Hello welcome to This Azerbaijan Grand Prix, round four of the season say Sergio Perez lead a Red Bull one – two in the Grand Prix, our first sprint race of the season. But as we left Melbourne the question I asked could anyone close the gap to Red Bull? The answer sort of, Red Bull clearly in my view have a clear advantage but Aston Martin, Ferrari and Mercedes are closer but Red Bull have still the fastest car
The editor of the German magazine, die Aktuelle, has been sacked after it published what it called an artificial intelligence-generated ‘interview’ with Michael Schumacher has been sacked. The magazine’s publisher has apologised to the Formula 1 legend’s family.
Schumacher, a seven-time world champion, suffered severe head injuries in a skiing accident in December 2013 and has not been seen in public since. Die Aktuelle ran a front cover with a headline of “Michael Schumacher, the first interview”.
A strapline underneath a smiling picture of Schumacher read “it sounded deceptively real”, and it emerged in the article that the supposed quotes had been produced by AI.
The article was produced using an AI programme called charatcter.ai, which artificially generated Schumacher’s ‘quotes’ about his health and family. “I can with the help of my team actually stand by myself and even slowly walk a few steps,” read the Schumacher ‘quotes’.
Charatcer.ai generated quotes like “I can with the help of my team actually stand by myself and even slowly walk a few steps. My wife and my children were a blessing to me and without them I would not have managed it. Naturally they are also very sad, how it has all happened.”
These quotes have been called by the publisher ‘tasteless and misleading article should never have appeared. It in no way meets the standards of journalism they expect.’
The last public comments were made by Schumacher’s wife Corinna in 2021, who told a Netflix documentary, “We live together at home. We do therapy. We do everything we can to make Michael better and to make sure he’s comfortable, and to simply make him feel our family, our bond.”
The FIA says “due process was followed” in the departure of a former employee after sexism allegations emerged against its president Mohammed Ben Sulayem. In a letter to The Telegraph former interim motorsport secretary general, Shaila-Ann Rao wrote a letter accusing Sulayem of sexist behaviour before her departure in December.
An FIA spokesperson said: “The FIA takes allegations of abuse very seriously and addresses all complaints using robust and clear procedures. As part of this, the FIA has an anti-harassment policy, an anonymous whistleblowing facility and an investigation procedure and all staff are made aware of these through induction and regular training.
“With regards to the specific allegations surrounding Shaila-Ann Rao, due process was followed, with an amicable negotiation conducted by the President of the Senate and as such, no referrals were made to the Ethics Committee. As previously stated, both parties agreed she would leave her position in November 2022 and mutual privacy terms were agreed as is common business practice.”
This is just the latest scandal around Ben Sulayem, who has taken a step back from day-to-day involvement in F1 following a dispute with Liberty Media and the teams.
George Russell says members of the GPDA want clarity from the FIA over some of the ‘rogue’ decisions made in recent races. Calls by race control were once again in the spotlight following a chaotic end to the last race in Melbourne, the GPDA director said the biggest concern was an apparent lack of consistency in some of the decisions.
Asked by Motorsport.com for his thoughts on the calls race control made in Australia, Russell said that the drivers and the FIA needed to talk to clear some issues up. He said, “”For sure, there’s going to be a lot of conversations with the FIA to understand their views.”
“It’s a bit of a challenging time, no doubt for all of us in that regard, and for sure as well for the FIA. They’re not stupid, and they’re trying to do the best job possible. But things do need to be ironed out to understand where their approach is going to lie.” The ongoing issue which has been a topic for years has been the consistency and Russell also said dialogue between the FIA and drivers was not as good as it should be.
The FIA has begun an investigation into why mechanics were allowed into the live pit lane as Esteban Ocon made his pitstop on the final lap and narrowly avoided running over personnel. Ocon had completed the entire race on the hard tyre, hoping for a late red flag to give him a free, mandatory swap to a different compound.
When that red flag didn’t arrive, Ocon waited until the start of the final lap to dive into the pits and pick up soft tyres. But as Sergio Perez crossed the line various members of teams and the media were gathering in the pit lane and blocked the fast lane causing him to move out the way.
