, and it's a familiar track so let's see how the weekend goes. Most corners are low speed 90-degree corners, so the requirements of the circuit are quite consistent. If the car is good in one corner around here it tends to be good around the whole lap, and vice versa".
Logan Sargeant concludes:
"I'm super excited to be getting back in the car this weekend in Baku. It's been a long three weeks that we've used to put in a lot of hard work to keep learning and preparing for this round. It should be an interesting weekend as it's a tough circuit and my first sprint event. I'm looking forward to taking on the challenge and hopefully having a good weekend".
Among the other Team Principals, also Toto Wolff expresses his ideas, claiming to be confident about the next developments of the Mercedes cars:
"We've had a few weeks off from racing but both factories have been hard at work. We've tried to maximize this period, bringing planned development to the car and extracting as much as possible from our learnings so far. Australia showed that we are making progress, although we need to be cautious about reading too much into a single result. But the signs in Melbourne were still encouraging and that has been a good motivator for the whole team heading into this gap in the calendar. Over the next races, we want to keep on making small steps forward. The car will continue to evolve in the coming weeks, as we steadily bring performance and upgrades to the track. We're excited to see their impact, but we know there is no magic bullet. After just under a month with no F1 action, everyone's eager to be back out on track. Thankfully we've got plenty of that coming up. It's a busy window in the calendar with five races in six weekends, starting with Azerbaijan. The racing in Baku is always dramatic and entertaining. It's a challenging track with the walls close, so there's no room for error. We also have our first F1 Sprint weekend of the season with a tweaked format. It's an interesting challenge for us to tackle, with only a single practice session to be ready for two qualifying sessions and races spread across Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Hopefully this will mean more excitement and action for fans to enjoy".
In Red Bull, Sergio Perez declares:
"It has been nice to have a break, to work hard in the gym and with my Team at the factory. You must take advantage of these moments away from the track, especially when you see how busy the period is coming up. Australia wasn't perfect for us, having the car and consistent performance is my aim this season. For two races we had that and now as a Team we must make sure that's the standard we keep to for the remaining races of the season. We have five races in six weeks and after that, with the mix of circuits we are visiting, we are really going to see how good the RB19 can be this year. We had a great Team result in Baku last season and everyone knows I really enjoy a street circuit - winning is always the aim.The new weekend format is going to make things tricky when it comes to car set-up but every team is in the same position and we just have to make sure we are on it from the minute we roll out on Friday. I can't wait to get back in the car now".
Max Verstappen concludes:
"It's been a long break and I'm looking forward to getting back to racing. Baku is a challenging track to get right. As it's a street circuit with long straights, it gives us multiple options on what wings we can run. It's also the first Sprint race weekend of the season so that might make it slightly chaotic. We just need to try and get a good start into the weekend with a solid FP1 session. Let's see what we can do".
At Ferrari, Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal, declares that he took advantage of the break after the Australian GP to work in Maranello with the whole team and try to bring the a more efficient single seater:
"It's been almost a month since the last Grand Prix and in that time we have been working hard in Maranello on the development of the SF-23, both in terms of improving the current car package as well as moving forward with the planned updates that will be gradually introduced over the course of the coming races. Charles and Carlos have played their part, working in the simulator and giving us feedback. In Australia, we had already made a step forward in terms of pure performance and for Azerbaijan, we expect to move on from there".
Carlos Sainz instead comments on the changes introduced in the formula of the Sprint Race and qualifying:
"I like the changes that have been introduced . It should make the show more interesting with two qualifying sessions and a race which is unconnected to the Grand Prix, for which the grid will be set on Friday. For sure, Saturday's shoot-out will be far from easy. You'll need to get out of bed and immediately be focused because as from 12:30 things already get serious, with assigning the starting positions for the Sprint. I'm keen to see how the new format will work. It's a nice track and I expect 17 really close laps. Charles and I worked hard in Maranello to help with improving the performance of the SF-23. We spent our time with the team getting to know our car better and to understand precisely what were its weak points , as well as identifying aspects we can focus on to make progress in terms of our competitiveness. I think that in Australia, putting the result to one side, there were signs of progress and I am confident that we can move forward from there and aim for a weekend when our results live up to our expectations".
Finally, Charles Leclerc says to be happy to return in Baku, one of his favorite circuits:
"Three weeks without driving after so few races is really very long. Finally, it's time and I am glad it's here in Baku, one of my favorite tracks. Definitely, getting rid of the second free practice session and the introduction of the qualifying shoot-out with just one set of tires for each phase will make for a better show, as should the fact the Sprint is now a standalone race, without its result having any implications for the real Grand Prix. I think this format should stay limited to just a few races in the season, but it could be spot on.We got through a lot of work which allowed us to identify some areas of the SF-23 for development and to carry out an in depth analysis of our performance in the early part of the season.We know we have a lot of ground to make up on those ahead of us, but we are clear on what steps to take next and I am confident that with all the team working together we can get to where we want to be. I have faith in the people and in the project and I am totally focused on the rest of this season".
It si time for the first free practice session in Baku and, after the first and only 60 minutes, it is Red Bull to come out on top with Max Verstappen at the wheel. The Dutchman sets a time of 1'42"315s, edging Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc by just 0.037s. But do not underestimate Sergio Pérez (3rd in practice): the Mexican has already established himself as a master of city circuits and is ready to replicate the result of 2021. Behind this explosive trio, which has detached a bit from the rest of the field, racing seems a bit closer and the battle for fourth position could be open to the drivers of Ferrari, Mercedes, and Aston Martin, without having to rule out a chance of podium in case of a crash at the front. The rest of the classification appears as follows: Sainz, Norris, De Vries, Stroll, Alonso, Albon, Zhou, Hamilton, Piastri, Tsunoda, Bottas, Hulkenberg, Sargeant, Russell Ocon, Gasly, and Magnussen in 20th place.
In the afternoon the drivers are ready to take on the challenge of qualifying. After a very intense session, it is Charles Leclerc who claims pole position with a blistering time of 1'40"203, which is the new all-time lap record of Baku City Circuit. The Monegasque proves unbeatable for the third consecutive time around the Azeri streets:
"It feels really good to be back on pole and it's something we didn't take for granted coming here. The team did a perfect job in managing the session and I'm very happy with my lap. We have to see where we stand in the Sprint and the race, where we expect to be a bit more on the back foot compared to our competitors, but we will give it our all and I look forward to being back in the car for the Shootout tomorrow".
After being the fastest in Q1 and Q2 respectively, Leclerc and Verstappen post the exact same time at their first attempt in Q3 (1'40"445), but the Ferrari driver is able to exploit the better traction and driveability of the SF23 in the middle sector to create an unfillable gap with his competitors, not even with the incredible speed on the straights provided by Red Bull. Max Verstappen has to settle for second place, despite improving in his second attempt (1'40"391):
"It’s not the easiest to go to the limit around this track and it’s also tough to get the tyres in the right window. I think we kept it quite clean today and we progressed nicely, overall, we can be pleased. Of course, we want to be on pole but it’s about the bigger picture. Charles looks pretty competitive this weekend, he always does in Baku. There are a few characteristics of the track that suit Ferrari and there are others that suit us better. There’s no big drama. I was happy with the setup of the car and I’m looking forward to tomorrow, it will be good to see what we can improve on and do better. We need to have straightforward sessions tomorrow, it’s super easy to make a mistake around here. We have a good race car and the points are scored tomorrow and on Sunday, so that’s what we’ll focus on".
Sergio Pérez sets the fastest time in the last sector but only reaches third position (1'40"495). The Mexican, however, has been constantly close to the youngsters in front and will surely give them a hard time during the two races of the weekend:
"It was pretty intense from the moment Q1 started, nailing that first lap was critical and it made our Q1 a little more stressful than it should be with all the red flags and making sure we kept on the same tyres. My final lap in Q3 wasn’t ideal so with that I am disappointed, but the important thing is to be strong on Sunday. I feel a lot more confident in the car this weekend. I am looking forward to tomorrow, getting some more lap times in and getting a cleaner lap in the Sprint Shootout. Charles did a tremendous job this evening, this weekend has been challenging already with the new format, we have a change of tarmac here too and we have just come from a three-week break and jumped straight into it. It is really nice to see the level everyone in the Team is working at, the engineers and the mechanics".
Carlos Sainz is best of the rest, suffering a gap of 813 thousandths from his teammate and more than half a second from Pérez. The Spaniard has been struggling with the set-up of his car, even forcing him to use an additional set of soft tyres, and all in all cannot be too disappointed with the results of qualifying. However, Leclerc demonstrates that much more can be extracted from the SF23 and more work should be done on his side:
"It was a very tricky day for me today. Since the very beginning of free practice I didn’t feel confident in the car and, with this format, there is obviously no time to change and try different set-ups. Qualifying was a bit of a mess as well, having to use two sets of new tyres in Q1 and therefore only leaving myself one set for Q3. I never got into a decent rhythm overall, my bad. I will fight back from P4 on Sunday and tonight we will focus on how we can improve the feeling in the car. Congratulations to Charles on a great lap and on securing pole for the team".
Laurent Mekies, Ferrari Racing Director, who is leaving the Maranello-based team for a new adventure at AlphaTauri to replace Franz Tost, shares his thoughts on the first weekend in which Ferrari seem really competitive since the beginning of the 2023 season, not without a pinch of satisfaction:
"We are very pleased with how qualifying went, because both our cars were able to fight with the Red Bulls which had always taken pole so far this season. Congratulations to Charles, who was quickest of all here in Baku for the third time in a row, proving that he's a real qualifying specialist. Carlos had a tougher time of it today, as he struggled to feel confident in the car and he also had to use an extra set of Softs in Q1. However, in the end, this pole position and Carlos’ fourth place confirms that we have done a good job in Maranello over the past month. In fact, even though the results didn’t show it, in Melbourne we had already made progress and this qualifying performance confirms it. We don’t have much information on race pace, which is what we will focus on as from this evening, as we start to prepare for tomorrow’s Sprint and the Grand Prix itself. There is still a lot of work to do, but all the same, we can enjoy today’s good result for the team".
Lewis Hamilton finds some confidence with his W14 and brings home a very good 5th place. The seven-time world champion holds off the two Aston Martins and outqualifies his teammate for the first time this season:
"We're trying as hard as we can and giving it everything we've got out there. Getting into a rhythm and pulling everything out on this track is not easy. In Q2, I struggled. I had more pace, but I didn't get the last lap together. My first run in Q3 was a sweet lap though. Unfortunately, I couldn't make a big improvement on my final run; I needed to find just a little bit more time to get ahead of the Ferrari (of Sainz). We can't make any changes to the car now, so this is the pace we have. I will do some studying tonight and hopefully we can eek a little bit more performance out tomorrow. Naturally, this is not the position we want to qualify as a team; we exist to win but everyone has that winning mindset and working as hard as they can. P5 is still a good position to be starting from on Sunday. Hopefully tomorrow we can have a better battle".
George Russell does not qualify to Q3 for the first time this season. A costly mistake at turn 16 makes him run over the kerb and lose control of the car. Apart from that, the Brit does not dance around it too much and simply admits a lack of speed that has not allowed him to be where he wanted to be:
"I'd have loved to have got through to Q3, and I was giving it everything. Unfortunately, we're just not fast enough this weekend. My first lap in Q2 was strong but I made a mistake on my last run. It may have just been enough for me to have crept into Q3, but I don't think we could have qualified much higher than P8. It's a funny sport sometimes. We went from qualifying on the front-row last time out in Melbourne to being out in Q2 today. We've got another chance tomorrow though, but not an ideal Friday for sure. Baku is a unique track and a bit of an outlier. If you were going to choose a circuit to have a bad Qualifying at, this would probably be it. I see no reason why we can't fight back on Sunday, and we will see what we can do tomorrow. We will be working hard as a team, and I'll be working hard myself, to see what we can do to come back stronger".
