Improved, but not enough to catch Red Bull: Ferrari’s quest to finally convert poles into wins

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Photo credits: Scuderia Ferrari

Two pole positions in one weekend for Ferrari courtesy of Charles Leclerc, who topped qualifying both for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix and Saturday’s Sprint race.

Poles that seem hard to convert into wins, yet again for the team given the significantly quicker race pace Red Bull has proved to have.

After leading the pace for the first eight laps Leclerc had to give up to the RB19 of Sergio Perez who with DRS reached an impressive straight-line speed that made the Mexican just uncatchable for the Ferrari who was struggling quite a bit with tyre degradation.

With Max Verstappen suffering damage on a first-lap collision with George Russell’s Mercedes, Leclerc managed to hold on in P2 until the end of the Sprint.

“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,” he commented after the race.

“It confirms a little bit what we thought, the Red Bull still has the upper hand in the race.”

All in Despite the initial disappointment of losing out on the win after starting from pole, Leclerc appeared aware “there was not anything more” to take from the Saturday, “happy with the second place” and ready to “try to go for the win tomorrow, even though the Red Bull seems a bit quicker.”

“I did not know what to expect. I didn’t fight too much with Checo because I just wanted to try and keep my tyres. I knew this was our weak point,” he explained.

“I tried to stay within the DRS of Checo, so he could pull me in the straight, but that was not enough. We were losing a bit too much towards the end with the tyre degradation. ”

Not much to improve before the race, if not working “a little bit here and there on flaps,” but at the Ferrari the mood seems quite optimistic, given the improvements made during the break.

“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.”

“We again must not forget how far we were behind in race pace two races ago, so we took a step forward. We are still not where we want to be, but as I said, if winning is not possible, then we just need to take the maximum points.”

A more struggling weekend on the other half of the garage for his teammate Carlos Sainz, who was caught up for most of the race between George Russell and Fernando Alonso’s Aston and only managed to keep the P5 he had started the Sprint from.

“This weekend has not been an easy one for me but we’ll keep going at it. We managed to bring home some points and I’ll try to build from there,” he commented.

“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.”

Team Principal Frédéric Vasseur had a few words after the track action, a mix of disappointment for losing out on the win and hopefulness for the progress of the car.

“When you start from pole and don’t bring home the win, you cannot be totally satisfied with the outcome,” he remarked.

“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.”

As for today’s race Vasseur believes Ferrari will be able to “get even more out of the package” by using the data analysed throught the weekend.

“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.”