Ocon said “I don’t understand why we are starting to prepare the podium and the ceremony when we are still racing, there is one lap to go and there are still people who didn’t pit. Arriving at 300 km/h, braking very late and I see the barriers and the people all around. This is crazy, it could have been a big, big one today.”
I think we need to wait for the stewards to find out why it happened and normally we wouldn’t see that situation I think we are likely see next weekend a reminder of the rules in the race directors event notes and maybe a tightening of the rules.
New sprint format
This weekend the sport introduced a new format for the sprint weekends making the sprint independent of the main grid. Instead of what previously was FP2 on a sprint weekend that has been replaced by a shorter qualifying session for the sprint race, Friday evening session will set the grid for Sunday’s grand prix
The sprint qualifying session will be spilt into three sessions as it is now, but reduced to 12 minutes for Q1, 10 mins Q2 and 8 mins for Q3 this session will set the grid for the sprint. However, the teams will be mandated to use the mediums for Q1 and Q2 and the soft for Q3.
The idea behind the changes is to introduce more jeopardy into the ‘sprint’ by encouraging drivers to take more risks. Its hoped that it will encourage drivers to take more risk in the sprint and means that any errors or accidents would disproportionately harm their chances in the grand prix.
The other change is to increase the penalty-free engine components from three to four. This means ir eases the pressure on Ferrari and Mercedes whom have drivers on their second examples of some of these components after just three races of the season, and are thus now further from suffering grid penalties for excessive parts usage than they were.
Reacting to those changes in the press conferences on Thursday, Max Verstappen said the changes would only make it more chaotic.
Alonso, who returned to F1 in 2021 after two years away, said going straight into qualifying on Saturday would be a new experience for all the drivers. Alonso said, “When I was out of the sport those two years, I was not watching the practice. They were too long and boring. So I see the point of making something different on the weekend. We have to embrace that and help f1 and hopefully, the fans will give us a good feedback.”
The new format received a universally warm reaction from the drivers on Thursday’s media day in Baku. In my view I think this is a better format it creates less practice and increases more jeopardy into the weekend.
Max Verstappen was fastest in practice with a 42.319 on the soft tyre going ahead of Charles Leclerc by three-hundredths of a second. Leclerc spilt the Red Bulls going a tenth faster than Sergio Perez. Lando Norris showed some signs of progress for McLaren going fifth fastest, the team head into this weekend follow a tough start to the season hoping that they have made progress over the break.
Leclerc took pole position for Sunday’s grand prix his third in a row in Baku after going two-tenths faster than Verstappen he was fastest in all three sectors on his final run in Q3. Perez was third in the chaotic session which saw several red flags but a mixed Friday evening for Mercedes with Lewis Hamilton best of the rest in fifth but George Russell missing out on Q3 by four thousandths
Sergio Perez won the sprint race after overtaking Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc midway through the race. The Mexican looked the favourite from the start and broke the DRS range around the half way stage and built his lead after getting pass Leclerc when he dived down the inside at Turn One after getting a tow and DRS to pass the Ferrari.
The Red Bull looked quick once again although as expected the gap between Red Bull and Ferrari closed slightly in the sprint though it is still yet to be seen how that will play out during a Grand Prix. Max Verstappen was third however the Red Bull driver was frustrated following contact with George Russell as they fought for third.
Perez looked unstoppable in the grand prix beating Verstappen by two second ti become the first repeat winner in Baku. The Mexican Perez controlled the race from the start despite Verstappen looking better off the line but throughout the early phase of the race looked pretty much evenly matched. However, Verstappen lost out to Perez under the safety car when he dropped behind when the Mexican managed to jump his teammate having just stopped before the safety car.
As he predicted Leclerc was a sitting duck and was passed by both Red Bull’s early on but had a thrilling battle with Fernando Alonso, however, it appeared to stabilise by the middle part of the race despite the Aston Martin drivers best effort to close the gap and pass the Ferrari. The gap eventually being eight-tenths meaning Alonso missed out on a fourth consecutive podium.