Russell misses Q3 by just 0.018s, demonstrating that, despite Red Bull’s dominance, the midfield battle is quite close. Mercedes Trackside Engineering Director Andrew Shovlin analyses the tricky aspects of the sprint weekend which have disadvantaged the Silver (Black) Arrows in some way:
"The sprint format really rewards you if you land the starting setup in the right place, but we've been battling a few issues with ride and balance today that have made it difficult for the drivers. Lewis put together a solid lap in the final session to secure P5 for the Grand Prix. George unfortunately was the wrong side of a very tight bunch and didn't quite make the cut for Q3. We're looking forward to the challenge of the new format tomorrow. We get another go at Qualifying tomorrow morning, which sets the grid for the F1 Sprint, so we will work out how we can improve for that. The sprint should also be interesting as so far, we have seen almost no long run data from the teams so it will be interesting to gauge where we sit on race pace".
Lewis Hamilton puts together a great lap and possibly hides the real struggle of the Mercedes W14, which has proven more difficult for the team to set up than what it is being shown. Hamilton’s performance stands out even more thanks to Aston Martin’s technical woes. In fact, both drivers of the British team experience problems with their DRS, which does not open correctly during their last attempt in Q3. Therefore, Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll are relegated to 6th and 9th place. Despite this issue, which causes a significant lack of speed (extremely important here in Baku, with a 2.2-kilometre start/finish straight) the Spaniard can count on the overall good performance of his AMR23, even after suffering a little technical issue in FP, which prevented him from going out for a run with the soft tyre:
"I am satisfied with sixth position on the grid for Sunday after we lost a little bit of performance today with a DRS issue. It's a long weekend ahead of us and there are plenty of opportunities with this new format, so hopefully we can make up some positions and perform well tomorrow in the Sprint. It's very close between a number of teams, so we'll need to try and be more consistent throughout the rest of the weekend. It's exciting to know we are waking up tomorrow and jumping straight into the car for another qualifying session".
His teammate Lance Stroll is right behind him. The Canadian is enjoying the new weekend format and is ready to make up for the positions lost in qualifying on the Sunday race:
"It was close out there today; the car felt good and I had the confidence to push hard which is a huge benefit around a circuit like this. Unfortunately, we were having intermittent DRS issues throughout the session and I completely lost DRS on the pit straight during Q3. It cost us a fair bit of time but we'll be doing our best to solve the issue before running tomorrow. I enjoyed the new format today; it was exciting to go straight into qualifying and it makes for a more interesting Friday. We know it'll be a challenge to do it all again first thing tomorrow morning without running beforehand, but I'm looking forward to it".
Despite being a bit off on Friday, Aston Martin is a dangerous rival for everyone, including the teams aiming at the podium for both races. The AMR23 has proven extremely quick this season and is probably the best car (apart from the Red Bull RB19) when it comes to saving the tyres. It is well balanced and allows the drivers to push when needed without increasing the tyre wear excessively. Even Team Principal Mike Krack is optimistic about the race, since both his drivers have accessed Q3 easily despite the above-mentioned issues, showing the true potential of the car:
"Both Fernando and Lance did well under challenging circumstances today. The single practice session was quite straightforward, but going into qualifying we experienced an ongoing DRS issue across both cars, which meant it was only working intermittently. Despite this costing us some performance, we progressed to Q3 quite comfortably and the team and drivers did a good job of managing a busy session with the yellow and red flags. We had the potential to be a bit higher up the grid, but I think we are well placed to fight for points on Sunday and this is a circuit where overtaking is possible. Our attention now turns to Saturday and maximising the standalone Sprint event to pick up as many points as we can".
Williams Racing continues working in the right direction, as its drivers are becoming habitués of the upper part of the classification, reaching Q2 more constantly. This improvement is confirmed by Alex Albon, who brings home a good 13th place, even though he regrets not being able to do more being in the conditions to:
"It's so close out there and I'm loving it. We're fighting for Q3, one mistake and that's it and that's just how it is. It's great to be a part of it but frustrating when it doesn't go your way. I lost time in that area with Carlos but when I look back at it, it's not like he was really in the way but you see how these cars are so sensitive and when you get a snap, the tyres hold on and it's so punishing. It's fine margins out there and I wouldn't want it any other way but unfortunately, we just got the wrong end of it today. It's another opportunity tomorrow with a lot of racing ahead of us, so we're feeling good and the car is feeling good. Sunday is going to be hectic with no one having done a proper race run, so it will be about keeping clean and hopefully we can make up some places".
Logan Sargeant follows on his learning curve in Formula 1 by being marginally closer to his more experienced teammate. This time, the American manages to access Q2 and places 15th and expresses satisfaction:
"Qualifying was good. It was a pretty good showing for the team and I finally got into my first Q2. It feels like it's been a long time coming. I was really happy to deliver the lap under pressure at the end of Q1 and then I was going for it in Q2 and didn't quite get it right so that was that. Free Practice was tricky and coming from that I had to make a pretty big step so I'm happy with my turnaround to make a good jump forward and get closer to where I need to be. All in all, it was a positive day and the best part about it is that we get to do it all again tomorrow".
Head of Vehicle Performance Dave Robson can be satisfied with the outcome of qualifying. The car has shown good speed and the drivers have delivered despite some issues. The next days will be crucial but Williams is in a good position to tackle them:
"A sprint format on the streets of Baku was always going to make for an entertaining day, and today didn't disappoint. With drivers still learning the circuit, and with the new track surface evolving quickly throughout the day, there were mistakes and misjudgements. We were able to manage the consequent red flag interruptions well and keep both cars in a good position on the track. Both drivers dealt with the broken Qualifying session very well. Alex was fast throughout and, had everything been perfect, he perhaps could've qualified for Q3. Logan drove very well today and immediately showed good pace despite missing some vital track time in FP1 following an issue with the nosebox on his car. The team rectified the issue and he enjoyed a smooth run to Q2. He pushed very hard in Q2 and extracted some good pace whilst also learning about tackling this tricky circuit in an F1 car. Although the cars are now in Parc Ferme, we have some big decisions to make on how we tackle the remainder of the weekend. We have qualified well for the Grand Prix and we will need to keep this in mind as we decide how to approach the new Sprint Shootout and Sprint Race tomorrow. Today was hectic and challenging, but the team dealt with it well and the car has good pace. Both drivers were excellent and we are looking forward to more excitement and jeopardy over the next two days".
Alfa Romeo is still struggling a bit this weekend. According to Team Representative Alessandro Alunni Bravi:
"Both drivers delivered some good laps on a day in which the track caught out some of our competitors, and I think we maximised what we could get on the occasion. Valtteri did a good job, with clean laps, and was able to make it into Q2; unfortunately, Zhou missed out for a tiny margin. These positions reflect our potential on this day, and it’s clear we need to work hard to keep improving our overall package. However, we feel we have a decent chance to bring home points on Sunday: this track can produce very unpredictable races and we will need to be ready to grab any opportunity that may arise. Tomorrow, as well, we get a new chance in the Shootout and Sprint: it’ll be interesting to see how this event will unfold. We will keep fighting to bring home a good result for our colleagues back in Hinwil".
Valtteri Bottas qualifies in 13th place:
"We felt more competitive than in Melbourne and Jeddah, which is a positive step in the right direction, even if it wasn’t enough to make it into Q3 yet. The setup felt good, and I was feeling comfortable with the car, so there is the potential to build on that in the remainder of the weekend. Today has been a pretty intense day, with just one practice session and then heading straight into qualifying, which has been quite interesting. I think there are still a lot of opportunities for us to take with a long weekend ahead, so let’s see what we can come up with tomorrow".
Zhou Guanyu misses out Q3 by a small gap and is the first driver to be eliminated. Just 0.020s separates him from 15th place. However, for the Chinese driver, there is still the potential to be competitive in the race:
"We were really close to Q2, which would have been a better result, and it’s a bit upsetting to miss out for just a couple of hundredths, but that’s how racing goes sometimes. The car felt pretty good this morning, during practice, but I couldn’t get the same feeling in qualifying. Overall, it’s been a tricky afternoon for me, as I struggled for grip throughout the session: still, I feel we can unlock more performance from our car ahead of tomorrow, and we will be working hard to put ourselves back in the game ahead of the Shootout and the Sprint".
For sure Kevin Magnussen’s start of the weekend is not ideal. The dane has a power loss in FP that forces him to park his car in the run-off area at turn 1. Then, before he even sets a meaningful laptime he is called back to the pits. The engineer wants to avoid worsening possible mechanical issues, so the session is over. The result is P18:
"It’s frustrating to be out with an issue but what can we do? We don’t know if it was an assembly issue or just something else out of our hands. It was just cutting out and miss-firing, so I didn’t have much power down the straights – which showed on the lap time. It’s extra frustrating as I feel the lap time we did do with that electrical issue on my first run showed that we had some pace. It just didn’t happen today for us. Our time will come, it just hasn’t been too good so far. Not what we wanted but there’s still a long weekend ahead".
Unfortunately for Nico Hulkenberg he cannot perform much better than his teammate. The Gernan driver is 17th:
"It was quite an interrupted Q1 with two red flags and obviously it was quite tricky to get into a rhythm, especially with the limited practice time we had today. We didn’t find the best rhythm I feel and laps weren’t as clean as I wanted them to be, so I think we left something out there and Q2 should’ve been possible. Pace-wise from the little running looked to be a bit more difficult for us this weekend, so we need to dig deep into the data and see what we can find. We have a bit of different procedure tomorrow but I’m looking forward to it, hopefully doing a better job and coming out with a better position as well".
Guenther Steiner reflects on the negative day of his team:
"Not an ideal day today. Kevin had problems the whole day in FP1 and in qualifying with issues between the fuel pump and some electronics issue, so it’s difficult to comment what would’ve been possible. With Nico, his attempt on his second set of tires was not perfect, there wasn’t a clean lap in it, and he clearly said it could’ve been a lot better. This is a long weekend of racing, there’s another qualifying tomorrow morning, for the Sprint, and two races over the weekend, so we just have to regroup and see that we get something more out of tomorrow".
A challenging day for Alpha Tauri sees Yuki Tsunoda as probably the only certainty with an excellent 8th place:
"First of all, the entire team did a great job. Our weakness has been straight-line speed and everyone in Bicester has worked hard to bring upgrades to make us more competitive, so I’m pleased with the result and excited about the future. It’s a shame how qualifying ended for Nyck as he was looking strong during FP1, but I am glad he’s ok. Looking at my qualifying, I'm happy I have been able to maximise the car’s performance and relieved with my first P8 of the year. It’s a step in the right direction and points can be possible over this weekend, so we'll continue working to find even more performance so we can bring home some points during the sprint race tomorrow and the race on Sunday".
Tsunoda refers to the unfortunate accident of Nyck de Vries. The Dutchman hits the barriers after a lock-up at turn 3 and is forced to end his qualifying early. The red flag is flown as a consequence and Q1 is interrupted for a first time. The episode is even more unfortunate, considering the promising free practice in which he finished in P6. Now he will have to start last on the grid (he will be allowed to participate despite being outside the 107% rule, for not posting meaningful laptimes):
"Today was very disappointing. Our package has been looking really strong during FP1 and we were hoping to capitalise on that in qualifying. We began the session with a little setback that had to be investigated, so it wasn’t the smoothest start. I haven’t been able to talk to the team yet so before jumping to any conclusions, I want to look at and analyse the data, to see what really happened. Looking ahead to a new start tomorrow, we're hoping to fight with P7 and P8. Historically, Baku can become quite messy, especially at the start, so we will see what happens. The updates we brought here look promising, so I’ll get together with everyone tonight to find what can be improved on for the rest of the weekend".
Tsunoda has a similar accident in free practice, but luckily for him he only damages the tyre by clipping the wall at turn 3, which makes him run almost a full lap on three wheels, offering a bit of show for the people in the grandstands. Chief Race Engineer Jonathan Eddolls analyses a Friday split in half for the team based in Faenza:
"The Sprint weekend format has made for an exciting Friday of running. This track is notorious for being action-packed and today lived up to expectations. Even though we brought several new aero components, our expected competitiveness based on the last events was that we were not Q3 material. As a result, we put a lot of effort into Quali preparation in FP1 to give us the best chance for starting as high up as possible on Sunday where more points are available. Both drivers ran two sets of Soft and Medium tyres in FP1. Yuki touched the wall on his first set and damaged the rim causing a puncture, so he had to abort that run. Luckily for him, there was a Red Flag at the same time, so he didn't lose much track time, but it still put him on the back foot for the rest of the session".
