Two-thirds into the third Grand Prix of the season, Ferrari could sense a déjà vu. And so, does the high promising Haas. Lot of chatter on the Ferrari’s radio in contrast with Lewis Hamilton’s Uncle Pop question about the well-being of Charles Leclerc summarizes the race and the season so far.
Wrong gear shift starts from Valtteri Bottas from the pole position, was all that was needed for Lewis Hamilton to take the lead. He looked in absolute cruise control till the end of the race. Lewis Hamilton won the Formula 1’s historical 1000th race and in some style. 75th career win for him, now only 16 wins short of Michael Schumacher. Valtteri Bottas finished second giving Mercedes the third one-two finish for them in as many races. Sebastian Vettel ensures that Ferrari gets a representation on the podium but P3 and P5 for Ferrari meant Mercedes take a whooping 57 points lead over Ferrari.
Amidst all the Mercedes-Ferrari discussion, there are four drivers who were super focused on their job.
Alexandar Albon, in the Toro Rosso, is the well-deserved Driver of the Day. He had a race that would be remembered for years. Starting from the pit lane, owing to a hard barrier crash during FP3, he finished the race at P10. He earned his point in his Formula 1 career.
This point is very well deserved I think
Daniel Ricciardo, finally got something out of 2019. His move to Renault from Red Bull surprised everyone and the numbers since didn’t justify the move. Renault, during the weekend in China, somehow managed to throw in at least car in the mix along with the top three. They were #5 in two of the practice sessions and #7 in the qualifying. Ricciardo earned his first points of 2019 by finishing the race in the same position he started in.
On the other end, his partner last season, Max Verstappen had a race of his own. He put his head down, minded his own business and pushed Sebastian Vettel to his limits. He couldn’t get ahead of Ferrari and settled down at P4. But this is a race of Verstappen’s calmness despite losing his language in the qualifying. Fresh tires and Pierre Gasly had offered the team an additional point by putting in the fastest lap right at the end.
Kimi Raikkonen is a legend. His record for most Q3 qualifications were shattered on Saturday when he was only able to manage P13. But the race it mattered to him and he delivered. He moved to as high as P5 during the race to finish at P9.
Ferrari is expected to have straight line advantage where as Mercedes were clear favorites in the corners. But they were nowhere close to Mercedes. The discussion of who will be their number one in the team looked to have got bit out of control. No one is happy with the incident. No one on the communications or the drivers. It is a race that they could happily forget.
If the race was bad for Ferrari, Haas had another horrid weekend with the tires. Not fighting it out in Q3, they started the race at P9 and P10. They finished outside the points zone in P11 and P13, absolutely struggling with those tires.
“Baku could be even worse. I’m readying myself for the disappointment.
After the crash into McLarens and earning drive through penalty, Daniil Kvyat’s race weekend turned from bad to the worse. Three pit stops and retirement in Lap 13, a mixed bag weekend for Toro Rosso.
The moment of the race:
The biggest or rather the most challenging point for the Mercedes in the whole race was in lap 36, when they decided to pit both their drivers from the leading positions. And were they brilliant? Absolutely. 23.597 seconds and 24.083 seconds with no one losing time waiting for the other to go through is a magnificent job. The team will cherish this.
Can Ferrari manage a comeback? Things doesn’t seem to go well for them. They just couldn’t avoid putting their races and challenging Mercedes to sheds.
(c) All images and statistics from F1 and respective teams