Technical director James Allison says that the recent job swap at the Brackley team will make it a “better fighting machine.” Over the April break Allison swapped jobs with Mike Elliott who replaced him as chief technical officer, this means that Allison will now have a more hands-on approach with the car and the current racing programme while Elliott will take a longer-term strategic view.
Allison previously served as technical director before taking a step back for personal reasons in 2021. He explained to the F1 Nation podcast, “We just had a bit of an examining of our own navels here in Brackley, and between Mike and I concluded that the pair of us can cover the ground reasonably well.”
“But perhaps I was better suited to the short-term fighting of a championship with a car, and he was the much better chess player of the pair of us, and that he would be better suited to doing the job I was doing as a CTO previously.” I think this could possibly be the change Mercedes need without the big upheaval we might have see at Ferrari for example.
Allison admitted that it will take him time to get fully up to speed with the day-to-day details of the racing programme.
Following those changes Lewis Hamilton and George Russell are confident Mercedes are now in a stronger position. Hamilton said in Baku, “James has always been a part of the team, obviously he was focused a little bit on another area before. Having him step back in to support and work alongside Mike I think is only going to strengthen the team moving forwards.”
Russell believes Allison and Elliott are now in positions where they can best deliver. He said, “I think it’s really good news. Obviously, Mike was the technical director and James was sort of overseeing a few different projects and now effectively we’ve got both of them full-time. Mike is one of, if not the most, intelligent blokes I’ve ever come across in my life, but I think placing him in this new role will really put him in his element.”
He described the changes like a football manager (Wolff) moving the best players into the right positions to get the overall team result and effectively that’s what this change has been.
It was a mixed qualifying for Mercedes on Friday with Hamilton best of the rest in qualifying but Russell just missing out on Q3. But we know how tight the midfield is however Hamilton was closer to the Ferrari of Sainz, I think there could be two main factors the step forwards since Bahrain, and both drivers wanting the same thing.
Hamilton said, “We’re trying as hard as we can, giving it absolutely everything out there. Timing and getting into a rhythm, really pulling out everything, is not easy on this track. I think in Q2 I struggled. I had more pace, I just didn’t get that last lap. My Q3 run one was a really sweet lap. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to match… I just matched it basically at the end [of the session], but needed just a little bit more time to nip a Ferrari.”
While this isn’t as good as Melbourne it is consistent for the team, I think they have made progress and this is a higher-speed circuit compared to Albert Park. But the gap Hamilton admitted was large.
Russell meanwhile believes his mistake on his final run in Q2 cost him the chance of making it through to Q3, but was already focusing on putting it right for the sprint qualifying. I think that the closeness of the midfield it can lead to surprise casualties and until they can make that jump its going to always be a risk.
Asked how challenging the remainder of the weekend will be, with cars now under parc ferme conditions, Russell added: “I think right now we wouldn’t really know what to change to find the pace we need around this track. It’s definitely a unique one, definitely an outlier, compared to the first three races we’ve been to.
Following a good recovery drive to sixth in the race after dropping to tenth early on in the race, Hamilton says he is “counting the days” until the upgrades in Imola. The seven-time champion finished sixth in the race, despite dropping to tenth during the early safety car.
He told Sky Sports, “There was great prep before coming here with a couple of days in the factory, plenty of sim running and I’m very proud of the team. The mentality of the team is great, there is such a winning mindset and everyone is focused on progressing and getting to where we know we can get to.”
Russell finished eighth in Baku and agreed with Hamilton that they had not got the optimum out of their car. He is also looking forward to improvements over the next few races to get the team where they “want to be”.
Mercedes are making progress but needs to continue on this path towards the top three, I think their hasn’t been much change since Melbourne. But we have seen them extract the most out of the car.
Christian Horner has clarified his comments regarding rival teams contacting the reigning constructors’ champions’ sponsors following their 2021 cost cap breach. Last month it was suggested in The I an un-named rival had tried to steal Red Bull’s sponsors.