"Nyck was building up throughout the session and set a very clean lap, demonstrating the car is more competitive here and that we had the potential for a good qualifying. Unfortunately, while queuing to leave the pits on his first run, Nyck's car had a little issue which forced us to push him back into the garage to solve it and this lost him a lap, put him on the back foot and left him with cold tyres. On his lap he locked up into Turn 3 and went into the wall, ending his Quali. We had to remain quite fluid with the plans for Yuki with the numerous red flags and difficulties getting tyres ready, but the team - with Yuki’s valuable feedback - did a great job to manage the situation and make it to Q3. The downside of our FP1 qualifying preparation meant we had no new tyres remaining for Q3, but Yuki set a fantastic lap on the used tyre to finish P8 for the race on Sunday. We now switch focus to the shootout tomorrow, which is new for this event, and gives us another chance to show the competitiveness of the car here".
The second red flag in Q1 is caused by Pierre Gasly, who has a similar accident to Nyck De Vries. This time, the rear-end of the car is damaged instead of the front for the Alpha Tauri, but the result is the same. The session is interrupted again Gasly will have make up for one of the worst weekends of his career in the Sunday race. In fact, during free practice the Frenchman’s engine blows up and forces him to lose a big part of the session. The 18th position will be the starting point of his comeback:
Obviously, it's been a very disappointing and tough day. I'd like to say a big thanks to the mechanics for their recovery between Practice and Qualifying to make the changes and have the car ready. It's been one of those days where we've faced setbacks and it's important we all bounce back. My mind is already looking ahead to tomorrow where we have another Qualifying session and, of course, the Sprint Race where points are on offer. We'll debrief as a team, move forwards together and hopefully take something from this race weekend".
Esteban Ocon’s Friday is a bit better, but he too has his good share of bad luck after spending practically the whole free practice session in the garage. Qualfying goes a bit better and the Frenchman claims 11th place:
"It's not been a good day for us a team. We obviously had some reliability issues in Free Practice 1, which did not give us much running time heading into Qualifying. We tried to bounce back from our Practice issues in Qualifying and, in the end, it was not enough to reach Q3. At the moment here in Baku, it's clear we need to improve the areas where we're struggling for pace. We will review where we can improve and, as always, we'll be giving it our best to come away with points tomorrow and Sunday".
Given both the economic and technical effort spent by Alpine, it can only be a disappointing Friday for the French team. After Gasly’s inconvenience, the mechanics’ effort is nullified by a driver error, while Ocon has to work with what he has, after spending almost no time on track Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer sums up the eventful day:
"It's been a frustrating day for the team and one we're aiming to move on from very quickly. On Pierre's side, it's been especially unfortunate with the hydraulic leak and car fire in Practice followed by his off in Q1. The mechanics worked expeditiously to fix his car after FP1 to make sure he could be in Qualifying; so, credit to them for their fantastic work. With Esteban's minor issue and the lack of running in Practice between both cars, we did not get enough running on the various tyres in our preparation and I think that has impacted us significantly today. On a street circuit, you need both time and knowledge to make the right set-up changes and that just was not possible today due to our issues. We'll debrief as a team to move forwards from this. We have the Sprint Shootout tomorrow with points on offer in the Sprint Race in the afternoon and we'll be doing everything we can to make sure Saturday is much better than today. I'm confident we will bounce back".
McLaren appears to be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. The young guns of the British team push to bring back the ‘Papayas’ where they deserve. Lando Norris qualifies in P7:
"A reasonable qualifying - it was great to get two cars in Q3. I think we could have got a bit more out of it and could have been a few positions higher, we just didn't quite get it right in Q3. We didn't get out when we wanted to, and so missed a tow. It was a bit unfortunate, but the team still did a good job otherwise. Thanks to all of the team here and back at the factory for getting the upgrades out, we still have some optimisation to do, but it's been positive so far. We're in a good position for Sunday, hopefully, we can do a bit better tomorrow".
After a small mistake at the end of free practice, when he touches the wall near the end, Oscar Piastri delivers a good performance and enters Q3 for the second time in the season. The Aussie sets the exact same time as Lance Stroll (1'41"611s), but will start from 10th place on the grid as Stroll posts the time earlier in the session:
"Tenth in qualifying for Sunday's Grand Prix, I'm pretty happy with that. It's great to have both of us in Q3. I've been feeling a little under the weather today and I struggled to maximise every corner, so to still be in Q3 is a good result. We were really close to P8 and tied with Stroll in P9, which is a bit annoying, but otherwise I'm happy with the session. A big thanks goes to the team for their hard work in getting the new parts ready. We'll now focus on another qualifying session in the morning and a lot more action to come".
McLaren Team Principal Andrea Stella shares his thoughts after a positive day:
"Two cars in Q3 is a positive result for us, and one which comes courtesy of the upgrade that we have at this race. First of all, I would like to thank everyone in the team - factory and trackside - for pushing relentlessly to bring this development, which is the first step in an upgrade plan for the MCL60 that will continue through the course of the season. We know we still have plenty of hard work ahead in order to achieve our goals, but we can be encouraged that we're moving in the right direction. Today's Grand Prix qualifying session was good. We were managing a small issue on Lando's car, but the team operated very well, and we could complete the sessions. We're looking forward to fighting for good points in the Sprint and the Azerbaijan Grand Prix".
The new weekend format has brought a slightly different tyre allocation. Hence, tyre management will be even more crucial, as in the Saturday Sprint Shootout the drivers will be obliged to use medium tyres in the first two sessions and then the soft tyre in the final session. With so little time and less tyres in the rack, the teams focus on different (and very busy) working programmes. Pirelli Motorsport Director Mario Isola illustrated the situation:
"It was a really intense Friday, which offered plenty of excitement and surprises. The new Sprint weekend format meant that the teams had to take a different approach to their on-track work today, with the first - and only - free practice session seeing teams and drivers running on very different programmes and fuel loads. The introduction of a new qualifying session dedicated to tomorrow afternoon's Sprint race instead of FP2 meant that all the short and long preparation runs had to be compressed into just one hour today. As expected, the available tyre data is consequently very limited, but that just adds an extra element of unpredictability to Sunday's race. In terms of track conditions, the new asphalt seems to offer more grip than anticipated - thanks also to the track cleaning process carried out yesterday - so it's no coincidence that Leclerc's pole position was a second and a half faster than the simulations. There was a high degree of track evolution all day in both sessions, which was also the case with track temperatures: especially because there was an increasing amount of shade due to all the different interruptions. This probably also had an effect on the drivers' references, both while preparing the tyres and over the course of a flying lap".
Saturday 29th April is an historical date for Formula 1. For the first time, there will be the qualifying shoot-out for the first Sprint race of this season. This inaugurates a new format of the Sprint race, which will concur in in scoring points for the run to win the championship. This time, the sprint will decide the grid for Sunday’s race, which was already decided by Friday’s qualifying. Compared to a classic qualifying format, a major change pertains to the choice of set of tyres for the teams, as they must be the same for everyone and there is no possibility to opt for used tyres. Mandatory tyres' choices for Sprint shootout are medium tyres for SQ1 and SQ2, and soft tyres for SQ3. The time of each qualifying session is shorter, with 12 minutes for SQ1, 10 minutes for SQ2, and 8 minutes for SQ3, potentially leading to one-lap contests to get the best spot on the grid for the Sprint. Teams have no possibility to change the set-up of their cars but only strategies and driving style can be reviewed. Same car different tyres and it is the first time Ferrari is using medium tyres over this weekend. Green light turns on and all the cars leave the pit lane to get on the track and starts driving around to warm the tyres. After 2 minutes from the start of SQ1, with no time scored for any car, a yellow flag appears for sector 1, as Piastri goes long but without hitting the barriers or damaging the car, so he easily goes back to the track. Sargeant completes his first lap and climbs the rank in 1'44"968, followed by his teammate Albon (+0.504). Magnussen manages to take the lead in 1'44"842. Norris starts his first best and scores 37.438 in the first sector, 1'20"176 in the mid sector, and goes third in 1'45"316. De Vries drives in 1'22"060 in the second sector, and takes P7 in 1'48"180. His teammate Tsunoda, who did particularly well during Friday’s qualifying, completes the 1'20"169 mid sector in -1.891 compared to De Vries, and goes fourth (+0.594). The two Mercedes are completing their first best, Hamilton goes first in -0.103 compared to Magnussen 1'44"842, while Russell takes P9 in 1'44"739. Alonso is driving through the mid sector and gets 1'30"970 on the chronometer, and goes tenth (+13.364), followed by Stroll in P11. Hamilton tries again a new best but after completing the mid sector in 1'19"742 he raises his foot and gives up this lap. In the meantime, the two Red Bull cars, which showed new updates to the car this weekend, are completing their first best and Perez goes up to P1 in 1'44"524. Verstappen scores a purple mid sector in -1.000 compared to Perez’s time and goes first in 1'43"563, making his teammate slip to P2. It is Ferrari’s turn. Leclerc gets a purple first and second sectors, -1.036 less than Max’s time in the mid sector, and goes first in 1'43"372. His teammate Sainz makes better in the mid sector -0.029 but does not improve in the first and third sectors, going third in 1'44"466. At 5 minutes to the end, Perez complaints to his team about the tyres:
"Very low grip out there".
Russell, who in the meantime slipped to P14, tries a new best, and climbs up to P7 (+1.512). Lance Stroll crosses the finish line a few moments after George and goes third in 1'44"285. Albon manages to go from P13 to P3 at +0.615 gap to Leclerc’s best. His teammate Sargeant improves his best and from P12 goes P4 (+0.779), followed by Ocon (+1.061). A new yellow flag in sector 1 appears as Tsunoda goes long the same way Piastri did earlier, so he gets back to the track easily. Hamilton tries again and scores a purple in the first sector, +0.196 in second, and goes second in 1'43"561. At 3 minutes to the end of SQ1, the driver at risk is Norris (1'45"316), while currently eliminated drivers are Bottas (+0.036), Tsunoda (+0.120), Gasly (+1.635), De Vries (+2.864), and Zhou who is driving through the mid sector. He scores -0.221 compared to Norris’ time and goes in P15 (1'45"177). Verstappen tries a new best, goes fastest in the second sector and takes the lead in 1'43"288. But is trying a new best as well and scores a purple first sector (36.2) and takes back the lead in 1'42"820. Sainz from P11 is not at risk of elimination but tries again a new best. He scores +0.060 in first, +0.207 in the second, and goes fourth (+0.802) at 2 minutes to the end of SQ1. Russell from P14 goes fifth (+0.943) and Norris from P16 goes seventh (+1.118). Piastri from P14 tries to secure his spot for SQ2 and scores +0.937 in the second sector, and goes in P13. At 30 second to the end Q1, Hulkenberg and Magnussen are driving to complete the last shoot when Sargeant hits the barriers and his right rear explode. Red flag appears and Q1 time will not be resumed. SQ1 is over with Sargeant stopping his car next to the wall but still managing to qualify for SQ2.