This followed the team being penalised in October last year for breaching cost cap regulations during the 2021 season in which Max Verstappen claimed his maiden world championship. After admitting to a ‘minor’ breach – amounting to $2.2m – Red Bull was given a $7m fine and had a limit on their development time imposed for a 12-month period.
Horner said in Melbourne, “It wasn’t about stealing sponsors. I think what you’re referring to was a reference that several of our sponsors were contacted by one of our rival teams saying that we were perhaps bringing them into disrepute.”
Despite the advantage the team has on track they maintain they have a “significant disadvantage” in the number of wind tunnel time believing that others will catch up. That’s the line they or any team in that position would take and I think that’s part of the phycology of the sport.
Red Bull brought updates to Australia in the form of a new front wing, front-wing endplates and rear-brake ducts, which were more significant changes than anything Ferrari or Mercedes added to their cars.
Verstappen thinks a different approach to his final Q3 out-lap in qualifying may have cost him as he ceded pole to Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. The two set the identical time in qualifying but as we know its first come first serve meaning the driver who sets the time first basis
Verstappen explained a different approach on his out-lap may have cost him time he said, “It’s always tough around here to really put the whole lap together. I think also the second run we tried something different on the out-lap, which maybe was not ideal for the lap time at the end.”
“But around here, it’s just really hard. In Q3, you’re on the limit and then trying to make everything perfect; it’s not the easiest. But nevertheless, we’re P2 we know that we have a very good race car. So, all in all, it’s not bad, but you always want to start ahead, but we’ll have to pass one car.”
Meanwhile his teammate Sergio Perez missed out by three tenth believing he lost a tenth through a mistake at Turn Three. he said, “I’m a bit disappointed to be sitting in P3, because I felt definitely there was more in it. My lap wasn’t that clean. But if there a circuit where you can race it is definitely here.”
Verstappen was furious following his collision in the sprint race as to why George Russell took “so much risk,” calling the Mercedes driver a d**head. The two collided fighting for position on the opening lap of the sprint, An aggressive Russell tapped Verstappen’s sidepod into Turn 2 and caused the Dutchman to slide, which gave Russell momentum on the stretch towards Turn 3. Verstappen then had to cede the position when he nudged Turn 3’s outside wall.
The Red Bull driver raged on the team radio about the incident which left him with sidepod damage. “I don’t understand how he can keep the position and he is damaging my car. It’s kinda ridiculous,” he fumed at his race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase.
To me I saw it as a racing incident as I saw enough room to allow a overtake and watching it Russell was already part of the way alongside the Red Bull driver, when he locked up and went into the side of Verstappen. Its not aclear cut incident and we know that the stewards only now issue penalties in what they deem clear cut.
In response, Russell said, “I was very surprised by how angry he was. I am not just going to wave him by because he’s Max Verstappen in a Red Bull. I am here to fight and win.”
Verstappen also said that he considered the move reflected Russell’s inexperience. Both drivers are 25, but Russell made his debut in F1 in 2019, whereas Verstappen first raced in the top category in 2015. But admitted he would have done the same thing as Russell.
Verstappen called on his team to review the pit stop which cost him the lead to his teammate following the safety car. Red Bull elected to pit Verstappen at the end of that lap but, as he was leaving the pits, the safety car emerged to allow the marshals to clear up de Vries’ car.
The timing of the incident handed his rivals Perez and Leclerc a less costly stop under the safety car. Verstappen was able to clear Leclerc on the restart but felt that the mistimed pitstop had caused damage to his own race, and felt that it was something for the team to look into.
Verstappen said, “I saw that there was a car stopped, I thought he maybe just locked up. In hindsight, I mean, I can’t see that, but it’s something to review. I mean, clearly, you could see there was one wheel damaged and it looked like he was not going to drive that anyway back to the pits, even if he would’ve reversed.”
In my view that was unlucky but costly, this weekend hasn’t gone his way with the incident Russell in the sprint and then the timing of the safety car, but that is racing. But it will fire him up for next weekend in Miami.
Felipe Massa has moved forward with plans to evaluate whether there are legal grounds for him to challenge the outcome of the 2008 championship. Earlier it was revealed by the then CEO of F1 Bernie Ecclestone he knew of what became the Crashgate scandal early enough for action to be taken that season.
Renault, now Alpine, were found guilty of a conspiracy to cause a deliberate crash with Nelson Piquet. that helped Renault team-mate Fernando Alonso win was formally investigated the following year, it was too late to go back and amend the race result. With Flavio Briatore being banned for life and technical director Pat Symonds being banned for five years, both overturned on appeal. However, fifteen years later its still not known who came up with the conspiracy.
Ecclestone had said, “We had enough information in time to investigate the matter. According to the statutes, we should have cancelled the race in Singapore under these conditions. That means it would never have happened for the championship standings.”
With the points that Massa lost to title rival Lewis Hamilton in that Singapore race proving to be critical to the outcome of the championship battle, the Brazilian is well aware that if the event has been cancelled by the FIA then he would have ended the season on top.
However, the legal routes to overturn the results are no existent the International Sporting Code does not allow protests after a race and any right to request a review expires fourteen calendar days after a competition, and four days prior to the date of that year’s FIA prize-giving ceremony.
Also the independent International Court of Appeal, and that any persons involved in a championship agree to abide by this. So, there are no alternative courts that Massa could use as this isn’t a doping case
Charles Leclerc says Ferrari’s off-track situation is not as big a worry for him as his own on-track “disaster” so far this. Following the first three races he has scored only six points while the team has faced upheavel over the spring breaks with the resignation of senior figures including car concept chief David Sanchez and sporting director Laurent Mekies.
Despite this Leclerc says he has no alarm bells going off in his head. Adding, “Well, let’s be honest, if we are speaking on track, the performance is not where we want it to be the first part of the season. The first three races for me were a disaster. But these three weeks I think it was good to reset, to look a little bit at the things where we can optimise the package that we have.”
He says of the restructuring underway at Ferrari he has total faith in the team and has been reassured by his new team boss about his vision for the future. With just over eighteen months left on his contract which will be one of the key moves next year for the 2025 driver market, with him linked to replace Lewis Hamilton should he retire.
Asked if he had had talks with Mercedes, Leclerc said: “No, not yet. Not for the moment. So for now, I am fully focused on the project I am at today: which is Ferrari. As I said, I fully trust and I’m confident for the future. Then we’ll see.”
Well the best way to shut down rumours is by delivering on track, in GP qualifying Leclerc took pole position. The Monacan was surprised but says that much of the ground work was laid last month in Melbourne where he says that he was confident of making progress following the break.
Here is what he said on Friday evening “One thing for sure is that I think we did a step forward in Australia; on my side I obviously couldn’t show it, but on Carlos’s side, I think the feeling was much better during the race.”
“Then how much better [we are in the race] we still need to see on Sunday. So I think on that, we still have some question marks, but I am absolutely sure that we did some steps in the right direction. I’m not sure whether it’s enough [to beat Red Bull] though.”
I think that given the advantage we saw for Red Bull in the opening races this is a step forwards, however we don’t know how that translates into races while Saturday may give us some answers we know Red Bull have come through the field quite easily and take the victory.
Vassuer described Leclerc’s pole for the sprint as a “milestone” in their difficult start to 2023. The Monacan took his third pole in a row in Baku and also started the race from pole, as he looked his first win of the year.
In Baku, things finally came together and it was rival Red Bull that faltered. Vasseur told Motorport.com, “I’m more than happy for everybody in the team because they’ve done very hard work over the last month. I think even under pressure we took some good decisions in terms of development and set-up, and it’s paying off.”
“I think it was also good in Melbourne, but we were not able to put everything together, and Charles did a mega job today.” Ferrari could be on the right path here however we know the team got the most out of practice and brought a more general upgrade compared to most other teams who brought a Baku spec car to this race.
However following the sprint Leclerc said the team were still lacking pace, he said and you could see during the sprint that he tried to hang with Perez to gain the DRS but ran out of tyre life and began to drop back.
He admitted that trying to beat the Red Bulls on Sunday was “going to be tricky for sure”.