Leclerc is in P1 (1'42"820), followed by Verstappen (+0.468), Hamilton (+0.741), Sainz (+0.802), and Russell (+0.969). Alonso is sixth (+0.969), followed by Checo (+1.038), Stroll (+1.059), Norris (+1.118), Albon (+1.167), Sargeant (+1.222), Magnussen (+1.281), Piastri (+1.359), Ocon (+1.613), and Hulkenberg the last driver to qualify for SQ2 (+2.023). Drivers eliminated are Zhou (+2.357), Bottas (+2.532), Tsunoda (+2.616), Gasly (+4.131), and Devries (+5.360). The FIA Steward announce the start of SQ2 will be delayed at 1:53 p.m. as there is the need to fix the barrier and clean all the debris of Sargeant’s car. Compared to Friday, Saturday’s temperature is 25 degrees and the track temperature is 48 degrees. As temperature is warmed than yesterday, tyres temperature will be on temperature easily for SQ2’ shoot attempt, and there also has been track’s improvement over the course of today’s qualifying. Green light turns on and SQ2 starts. Perez starts in a bit of traffic. It seems that the Red Bull has experienced some difficulties in the castle section and needs to make a lot of adjustments to the trajectory with the steering wheel. Yellow flag appears for the third time in sector 2 as a Haas car risks to crash into the barrier in turn 7 but manages not to touch the wall and the track is clear in a few instants. Perez starts his first shoot, scores 1'17"940 in the second sector and goes first in 1'42"925. Verstappen gets 36.227 in the first sector and 1'17"562 in the mid sector, scoring two purples, and goes first 1'42"417. Hamilton is the third fastest (+0.712), followed by Russell (+1.718). Ocon manages to take P5 from Magnussen (+2.399) and Norris goes seventh. Leclerc scores a purple first sector in 36.173, but does not improve in the mid sector, and goes second (+0.395) between the two red bull cars. Sainz is immediately behind Perez in P4 (+0.682). At 5 minutes to the end of SQ2, everyone has scored a best apart from Sargeant who could not participate and is following the qualifying from the William’s box. Norris from P11 scores -19.807 compared to Stroll’s 1'38"132 in mid-sector, the last driver to qualify for SQ3, and goes sixth in 1'43"395. Alonso from P9, gets +0.450 in the second sector, improves his best and goes fourth (+0.559). Piastri manages to save, climbing from P13 up to P8 but Albon who is doing an amazing performance takes P8 from Piastri (+1.204), making the Mclaren driver slip down to P9 and putting Ocon into the drop zone. Hulkenberg tries a new best but does not improve and stays in P13.
Stroll from P14 secure a spot in SQ3, taking P8 (+1.144). At 3 minutes to the end, Verstappen keeps the lead 1'42"417 and decides the pace to follow for the others. In P2, there is Leclerc (+0.395), followed by Perez (+0.508), Alonso (+0.559), Sainz (+0.682). and Hamilton (+0.712). Norris is seventh (+0.978), followed by Stroll (+1.144) Albon (+1.204), and Piastri (+1.689). Drivers at risk are Russell again (+1.718), Ocon (+2.399), Magnussen (+2.441), Hulkenberg (+2.531), and Sargeant no time. Verstappen is back to his box and take off the tyres, so he will not try a new best in SQ2. While Ferrari keeps driving not because they risk elimination but it seems to make confident with these medium tyres in light of the Sprint race. Russell manages to save from the drop zone, putting his car in P7 (+0.233). Magnussen improves a bit and from P13 goes to P12. Ocon improves as well but not enough to qualify for SQ3, going eleventh and staying into the drop zone (+0.467). Leclerc tries a new best and scores a purple first sector 36.150, +0.130 in the mid sector, and goes second fastest improving his time, at only 8 thousandth to Max (+0.083). Sainz goes long in second sector but did not hit the barriers so he gives up his new best. Norris keeps P8 and Albon goes 7th (+0.959). Hulkenberg from P14 goes P11, but he does not improve enough to avoid the drop zone is (+0.245). Piastri from P12 goes in P10 and puts Stroll temporarily into the drop zone. Stroll exploits Alonso’s drag in a demonstration of great team work and from P11 goes to P7 and saves from the drop zone because it seems that the two Aston Martin have some issues to open their DRS. The last driver to cross the finish line before the end of the countdown is Russell going from P9 to P7. SQ2 is over and Verstappen keeps the lead 1'42"417, followed by Leclerc (+0.083), Sainz (+0.492), Perez (+0.508), Alonso (+0.559), and Hamilton (+0.644). Russell is in P7 (+0.695), followed by Stroll (+0.958), Albon (+0.959), and Norris, the last driver to qualify (1'43"395). Drivers eliminated are Piastri (+0.032), Hulkenberg (+0.411), Ocon (+0.693), Magnussen (+0.937), and Sargeant with no time.
While the starting time of SQ3 has not been announced yet, the two Red Bulls are already in line because they would like to manage the out lap and avoid traffic jam and potential yellow flags or even worst red ones. Green light to the SQ3 turns on at 13.10 and drivers have 8 minutes to get the best position on the grid. Perez is the first to try a best in SQ3. He gets 35.8 in the first sector, 1'17"023 scoring fastest mid sector so far, and goes first in 1'41"876. Verstappen improves the first sector of 1 tenth (35.729), does not improve in the middle sector (1'17"352) and goes second in 1'42"140.
"Yeah, lost all the rear in the middle sector".
Says Max to his team.
"Yeah, we saw that".
The two Mercedes complete their best. Hamilton scores a 36.2 in the first sector and goes third (+0.859), while Russell improves with 36.1 but goes fourth (+1.141). Leclerc scores fastest second sector and takes the lead in 1'41"697, while Sainz goes fourth in (+0.590). At 3 minutes, Leclerc’s Ferrari is in pole position, followed by the two red bulls of Perez (+0.179), and Verstappen (+0.443). Sainz (+0.590) manages to put his car before the two Mercedes. Albon is in P7 (+1.405), followed by Stroll (+2.032), Alonso (+3.554), and Norris with no time as he cannot participate because he has no new red tyres. At 2 minutes to go, drivers try the last shot. Perez scores +0.183 compared to Leclerc’s 35.790, and + 0.010 compared to Leclerc’s mid sector (40.888). Suddenly, a new yellow flag appears as Leclerc hits the wall in Sector 1. He lost his rear and crashed into the barriers:
"Sorry, for Carlos".
Says Leclerc because this incident affects Carlos’ best as he found Leclerc on the barriers and was forced to slow down. So, the two Red Bull have still a great chance to take pole position. But Perez scores +0.147 and keeps P2 while Verstappen scores +0.226, +0.288, and goes third (+0.290). Hamilton keeps P5 and Russell goes fourth. Q3 is over and it is the first pole position for Charles Leclerc over this season despite the incident. Perez is in P2 (+0.147), followed by Verstappen (+0.290), Russell (+0.555), Sainz (+0.590), Hamilton (+0.805), Albon (+1.149), Alonso (+1.313), Stroll (+1.367), and Norris with no time.
Ferrari mechanics celebrate in the box for the first pole position of the season, despite the incident and the damage to the front wing, as there is still time to fix the car till 3.30 pm, when Leclerc will be in pole position for the Sprint Race.
Says the team to Charles:
"Good job guys. Sorry but I think the tyres were gone anyway for a second lap. Yeah, good job".
Saturday, April 29, 2023, at 3:30 p.m. is time to get serious for the Sprint on the Baku circuit. The first of the 6 Sprints over the season, which amount to 48 points. Cars have to complete a formation lap and then 6 km and 3 meters for this Sprint for a total amount of 17 laps to score crucial points to further open the gap for the 2 Red Bull currently at the lead of the 2023 World Championship or to stay in the game for the battle of the Championship. Ferrari cars opt new set of red tyres, while the two red bull chose the 3-lap used tyres to save a set for tomorrow. All the cars complete the formation lap a put on their spot on the grid. The safety car places itself behind all the drivers. Green flag starts to wave, red lights turn on and the Sprint starts. Leclerc does a good start and keeps P1. Behind him a bagarre is created and suddenly Russell from P4 jumps behind Verstappen’s back and engages him in a battle. George pushes Max next to the wall in Turn 1, which comes immediately after the start line. Max touches a bit the wall but does not give up and manages to keep the car and not lose the position. Russell seems to have no intention to give up and in the second turn pushes Max again outside next to the wall and Max almost touches the barriers. Meanwhile, Carlos from P5 gets closer and reaches the two engaged in the battle for P2, trying to take advantage of the situation. From the outside, he tries to find an easy way to overcome the two but he finds the door closed by Russell, who has no intention to back off. Russell tries again, pushes Verstappen next to the wall for the third time on turn 3 and manages to take P2. Verstappen’s car has small damages.
"Hold on Max, these tyres have nothing to lose. Keep it pushing".
Says the team trying to calm down Max as he complains that he was hit by Russell. Suddenly Yellow flag appears in first and second sectors because there is a tyre rolling to the downhill. It is Tsunoda’s tyre as he lost the right rear after having hit the wall alone. On lap 2, there is still yellow flag is in sector 2 and 3 because the tyre has not stopped rolling. Currently Leclerc is P1, followed by Perez. Russell kept P3, followed by Verstappen, Sainz, Hamilton, Alonso, Albon, Norris, and Stroll. Piastri is in P11, followed by Hulkenberg, Magnussen, Bottas, Zhou, Gasly, De Vries, Ocon, and Tsunoda, who managed to come back to the box to change the tyre and fix the front wing. There are debris on the track and even if there is no safety car, drivers slow-down. FIA stewards decide for a virtual safety car. Tsunoda comes back to the track but his car’s convergence is not in place because he broke the tie-rod of the convergence of the back right tyre, so his car is impossible to drive. Indeed, the FIA Stewards announce that Tsunoda is under investigation for release in unsafe condition. On lap 3, FIA Stewards decide to call to the track Maylander on his red Mercedes car. So, some drivers take advantage of this situation for a quick pit stop, as in the case of Ocon who choses red tyres for the second start of this Sprint race.
"We have picked up some floor damage, just waiting for the balance shift".
Says the team to Max.
"How? How do you think?"
He replies. Then, he starts complaining about Russell keeping P3 after the battle:
"Did he really drive into the side? I don’t understand how he can keep the position and he is damaging my car. I just find it ridiculous".
Hamilton informs the team about the track’s conditions:
"Yeah, debris is gone. It’s clear".
"Ok, thanks for that".
And a few instants later the FIA Stewards announce that Safety car will exit the track in lap 5.
"*** there was a cut?"
Says a worried Leclerc to his team referring to his engine. Drivers are exiting from Turn 16 and Leclerc decides the pace. All the drivers have medium tyres except from Ocon, Bottas, and Norris, who opt for red tyres. Leclerc goes slowly and takes all the time he has while Maylander is reaching the entry to the pit lane. Leclerc is not rushing and making waves to warm up his tyres until he reaches the safety car line. Pedal to the medal and reaches 265 km/h around in a few instants to run away from all the drivers behind to not provide them with the drag and defends his position. Leclerc goes through Turn 1, followed by Perez. As soon as he crosses the safety line, Verstappen goes on the left, is side by side to Russell and easily overcomes him before Turn 1, taking back P3.
"Lovely job, Max without contact as well. Nice done".
Says the team to Max:
"Yeah, I know how to do that".
Reply the two-times World Champion. Sainz does not waste time and easily attacks Hamilton, taking P5, and Alonso takes advantage of the situation and overcomes Hamilton as well. Perez and Verstappen are getting closer to Leclerc, ready to hunt the red car and jump to the top of the race. On lap 6, Perez is closing the gap and is at 0.759 but there is still no DRS yet. Leclerc tries to run away and scores the fastest lap (1'45"217) because he knows that when DRS will be allowed it would be difficult to keep the two Red Bull behind. In the meantime, Hamilton engages a battle with his ex-teammate Alonso for P6. DRS is allowed and Perez is really close to Charles at less than 0.700. Leclerc tries to go away and gains 2 tenths in first sector. However, Perez manages to retrieve any tenth that separates him from Leclerc. Perez copies Leclerc’s all trajectories and finally, at lap 7, Checo activates his DRS and overcomes Leclerc on the straight. Leclerc tries to stay closer and activates his DRS but it is more a disturbing action than a real attempt to overcome and take back P1. Max is coming closer to Leclerc, while Perez is trying to go away and open a 1-second gap between him and Leclerc. Piastri overcomes Norris and takes P10. It seems that soft tyres are not working for Lando. At lap 8, Leclerc is at under 7 tenths to Checo and has DRS. He gets closer but not enough to worry him, who easily runs away. Max is in DRS zone of Leclerc and is under a second to Leclerc. But even if Perez finds a way to open the gap and not allow Leclerc the use of DRS, Charles can still benefit from the drag and manages to resist to Max’s pressures. Perez is driving really fast and scores the fastest lap (1'43"932). At lap 10, Perez decides the pace, followed by Leclerc (+0.911), and Verstappen (+0.749). Far from the battle for P1, it seems there is a separate race ongoing in parallel due to the huge gap between the three drivers at the front and the others. The three cars on the front have created a good gap from the other as Russell is in P4 (+2.314), followed by Sainz (1.416), and Alonso really close to his fellow country man (+0.794). Hamilton is in P7 not close enough to worry Alonso (+1.145). Albon is the last in the score zone at +.2.330 to Hamilton.
Piastri is in P10 (+0.764), followed by Lando (+2.971), Hulkenberg (+0.559), Magnussen (+0.345), Bottas (+.1682), and Zhou (+0.519). Gasly is in P16 (+0.606), followed by De Vries (+1.053), and Ocon (+0.781), as Tsunoda is out. Leclerc gains some tenths but he cannot open the DRS, contrary to Max. He opens the DRS at Lap 11 and scores the fastest lap (1'43"723). In the back, there is a battle to P13. With Gasly opening the DRS, as he is at +0.700), to Bottas. Ocon is a bit far from them at 1.335 with De Vries stick to his rear (+0.481). Norris keeps having some issues with his car and decides to change the soft tyres with medium and experiments a bit since he is at +21.607 to De Vries and there is no way to close the gap. Leclerc manages to keep Max outside his DRS zone for some thousandths thanks to Perez’s drag. Says Valtteri Bottas:
"This tyre is starting to melt".
On lap 12, Stroll manages to keep his car in P8, despite Albon’s attacks and Oscar Piastri’s attempt to join the duo in the battle. Leclerc manages to fill in the gap with Perez a bit while keeping max away at the same time. Leclerc is at 0.959 and Verstappen is at 1.116. A matter of thousandth divides the three cars. Leclerc finally opens DRS thanks to Perez’ drag and is at 0.600 but it is still not enough to take back P1 and Perez finds a way to re-open the gap. Meanwhile, Ocon has been called to the box to try the soft tyres. Hulkenberg is overcomed by Zhou in the battle for P12. Gasly takes advantage of the situation and overcomes Niko, taking P13. On lap 14, none of the three drivers at the front has DRS. Sainz is getting almost 2 tenths closer to Russell. Piastri targets Albon for P9. Drivers outside the points area decide to use these last laps to see how tyres will work on Sunday, apart for De Vries, who attacks Bottas and takes P15. Perez opens the gap to Leclerc (+2.124) and Charles finds himself in a difficult situation because of the lower power of Perez’s drag and Verstappen getting closer at 3 laps to go. Verstappen keeps getting closer until he is under 1 second to Charles in entering Turn 16 on lap 15. Leclerc and Verstappen are on the straight and Leclerc is struggling in the mid sector, while Perez opens further the gap (+3.284) on Lap 16. Verstappen reduces his gap constantly. For 66 thousandths he has no DRS. Max cannot get closer to Leclerc probably because his car has been damaged during the battle with Russell. It is the final lap and Leclerc and Verstappen are driving slower than the other drivers do. Indeed, Leclerc is 7 tenths slower than Russel and Sainz. Verstappen tries to attack Leclerc on the straight but Leclerc finds a way to defend his P2 and get the first pole during this season. Perez crosses the finish line and wins the first sprint of Azerbaijan.
"Well done guys, thank you".
"We will do that again tomorrow".
Says the team to Leclerc:
"Good job, P2".
Giampiero Lambiase says to Max Verstappen:
"Well done, Max. with the engine car was very good, well done".
No replies from Max. Sergio Perez is satisfied with today’s results:
"It was key to make sure we had good pace, good rhythm and that we pushed in the key moments of the race, that really made the difference today. I had to push quite hard initially to get past Charles, especially at the restart because on the first lap I could see he had good pace and very good mechanical grip. Later on, I was able to make the move early enough and that to me was important".
He undelrines that today’s results are dued toteam work:
"In the end I think it was a really nicely executed race and it’s been a great weekend from the whole Team so far. I am really proud of my Team because we have come back from a four week gap and then straight into a new format. We have done a tremendous job but tomorrow is what matters and we must focus on that now. I am confident I will be fighting for the win tomorrow but let’s see, it is Baku and anything can happen! I just have to make sure I deliver when it happens".
Max Verstappen says his is a fine result taking into consideration all the issues he had:
"It was a bit of a messy first lap and then with the damage I think it was a bit tricky to pull forward throughout the rest of the Sprint. I think overall third was fine, and to manage the damage that we had, we did alright. I need to look into the data to see how much the damage affected the race today, but it’s never ideal to have a hole in the car. Looking ahead to tomorrow, we have a good race car, you could see that today with Checo’s performance. I think the most important thing tomorrow is to stay out of trouble and I think we can go for the win".
Christian Horner says that today was hard. He explains that it was tough for Max due to the damages to his car during the battle for P3:
"Hard racing today. There was unfortunately some contact which resulted in quite a bit of damage to the side pod and that cost Max in performance. Tomorrow is what it is about though. Max starts on the front row and with a very good chance. He's a very competitive driver and will come back strong tomorrow afternoon".
He finds that Perez had a better race and drove impressively:
"He was sensible on the first lap and wanted to get the job done quickly so he could focus on managing the tyres. He had a blinding middle sector on the second lap, made the pass and was able to eek out a gap. Then once he broke Charles’s DRS he was able to bring it home from there. Fantastic driving and a well-deserved win".
Charles Leclerc has mixed feelings:
"I wanted to go for the win but at the same time, we knew that it would be difficult due to the race pace advantage Red Bull Racing have. It’s where we are lacking and what we are focusing on improving the most. On the positive side, we have a strong qualifying pace and have made a good step in the right direction since our last race in Australia. Let’s see what is possible tomorrow".
Carlos Sainz finds that this weekend can be difficult for him:
"We managed to bring home some points and I’ll try to build from there. Hopefully, having completed more laps today, tomorrow I can work around the main limitations and maximise the result. The weekend is not over yet and in Baku you need to be ready to grab every opportunity, so now it’s maximum focus until the race is over".
Frédéric Vasseur, Ferrari’s Team Principal, is satisfied with both drivers’ results:
"When you start from pole and don’t bring home the win, you cannot be totally satisfied with the outcome. Having said that, Charles and Carlos produced the race we expected and delivered a good result. In Melbourne, we saw we had made progress and I think that so far this weekend, that has also been confirmed here. In qualifying trim we were quicker than Red Bull and in the race, we were able to fight with Perez and Verstappen, even if we saw there is still some work to do in terms of pace. Today, we’ve been able to try the Medium tyres and run the car with a heavier fuel load, which produced some useful data for us to analyse with the aim of getting even more out of our package tomorrow, when Charles again starts from pole position".
George Russell explains that he had no intention to back off during the battle for P2:
"The move on the first lap with Max was on and I wasn't going to hold back. I am here to fight and win. I was surprised he was still trying to hold it out around the outside, as there's always a risk. I was doing my best to have a clean fight, but we made contact. That's racing".
He was fine with his car and recognizes that they are not enough fast.
"We know we've got work to do for tomorrow's race. I'll be starting further back, but the race pace looked good. I'll being doing my best to carve my way through. Hopefully I can have a clean start, stay out of trouble and from there, it's a long race with potentials for red flags and Safety Cars. Anything can happen so we will see".
Lewis Hamilton likes the new format:
"I like that we're trying something new with this format. The extra qualifying session was fun. The sprint race was less exciting but that's probably because I was struggling. It wasn't ideal losing the position to Alonso. It's never great going backwards but that's motor racing sometimes. I didn't have the pace of the cars ahead of me, but I know why that is now, from having the Sprint. It's a good indicator of what the problem is in terms of set-up, so we'll look into it and hopefully make some improvements tomorrow. It's going to be tough, but anything can happen".
Toto Wolff, Mercedes’ Team Principal & CEO, is satisfied with George’s P4:
"P4 was a very solid result for the performance the car has this weekend. George's last third of the race was very strong. He benefitted from clean air but, as you can see from Lewis, when you are stuck in traffic, the tyres tend to give up. He was just stuck there in P7, and we need to analyse that so it can be better tomorrow. George and Max's contact was a racing incident. One was trying to go around the outside and that is never going to be easy. He picked up damage and that was sub-optimal for his race. It's understandable that he would be upset but George was defending his position. We wanted to see how this new sprint format would work this weekend. I think it was good that we have done it and now we can go away and assess the impact, see if we need to make any tweaks to extract the best show".
Andrew Shovlin, Mercedes’ Trackside Engineering Director, says:
"The Sprint Shootout went well with George in 4th and Lewis in 6th. It seemed the hotter conditions helped us relative to the cooler session yesterday. Managing the risk of yellow and red flags is the biggest challenge here so we were out early in each session. The F1 Sprint was interesting as it gives us a bit of data on tyres to carry into the race tomorrow. The medium held on pretty well but without the Safety Car it may have been tricky. The soft looked very weak on those that fitted it so useful to know ahead of the race that it's one to avoid. George did a good job to finish fourth whilst Lewis struggled a bit with the balance. He lost a place at the restart and the rear degradation meant he didn't have the car to try and take it back. We'll look at tools to improve that for tomorrow as it's going to be even tougher with a hot track".
Alex Albon is pleased with today’s performance but knows that they are still struggling with pace:
"I'm on the fence with the sprint race if I'm honest; it's rewarding the top four teams and they're already a step ahead of everyone else. It was a great race for us, but we just don't have the pace compared to them, so unfortunately no reward for today and we'll shift our focus to tomorrow. It's frustrating to be sitting out of the points in the sprint when P9 in a normal race would mean points and be an excellent result for us. We were the best of the rest today, so we can take some happiness from that, and know it's now our job to get closer to the top four".
Logan Sargeant says that the Sprint Race did not go as they wanted but they had some good positives still:
"That is our first sprint day of the season done. Clearly it didn't go the way we wanted it to go, but I think there were some good positives to the Sprint Shootout considering the speed that we had as a team and I feel like we were able to find a better window for me and the car at the start of the session. Obviously, I'm sad to have ended it the way we did, but I'm looking forward to using some of that pace tomorrow and having a good race".
Dave Robson, Williams’ Head of Vehicle Performance, explains it was not an but both drivers adapted well and found a way through SQ2:
"Today was the first running of the new sprint event format, which replaced the old free practice session with a qualifying shootout. Going straight into qualifying on a dusty track wasn't easy but both drivers adapted well and were set to qualify for the 2nd section of the shootout. Unfortunately, Logan hit the wall on his final flying lap; despite a big effort from the team, we were unable to rebuild the car in time for the sprint race. We will complete the rebuild overnight and he will take his place in the Grand Prix tomorrow. Alex enjoyed a smoother shootout session and continued where he left off yesterday evening. He found good pace in the car, made no mistakes and was able to qualify a very impressive 7th place, helped by the fact that Norris was unable to take part. With points in the sprint race only awarded to the top 8 finishers, it was always going to be difficult to challenge the four fastest teams. Alex competed hard, pushed the car hard but was unable to stay ahead of the Aston Martins. Scoring no points on a day where we were constantly competing near the front is very frustrating, but we are pleased with the pace of FW45, especially as we brought only minor updates this weekend. We are now looking forward to the Grand Prix and another chance to score some points".
Esteban Ocon explains that the difficulties they had they are positive for tomorrow’s race:
"It's been a difficult day for us, but there are positives that we can take from today. It was key for us to change the set-up of the car ahead of the Sprint Race, a collective decision we knew was necessary to give us a better chance this weekend. The car was a lot better this afternoon after our changes, and we were able to collect valuable data, something we've unfortunately lacked so far this weekend. It will be a Pit Lane start for me again tomorrow for the Grand Prix but if there is a place where anything can happen it is Baku. We'll be giving it our all and we'll be ready to seize any opportunity which may occur in the race".
And says Pierre Gasly:
"It was important for us to have a clean run in today's Sprint Race after what has been a very challenging weekend for the team up to this point. We were on the backfoot this morning with an issue in the Sprint Shootout, but I'm pleased that we completed some laps in the Sprint Race to gain a handful of positions. We needed to do some learning and I think we have some ideas on what we can do tomorrow in the main race. We'll keep working hard together as a team and see what decisions we take in order maximise our chances tomorrow. I believe we have a quick race car and I'm aiming for the top ten to take some points from this tricky weekend".
Alan Permane, Alpine’s Sporting Director, finds today frustrating but they will keep focused on tomorrow’s race:
"It's been another frustrating day for the team in Baku but we are firmly focused on tomorrow's race where points are on offer. Unfortunately, like yesterday, Pierre's day was compromised with an exhaust leak in the Sprint Shootout, which meant he could not set a competitive lap time and we had to pit him during the session to avoid any potential damage. After Esteban exited in SQ2, we decided to make changes to his car set-up by amending the front and rear suspension with an eye on Sunday's race and maximising our chances to score points. We've certainly learnt a great amount from today's Sprint Race and we have some ideas on potential strategies for tomorrow's Grand Prix with the target to progress both cars into the points. We did it in Bahrain earlier in the season to go from last to ninth, and we can still get something from this weekend".
Nyck de Vries says they struggled with grip and tyres were not ready:
"We were lacking a lot of grip in today’s SQ1 and tyres were far from ready, which I think was the same for others too, so we didn’t get the chance to properly go for it. The track was still very green, so my first lap was a warm-up lap, and then the next push lap was interrupted. For the sprint race, we have to look at the positives. We had encouraging pace and were racing forward. Compared to other cars in the midfield, we didn’t seem to struggle as much with tyres, which is encouraging for tomorrow. We gained four places in 17 laps, so if we keep that up for the race, I will be a happy guy tomorrow night. It was good to get out there under racing conditions because it gives you an idea of how to race the first couple of laps. Our top speed has been more competitive than at previous races and the team has put a lot of effort into focusing on that asset of the car at this track. With our package, I believe points will be possible tomorrow".
Yuki Tsunoda is disappointed with today’s result:
"This morning, I think we could’ve gotten through to SQ2, but unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to do the last push lap. The track was hotter today, but the pace of the car was similar to yesterday. Obviously, the result of the Sprint Shootout was frustrating, but it was interesting with everyone on the same tyre compound. On the first lap of the Sprint Race, Nyck and I touched as I was trying to pass. I had no space and after the contact, my front wing was damaged, I understeered into the wall and my race was over. It's very frustrating, as we weren't able to maximise today’s opportunity. For tomorrow, I’ll reset myself, and starting from a good position I’ll try to score as many points as possible. Our car suits this track well, so there is huge potential".
Guillaume Dezoteux, AlphaTauri’s Head of Vehicle Performance, recognises that the first Sprint Shootout didn't work out well:
"The first-ever Sprint Shootout didn't work out well for us. We knew traffic and tyre management were the key factors today, but unfortunately, the yellow and red flags prevented us from closing a good enough lap in SQ1. We will review in detail how the session went to understand if we could have done things differently. Regarding the Sprint Race, both cars were racing hard from the start and ended up side by side at the apex of Turn 3. Nyck made contact with Yuki's front wing while exiting the corner, and as a result, Yuki understeered into the wall in Turn 13. Unfortunately, the damage to his rear right end brought an end to his race. As for Nyck, he was able to overtake some cars which were struggling with the tyres. We have gathered some useful data for tomorrow and we'll review the strategy simulations tonight to come up with the best possible scenario for the race".
Oscar Piastri is pleased with his final position in the Sprint:
"I'm pleased with P10 in the Sprint. Given the way I've been feeling this weekend I'm glad I was able to get the Sprint done. With that said, there was a lot to learn today, and it was good to get the laps in, which will really help us in the Grand Prix tomorrow. We'll have a look at what data we gathered, get a good night's rest and prepare for tomorrow".
Lando Norris is not satisfied with today’s results and choices:
"Not a great Sprint for us today. We took a bit of a gamble and thought the Softs would last a bit longer than they did, but unfortunately, they didn't. I obviously had to box and in such a short race you can't make up for it. So, it wasn't the right decision today, but we learned a lot about the tyres, which puts us in a better position for tomorrow and that is the priority. Full focus now on the Grand Prix".
Explains Andrea Stella, McLaren’s Team Principal:
"Coming into today's Sprint, with eight quicker cars ahead or around us, we knew it would be difficult to score points, so we decided to take an aggressive approach with Lando, putting him on the Soft tyre, while being prudent with Oscar on Medium tyres. The Soft degraded rapidly and we had to make a pit-stop. Oscar drove very well to P10, considering that he's still not feeling well. No points today but it was a good and useful long-run practice in preparation for the race, which remains our priority. Points go up to P10 tomorrow. We have a better understanding of the tyre behaviour and will work overnight to continue our preparation for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix".
Fernando Alonso is pleased with today’s results:
"We are happy to have scored some points in the Sprint after gaining two positions. I'm not sure if the DRS issue that we've had all weekend is fixed, but we will analyse it overnight and hopefully it's fine for tomorrow. Even with DRS activated, overtaking was quite difficult today and we were all very closely matched in terms of performance. I think we have learnt a bit more about the tyres because it was our first long run all weekend. I believe we have a chance to finish even higher in tomorrow's race and there is always a chance of a Safety Car or red flag here to mix things up".
Lance Stroll recognises that it was hard but he enjoyed the new format:
"That was a hard-earned point, but I enjoyed the new format today. Every time we go out on the track, there is something to fight for. It keeps us on our toes and I think it is exciting for fans, too. We had some DRS issues during the Shootout, but fortunately it seemed to be working for the Sprint, which was important because overtaking is quite a challenge at this circuit. I enjoyed the battle with Alex [Albon] and having followed him for a few laps I was pleased to make the move stick going into Turn One".
Mike Krack, Aston Martin’s Team Principal, finds that today the team did a good work:
"A good job by the team today: we scored four points in the Sprint and both drivers raced well, made decisive overtakes, and stayed out of trouble. Fortunately, the DRS issues we have encountered throughout the event did not affect us during the Sprint. It was also a valuable learning experience for the Grand Prix tomorrow and the long-run tyre data will help our strategy decision making".
Valtteri Bottas says that:
"Today was about working as a team, and this is what we did. Overall, our pace was a step forward from qualifying, and we leave today’s Sprint with some good learnings. We knew it was going to be quite tough, from where I was starting, so we decided to try something different with the soft tyres, while Zhou went with the mediums. It didn’t quite work out for me in the end, I tried to keep fighting but, of course, everyone on the Medium was eventually going to be faster. Overall, I think it was good to give it a try, and figure what is going to work and what not for tomorrow’s race. We saw that Zhou was able to fight with the cars around him and make up some ground, and that gives us confidence ahead of tomorrow’s race".
Guanyu Zhou Says:
"I felt good with the car, our pace today was good and this is a promising sign ahead of tomorrow’s race. After yesterday’s qualifying, we chose to go in two opposite ways with the strategy to maximise our chances and our understanding of the tyres for tomorrow. Starting where we were, in such a short Sprint and with only eight points-scoring positions, the realistic aim was to learn as much as possible and we did that, through both my and Valtteri’s race. It was good teamwork and it ended up helping me today: the medium tyres performed strongly and I was able to keep Gasly behind even though I had no DRS. We got lots of long-run data and we are optimistic: the aim is to move forward and get into the points. We did that in Melbourne, and there is no reason there shouldn’t be a similar, if not bigger, chance here in Baku. Of course, strategy and a bit of luck with the circumstances will need to be there, but we’re ready to fight and keep making progress".
Alessandro Alunni Bravi, Alfa Romeo’s Team Representative, says:
"We came together as a team and took some firm decisions: we knew we had to be aggressive to make up ground after yesterday’s qualifying, so we split the starting tyres for our two cars. We now have a much better, in-depth understanding of the soft and medium compounds’ behaviour in race conditions and that will allow us to define the best possible strategy for tomorrow. On the mediums, we saw our pace was allowing us to battle and close in to the top ten, so that will be our objective tomorrow. We know there’s a lot of work ahead of us, but we’re committed to go to any length to move forward: everyone is pushing hard for this, here and back at the factory. The race tomorrow will be a fight, but we’re ready to give everything for it".
Kevin Magnussen is quite satisfied with today’s results and the set-up of his car:
"The car felt good again, of course, we didn’t change it after yesterday’s qualifying, but I had a good rhythm and our pace was decent. We were fast enough to be in the top 10 - so that’s encouraging for tomorrow. It’s obviously a longer race, and unfortunately I’m starting a bit far down with the problems we had in qualifying on Friday, the electrical issue putting us in P18. But, there’s a lot more pace than that and hopefully I can get a good first lap, have a clean race and try to make it into the top 10. That would be nice".
Nico Hulkenberg explains the difficulties his side of the box had:
"We have to look at that one as it was weird, after the first couple of laps the rear tires completely switched off. I think we had pretty heavy graining, so we need to investigate, but it was definitely going in the wrong direction that race. The Sprint was the long-run practice, so we’ll hopefully learn from that. There’s not much we can do being under parc ferme, which is a bit frustrating, and tomorrow we also start quite far back, so it’s going to be a tough one".
Guenther Steiner, Haas' Team Principal, finds that today went better than yesterday:
"It was a much better day today than yesterday for us. I think we qualified where we thought we would in the Sprint Shootout, we knew it would be difficult to get into Q3, but we made a big step forward from yesterday. In the Sprint, with Kevin, our race pace was good. Nico struggled a little bit with his rear tires, so we need to find out why. Now we get ready for tomorrow. We still have a chance for points".
Mario Isola, Pirelli Motorsport Director comments on the new format:
"The new-format Sprint weekend made this a rather different Saturday at Baku. We saw a spectacular and competitive shootout, with this afternoon's race probably more closely-fought than it would have been had the result determined the grid for the grand prix, as was the case up to the end of last year. The medium tyre was chosen by the large majority of drivers (17 out of a total 19, as Sargeant didn't start), with a roughly equal split between new sets and used sets: eight versus nine. This showed how the medium was able to offer not only good peak performance, having been used by all the drivers in SQ1 and SQ2, but also its ability to maintain that level over a notably longer distance. As expected, some of the teams that didn't expect to have much of a chance of scoring points today used the 17 laps of the sprint race to try two different compounds and gather extra information ahead of tomorrow's grand prix. From our point of view, an initial view of the data suggests a one-stopper to be the mostly likely strategy, probably using medium and hard. A total of 18 drivers will have two sets of hard tyres available, which would allow them to capitalise on any eventual neutralisations: distinctly possible on this street track, as we saw today both in the Formula 2 Sprint Race and the Formula 1 Sprint".
After the Sprint Race, on Sunday, April 30, at 3pm local time, everyone is ready in Baku for the race, which will see the grid that had been set during Friday’s qualifying session. Leclerc is on pole, ahead of Verstappen and Perez. Two drivers are not on the grid, Ocon and Hulkenberg, as their teams have made suspension set-up changes under parc ferme conditions, so they will both start from the pit lane. Most of the drivers are on medium tyres, except just for De Vries, Ocon and Hulkenberg who are on hards. Lights out and Charles Leclerc runs away holding his lead into Turn 1, with the two Red Bulls of Verstappen and Perez going second and third, followed by Sainz, Hamilton and Alonso. Behind them, at Turn 2 Piastri is caught between Albon and Magnussen, while Bottas delays at the exit and loses some places. Verstappen is behind Leclerc’s car in a couple of laps, trying to steal him the first position in the main straight, but choses to wait for the activation of DRS at the start of the third lap. On lap 4, the RB champion goes past the Ferrari number 16 across the start straight, with Perez immediately going near the red car and almost making a similar move next time round. Perez waits another lap before passing Leclerc with DRS, at the inside on the run to Turn 1. Now, Verstappen leads his team mate Perez by 1.5 seconds, with Leclerc and Sainz behind, ahead of Hamilton, Alonso and Stroll, who chose to not attack his team mate On lap 7, Gasly and Bottas are the first to stop for hards and other midfield runners do the same shortly afterwards, while the Red Bulls and Ferraris chose to extend their first stints. On lap 10, Hamilton is the first of the front-runners to pit for new tyres from fifth position; in the front, Perez tries to close in on Verstappen and runs a sequence of fastest laps while his team mate complains on the radio:
"I’m sliding all over the track".
On lap 11, De Vries hits the wall at Turn 5 and brings out the yellow flag, while Verstappen pits to swap from mediums to hards; soon after, the Safety Car is deployed. Perez stops a lap later under the SC, togheter with the Ferraris, the Astons and other cars. Now the Mexican holds P1 from Leclerc, Verstappen, Sainz, Alonso, Russell, Stroll, the yet-to-stop Ocon, Hulkenberg, and Hamilton. As everyone is behind the SC, the replays show a tussle between Russell and Stroll at the entrance to the pits, with the Briton taking advantage of his slow-moving rival. The Safety Car goes out at the end of lap 13: Perez makes a good restart, while Verstappen passes Leclerc for second place on the run to Turn 3, and Alonso does the same on Sainz at Turn 4. Russell loses places to Stroll and Hamilton, and apologise on the radio for his efforts behind the wheel:
"Well, that was a s**t restart, sorry guys".
A potential Perez’ unsafe release from the pit lane is noted by the stewards, but soon after the panel confirms that no further action is required, allowing the Mexican to focus on his race. Later, Stroll clips the wall on the inside of Turn 5 but avoids serious damage and continues to run, with Hamilton closing in on him. Meanwhile, the stewards note the incident between Russell and Stroll under braking for the pit lane entry, but they come to the same conclusion that a full investigation is not necessary. Perez leads Verstappen by just over a second, while Leclerc has dropped some five seconds back in third, followed by Alonso, Sainz, Stroll, the two Mercedes, and Ocon and Hulkenberg, who are still yet to stop. Stroll makes a mistake at the exit of Turn 16, enabling Hamilton to get in his slipstream on the run to Turn 1 and claim P6, with the Aston Martin remaining ahead of Russell. After a few laps behind Stroll, Russell says to his engineer move to “Plan B”, thinking that the Aston Martin ahead is set for a tyre-related struggle. After that, there is calm on track, until Ocon and Hulkenberg brush the wall at the exit of Turn 15 as their sets of tyres are beginning to fade.
"The balance between the diff and engine braking is not good".
Verstappen says on the radio on lap 30, while he reaches the limit in order to keep his teammate in sight. A few laps later, Perez manages to take his advantage to 2.5 seconds. Further back, Bottas makes a third stop for new tyres on lap 36, emerging in the back of the field almost a lap behind leader Perez, while Zhou retires shortly afterwards. Hamilton is in DRS range of Sainz and tries to overtake him on several occasions, but he does not manage to do it. A few laps from the finish, Norris tries to get into the points area with a move on Hulkenberg at the exit of the Turn 5/6 chicane, with the Haas’ man tyres looking worse for wear ahead of his required switch to mediums. When Ocon stops on the final lap, the McLaren driver gets P9. Perez takes the chequered flag and completes a commanding win, leading Verstappen by over two seconds. Leclerc’s pace fades late on, while Alonso’s tries to get near to him, but it is not enough to change the podium positions, as Sainz, Hamilton, Stroll and Russell ensure all Ferrari, Mercedes and Aston Martin cars score points; Russell gains one more point for the fastest lap. Norris and Tsunoda are the final scorers in P9 and P10 respectively, with Hulkenberg falling to 17th, and Ocon to 15th, as they pit just before the end of the race. Piastri, Albon, Magnussen and Gasly gain a spot from Ocon’s stop, while Sargeant is the last driver on the lead lap in 16th, ahead of Hulkenberg, a lapped Bottas and the day’s two retirements: Zhou and De Vries. Red Bulls ran for most of the race first and second. Verstappen pitted before the Safety Car and then he struggled with the balance of his car:
"Overall it was quite a good race. Of course, I was a bit unlucky with the safety car call, but I think in that second stint both of us were pushing flat out. We used every centimetre on that track and touched a few walls! It was a good Team result and there were a lot of learnings from this weekend to take forward to the rest of the season. We bought it home and a 1-2 for the Team was ideal, Checo had a great race and did very well today. I’m already looking forward to Miami and seeing what we can do there".
Perez drove a superb race to take his second victory in Baku:
"It has been an unbelievable weekend, I am super pleased and I cannot say more about the Team, it has been a tremendous day for us and I am so proud of everyone. I want to say a big thanks to Thibaut, he is one of my mechanics who is at home for personal reasons, but he is still a very big part of our Team. The Team enjoy calling me the King of the Streets, I am super happy for them all. They have been tremendous all weekend, from the sprint race yesterday through to the way we executed the race today, it was perfect. I think today we were the fastest car on track and regardless of the safety car we would have won the race. I am definitely in the fight for the title, not just because of Baku, I believe I can be very good anywhere this season and now I am just thinking of Miami. There are a lot of races coming up and we must make sure we are on it".
Christian Horner is very satisfied with Perez’ performance and the result obtained again by the team:
"Checo absolutely excelled today. He had the pace and really controlled the race, he benefitted from the timing of the safety car but it was a phenomenal performance from him today and all weekend. Hats off to him. We were unlucky with the safety car and the pit stop for Max. Sometimes things like that don’t go your way but that is racing and we will learn from it. Other than that it was an excellent performance from the whole team, another 1-2, our 25th! Things are clicking for us at the moment and it sets us up well for next week but it is still early days, there are 19 races and 5 more sprint races in this long season. With each race comes moments to savour but just as many learnings, we take those and move to the next challenge, preparation for Miami is already well under way, see you at the beach".
The poleman of Friday’s qualifying, Charles Leclerc, tried his best but did not manage to keep the Red Bulls behind; however, he scored his first podium of the season:
"We are still not quite there in terms of race pace and we know that’s what we have to work on the most at the moment. We maximised every session throughout the weekend and couldn't have done anything differently, so that’s something to be happy about and the team did a great job. The bottom line is that we have to focus on race pace and tyre management and push to make even more progress in the coming races".
Sainz lost out to Alonso, but managed his tyres well and defended hard in the closing stages against Hamilton:
"This has been a very difficult weekend. P5 brings home some points but I must put my hand up and admit I lacked confidence under braking and the pace was not there. On the Medium tyre I could push a bit more, but with the harder compound I simply didn’t feel the car. Now I look forward to a reset, as Miami is just around the corner and I can’t wait to jump in the car again and keep pushing".
Frédéric Vasseur, Ferrari’s Team Principal, talks about the work done in Maranello during the break and is hopeful about battling with the Red Bulls later in the season:
"Overall, this has been a positive weekend for the team. We took two pole positions and one podium finish with Charles and our overall points total, thanks also to Carlos’ fifth place, is satisfactory. There were signs of progress in Melbourne, but they were overshadowed by the poor race result. In the four week break, we worked hard in Maranello and here in Baku we have made further progress which translated into a good result. We definitely are back to where we wanted to be in terms of qualifying, but there’s still a significant gap to Red Bull in the race. However, we aim to fight them for the win and we are gearing up to do just that. It’s a morale booster for the whole team to finish on the podium, something which we will carry forward as we prepare for next weekend’s race in Miami".
Fernando Alonso finished just a little away from the podium, buti s happy with his result:
"I think we had a tricky weekend with the DRS issue on Friday and Saturday, but despite this we have finished only one second away from the podium at the chequered flag. With that in mind, I have to be happy with fourth position and our overall performance which was encouraging all race. Thankfully today the DRS seemed to work fine, and our tyre management was strong. I thought the tailwind was quite random and here in Baku you are always on the edge. We only have to wait a few days before we go racing again, so let's see what we can do next week in Miami".
Lance Stroll admits he was not comfortable at all with his Aston Martin:
"It was pretty tough out there today. I was happy with my start, as well as the Safety Car restart, but I wasn't feeling super comfortable with the car once the race got going and made a slight mistake. A little misjudgement can end your day here, so I was fortunate to get away with brushing the wall and managed to continue with the race. Once Lewis [Hamilton] passed me, it was just about maintaining position and holding off George [Russell] for the remaining laps. He was pushing hard, but we managed the tyres well and I was able to keep him behind me. As a team, we definitely have a few things to work though ahead of Miami, but I think we need to be pleased to come away from the first Sprint weekend of the year with a decent haul of points to maintain second in the Constructors' Championship".
Team Principal Mike Krack is overall satisfied with the drivers’ performance:
"Another well-executed weekend by the entire team and we leave Baku with a combined total of 22 points. That is a good return from quite a challenging event on a very demanding street circuit. Full credit to the drivers who did an excellent job to make progress from their starting positions. They managed the Hard tyres well over a long stint, while maintaining good race pace, and brought the cars home safely to round off a clean weekend. This sets us up nicely for our first trip of the year to the United States next week as we get ready to entertain the fans in Miami".
Hamilton lost out under the Safety Car, having pitted a few laps before. From then, he tried several moves on Sainz but did not manage to pass him:
"The timing of the Safety Car wasn't ideal! I couldn't get bogged down in that frustration though. I had to keep my head down and get focused on attacking. That's what I did, and I got right back in the race. I really enjoyed those battles with the cars around me. The Ferrari of Sainz was just a little bit quicker on the straight than us, even with the DRS open. I gave it everything I had to get past though. I'm continuously proud of my team. We didn't have the pace that we did in Melbourne, which is not the greatest, but there is no lack of motivation in this team. We're all super hungry, and hopefully this is the beginning of something better in the coming races. Once I get that confidence in the car, the pace will come".
George Russell had a bad restart bafter the Safety Car but at the end still goes home with the bonus point for fastest lap:
"I'm a little bit disappointed with myself today. I made a really good start and got in a decent position. I made a good move on Stroll to get past him into the pit lane but I then made a mess of the restart. I was defending from Lance and almost ran into the back of Fernando (Alonso). I then ran wide and got my tyres dirty. Ultimately that's why both Lance and Lewis got past. From there, it was line astern. I'll take the extra point for fastest lap but the only reason we had that opportunity was because we were in a bad position. It was close pace-wise between ourselves, Ferrari and Aston Martin and small differences can make a big change in terms of results. Whether we finish P4 or P8 though, it's far from first so we've got a lot of work to do".
Toto Wolff, Mercedes’ Team Principal & CEO, continues:
"Today was not a thriller. There was very little overtaking even with a big pace difference. We headed into a sub optimum set-up direction during FP1 and by the time we realised it was too late, and the car was in parc fermé conditions. It's the same for everyone though under this format. The pace in free air today looked similar between ourselves, the Ferraris and the Aston Martins. It was hard to tell who was ultimately quicker though, because with the difficulty of overtaking you are stuck where you are stuck. The Red Bulls meanwhile sailed away into the sunset on merit. If we can get the platform right though, I think we can close that gap this year. It's not about adding points of downforce, more giving the drivers a car that they have confidence in".
Andrew Shovlin, Mercedes’ Trackside Engineering Director, ends:
"We're never going to get excited about sixth and eighth place, but it was a day where the car wasn't particularly quick and neither driver had much luck during the race. Lewis had a decent opening lap; he'd started to get a bit of pressure from Alonso towards the end of the stint, so we came in to protect the position. Unfortunately, that was the lap before the Safety Car, so he lost out. A good restart helped the recovery, but he just couldn't get past Sainz. George had a really good opening lap, getting through some key cars early on. He was able to take the stop under the Safety Car but then struggled on the restart and lost a couple of places. Similarly to Lewis, he just couldn't make a pass despite having a bit more pace so our only consolation was a point for fastest lap at the end. We haven't got long to wait before we are bringing some more performance to the car and in the meantime, we just need to focus on collecting as many points as possible. We're hoping the car will be a bit better suited to the track in Miami and looking forward to being able to get back on track in just a few days".
Bad afternoon for Norris, who remained stuck behind the Haas of Hulkenberg until he pitted, then he overtook and picked up a couple of points:
"A good race. It was as good a result as I was going to get and the best we could achieve today. P9 really doesn't sound like a lot but it was the best we can do at the moment. We got a bit unlucky with the Safety Car happening just after we had pit. I then got stuck behind Hulkenberg, but we got a couple of points on the board, which is a solid result, plus we got some good things out of the new parts we bought to track. So, I'm happy with that and we'll try to improve again in Miami".
Terrible day also for Piastri, who made contact with Albon at the start and finished outside the points:
"It was a shame to miss out on points by one spot, but we were just lacking a bit of pace in the middle of the race, so there wasn't really much more we could do. I'm happy I survived the weekend after being unwell and we've got some really good learning in the bank. I certainly learned a lot about the tyres in that race, and how to manage them better, so all of that will help us fight for points next time. Thanks to the team here and back at the factory for getting the upgrades out to us, it's definitely helped. We go again in Miami".
Andrea Stella, McLaren’s Team Principal, knows they are behind some other teams but is satisfied for the points:
"An interesting weekend in Azerbaijan with the new Sprint format. Our main objective for the weekend remained preparing for the race: this was where the most points were available. The top four teams are a little bit ahead at the moment, so the mission was to be at the head of the midfield. We achieved that thanks to the upgrades we fitted this weekend. Thanks go to the team back at the factory and at track for helping us bring these parts to the car. Over the next few races, we will be able to verify how much of that is a genuine improvement, and how much was track-specific. Lando, once again, was rock solid. Another clean weekend brings us a couple of very useful points. We were highly impressed with Oscar too. He's been unwell this weekend but managed to focus on the job, also delivering a clean weekend with no mistakes. Thank you to our excellent medical staff for their continuous support throughout the weekend. We hope he'll be feeling better in a few days when we start again in Miami".
De Vries hit the barriers and broke his suspension, triggering a Safety Car:
"The accident today was fully my mistake. It was very silly and unnecessary and that responsibility is on me. I am disappointed with myself but that’s the way it is. There are positives to take away from this weekend and I’ll try to look at them. I am happy to be racing again next week so I forget this weekend as soon as possible".
Tsunoda was dropped out of the top 10 at the start, but managed to get back into the points and finished P10:
"It was a tough race today but the team, especially the mechanics, did a great job to repair the car after yesterday. The engineers found a strong set-up, even if we lost some time in sector two. We didn’t get many chances to do long runs this weekend but to be able to demonstrate a strong pace, and build on this performance throughout the race, was awesome from the team. I am also happy with my performance. I was consistent, and being sandwiched between the two McLarens meant any mistake would cost us the point. It took a lot of concentration but in the end, we were able to achieve another top-ten finish. There is still room for development and improvement to fight for points consistently, but I have confidence in my team to race stronger in the future".
Guillaume Dezoteux, AlphaTuri’s Head of Vehicle Performance, talks about a “solid” weekend:
"We are very happy to end the weekend with a point. Yuki drove a solid race, the strategy calls were right and the pit stop was competitive. At the start of the race, we knew it would be difficult to hold faster cars behind us, but Yuki remained focused, made no mistakes and settled in a train of cars with both McLarens, a Haas and an Alpine. We were continuously evaluating safety car scenarios and monitoring other cars to react, although in the end, there was nothing to react to. Nyck's race started well with an offset strategy. We decided to start on the hard tyre, chasing any opportunity to make ground through the pack. Unfortunately, he made contact with the inside of Turn 5 and broke his front left track rod, which forced him to stop on track. Overall, this weekend has been solid and the track layout has suited us better. There are similarities in Miami, so we will review everything in the next couple of days to prepare as best we can for next weekend".
Franz Tost analyzes the race:
"Firstly, congratulations to Red Bull Racing for another front-row finish. As for our weekend, we came to this race with some aero updates, and I’m pleased to say they seem to work very well. The team in Bicester did a fantastic job because we have been competitive from the very beginning of the weekend. The highlight was of course Friday’s qualifying, where Yuki finished in eighth position. As for today’s race, he was overtaken by Stroll and Russell on the first lap, but this is what I expected as their cars are simply faster than ours. Nevertheless, Yuki did a fantastic job. He was able to split the McLarens, staying quite close to Norris and keeping Piastri behind. Overall, a big congratulations to Yuki for another strong performance, which shows how much he is improving race by race. Unfortunately, Nyck had an accident, he touched the wall in turn 5, breaking the front left track rod, and that was the end of his race. Generally speaking, we have improved the car performance dramatically since the start of the season, so now I am even more looking forward to the next race in Miami".
During the first lap, Albon tangled with Piastri; he continued as his car was ok, but then he remained behind a DRS train:
"It was really tough out there today. I had some damage on my front wing for most of the race following contact with the McLaren, so there was a lot of management to do. It was tricky trying to keep the Haas behind me whilst staying close to Oscar, and not a lot of room for overtaking with the shortened DRS zones. We really did maximise this weekend and I think it was personally one of my strongest, especially coming off Australia. I think we definitely have more to find with the car, but I think I'm becoming at one with it, so hopefully we can keep this going".
Sargeant pitted under the Safety Car but didn’t have the pace to really fight those around him:
"All things considered I learned a lot this weekend. In the race today, we got a bit unlucky with the safety car timing at the start and fell into a bit of a lonely, frustrating race. I was stuck behind Zhou [Guanyu} for most of it. By the time he pitted it was just too late and I was too far disconnected from the pack ahead. However, when I did get in front, the car felt good, I was driving well, and the pace was not too bad at the end. I brought a set of hard tyres a long way and that's all positive. Our one lap pace this weekend was good, and I was happy considering we only had one free practice session to go into qualifying and have a pretty good one. It was going to be an even better Sprint Shootout until the crash, so I'll learn from that and move forward. The race wasn't bad, it just fell out of our hands and was a lonely, boring one for most people".
Dave Robson, Williams’ Head of Vehicle Performance, explains that the car was competitive, so it is a pity to finish outside the points:
"Alex suffered some front wing damage on the opening lap, which hurt the car balance and cost him downforce. Despite this he was able to put together another very strong race; he dealt with the pressure from Gasly and Magnussen brilliantly whilst also staying close to Piastri ahead. The timing of the early safety car was unfortunate for our strategy, but that is the nature of racing at Baku. Having missed the sprint race yesterday, Logan started the Grand Prix somewhat on the back foot but still put together a strong drive to fight with Zhou and Gasly. His pace and car management were competitive and gave him some very valuable learning for the future. We arrived in Baku for this new style sprint event expecting it to be a challenge. Although we rose to that challenge well and were able to put together a strong performance overall, it is frustrating not to get some points for our effort. Nonetheless, we head to Miami with some positive momentum and another good opportunity to challenge the top 10".
Magnussen had a front wing damage after colliding with Bottas, so did not manage to be competitive:
"We were stuck in traffic the whole race, we had pace for much more but just couldn’t pass. Unfortunately, with the wing we have it’s really fast with no DRS but with DRS it doesn’t really have a big impact. Overtaking is very difficult, defending is pretty good because without DRS we’re pretty fast. That little detail made the difference today because I think looking at the cars ahead I was way quicker than them but just couldn’t get past. A bit of the same story as last year as we were in the points until the end but this year, we had even more pace. Hopefully that carries onto Miami, and we will try again".
Hulkenberg started from the pit lane and his tyres did not made him fight with his competitors:
"It was hard work - I was head-down, focused. It was a quali race to be honest for me, that was all I had but it was okay for 40 laps or so and then at the end, unfortunately the tires started to drop quite rapidly. The Safety Car didn’t come out and that’s what we needed with the strategy we pursued. Nevertheless, it was good learning. We elected for a pit lane start and changed the set-up completely to something more conventional. We learned something, on the positive side, and now onto Miami where I think we’ll be more competitive".
Guenther Steiner, Haas‘ Team Principal, looks forward to Miami, a better track for their car:
"Kevin got his front wing endplate knocked off at the start because Bottas in front of him locked-up, so he couldn’t avoid him, and it was severe enough to make a front wing change. With Nico, we tried a different strategy and it didn’t work because the Safety Car came too early. All in all, the performance of the car was good and we could hold pace with the Alpine and McLaren. I think we just have to take this one as a little dip and come back in Miami, where maybe for our car it’s even better, being a medium-downforce circuit".
Ocon was in the 10 at a certain point, after starting in the pit lane, and pitted on the very last lap:
"We gave it everything we could today, going for the Hail Mary strategy in the hope for a late Safety Car or incident, but things did not go our way. We can be proud with our efforts, pushing all the way to the end and extracting the most from the Hard tyres. I had a bit of a scary moment at the end of the race when I came into pit and saw people congregating in the Pit Lane even though the race had not ended. Fortunately, nothing happened, but we must make sure these scenarios don't happen again. We were not where we want to be in terms of performance this weekend. And, after a weekend of learning, we have a chance to review and comeback stronger in Miami. I know we will do just that".
Gasly pitted very early for hards but lost out when the Safety Car came out, and the other pit did not make him finish in the points:
"This is a weekend all of us are keen to quickly move on from as it's been a very frustrating one for all of us at the team. We have to make sure this kind of performance is not repeated again. Clearly, it is not where we should be and we need to come back stronger for Miami next week on a more conventional track. In terms of my race, we tried something different on strategy and hoped for some fortune, but in the end, we couldn't do much more. I made a couple of moves, that's always satisfying, but it's much more rewarding when those overtakes are for points. I'm looking forward to racing in Miami next weekend".
Otmar Szafnauer, Alpine’s Team Principal, of course id disapppointed about how the race went:
"It's been a bitterly disappointing weekend for the team in Baku and we must not repeat this type of performance again. We very much started on the backfoot on Friday and since then we were not able to make any kind of recovery in any of the sessions. We were quite far off on car set-up on Friday during practice and with such limited running - notably with some reliability issues on both cars - we left ourselves with a mountain to climb for the remainder of the weekend. We must limit these problems going forward and begin all Grand Prix weekends on the front-foot to make sure we give ourselves the best possible chance on Saturday and Sunday to score points. We demonstrated our race pace in Australia and we have a better chance to validate our upgrade package in Miami. We must keep working hard as a team, keep up our understanding of how to maximise the most from our package and target a much-improved overall team performance next weekend Stateside".
Bottas collided with Magnussen at the start and moved back through the field; from there, he struggled with tyre wear, pitted three times and finished in the last place:
"It wasn’t a great race for us and we were never in the mix for the points: we need to understand what happened and, most importantly, how to get back to being competitive. My race was hard from the start: I had a contact in turn two, I was on the outside and I was hit from the left and from behind, which left me with some damage. It was quite a long race after that: we tried to find a way back in, as anything can happen here, but eventually there weren’t any chances for us to rebuild our race. For sure, we need to improve our pace and do everything we can to move forward. We head straight to Miami now: it is a very different track from this, we will stay motivated and go for it again".
Zhou was called in to the pits to retire the car with technical issues:
"Quite the weekend to forget for us: it’s never nice to DNF, but realistically we didn’t have a chance to score points today. We needed to retire the car as a precaution as we had rising temperatures and alarms on my dash. In general, it was a tough weekend for all of us. We need to understand the reasons for this and work hard, all of us, to make a step forward. I am confident this team can do that, I see it in the people here and at home. We will do all in our power to get back where we expect to be and continue to improve".
Alessandro Alunni Bravi, Alfa Romeo’s Team Representative adds:
"This was a disappointing race and it showed that, right now, our package is not competitive enough to score points. The priority for everyone of us in the team - here at the track and back at base - is to work hard and make the improvements necessary to get back where we expect to be. The field remains tight, and we can get back into this battle: but we must deliver a step forward to do so. We are all fully committed to this and we’re going to do whatever it takes to get there".
Mario Isola, Pirelli Motorsport Director, describes the race with attention on the tyre strategies put into place by all teams:
"From start to finish, this was an intense race. As we fully expected, nearly all the drivers chose an opening stint on the P Zero Yellow medium before moving onto the P Zero White hard: only the drivers who started from the pit lane - Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg - or those at the back of the grid like AlphaTauri's Nyck De Vries, chose to start with a long stint on the hard tyre before going onto soft in the hope of a safety car during the closing stages. With very little long run data to fall back on, which was mainly collected during yesterday's Sprint, there were a few more unknowns than usual heading into today's grand prix. We're pleased that the hard tyre not only showed a good level of reliability, with some runs of 300 kilometres on it, but that it also allowed drivers to push as hard as they liked. Proof of this came from the spectacular exchange of fastest laps among the top four, all from different teams, which additionally underlines the versatility of this compound. The fact that the best time among them (1m 44.232s from Verstappen) was 1.8 seconds faster than last year's fastest race lap is significant. The medium, which everyone had a bit more information on compared to the hard, showed performance in line with expectations but suffered from less graining, probably thanks also to the extra grip offered by the new asphalt".
Thus ends the fourth race of the Formula 1 World Championship. Sergio Perez managed to win on the Baku street circuit and move closer in the standings to his teammate, Max Verstappen. Given the superiority of Red Bull Racing, one wonders if the two drivers will be able to battle it out in the upcoming races, igniting interest in a World Championship that has been quite disappointing so far. Everyone is now looking at United States for the Miami Grand Prix, which will take place on the weekend May 5-7 2023.