Well as he predicted Red Bull were in a “another league” Leclerc lost second to Perez on lap six after the Mexican cut the gap early on and over took him with the aid of DRS at Turn One. As Perez and Verstappen pushed each other in the battle for the win, Leclerc fell 21.217s behind the lead duo come the chequered flag, although he pipped fourth-placed Fernando Alonso by 0.8s.
Leclerc said: “[Red Bull] are in another league once it comes to [the] race. Over 51 laps, it was just not possible. They have so much more pace than we do in race pace. I think they found something that we didn’t yet. That’s where our focus is at the moment, everybody’s working flat out to try and understand what we can do in the races, especially to just get more performance.”
However believes Ferrari are heading in the right direction having unlocked some pace over the spring break, but the question as Leclerc pointed out himself is how much are Red Bull not giving or are they giving it their all?
Oscar Piastri says he has already been “learning a lot” from his team-mate Lando Norris in his first few months at the team. McLaren signed the Australian to replace Daniel Ricciardo believing he would be closer to Norris than his fellow Aussie, and following the first three races Norris has admitted that Piastri is “keeping me on my toes.”
We knew before he made his debut that Piastri was a highly rated driver and we needed to give him a chance to get used to the sport, but the signs are looking good though the performance of the car maybe holding him back. Piastri said “I’ve definitely been learning a lot from Lando. Not just how to drive this car specifically, but also just the way we do debriefs and attention to detail and stuff like that.
“I think there’s always areas to try and improve. So it’s been good to have him as a benchmark, definitely. I think Lando is very much established himself in his career so far as a high quality driver, so even just working alongside him definitely I can see that.”
Both drivers we know are and came into the sport highly rated, the thing also helpful to both drivers and the helped the team define a development direction. Piastri’s early performances have earned praise from McLaren CEO Zak Brown, who thought “early indications are that Oscar will be on the same pace as Lando.”
Following the break the team are hoping that their major upgrade kickstarts their season, in Bahrain McLaren admitted they had missed a development avenue with their 2023 car and therefore would be starting the season behind where they had hoped to be.
Norris said “had missed a development avenue with their 2023 car and therefore would be starting the season behind where they had hoped to be.” McLaren needed a step forwards they looked in a difficult place
Team principal Otmar Szafnauer said going into this weekend three collision between its two drivers Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly in Melbourne hasn’t compromised the teams plan to bring upgrades for Baku. The contact at the final grid restart causing extensive damage to both cars, but the Alpine factory started immediately replenishing its stock of spares, taking advantage of the three-week break between races.
Szafnauer admits that there was a risk that the extra work might delay the Baku upgrade but in the end, the team was able to stick to its original schedule and make sufficient examples of the new floor parts for this weekend. But says its better it happened now than towards the end of the season.
He said, “A lot of points were begging, and had that incident happened, say with two races left and you’re in a fight for fourth or third or fifth, then it has a bigger impact. But with 20 races to go, three good things came out of that race. One, although aided by DRS, we were able to stay with Ferrari of [Carlos] Sainz, and even without DRS stay ahead of the Aston with Lance [Stroll] in it. So those were the positives from that race.”
“The other big positive was the fact that as soon as the accident happened, the entire operations here at Enstone got together.” Szafnauer insisted that the damage bill has not compromised the team’s 2023 budget as there is an allowance for such circumstances.
This four week break should have minimised the impact compared to if we went to Shanghai and that could have delayed some of the upgrades as the team were bringing. But we know the four week break gives more time for the
Following the teams difficult qualifying on Friday Szafnauer admitted to changes “on the fly” after failing to optimise a new floor package. However, he insisted that the Enstone outfit has no regrets about its decision to bring a significant upgrade for the A523 to a sprint weekend, despite knowing that there would be limited time to hone it.
Between FP and Qualifying mechanics hurriedly fitted a new power unit and gearbox to Gasly’s car after its late return from its parking spot on track. However Gasly crashed out in Q1 leaving him nineteenth for the race on Sunday.
Szafnauer admitted that the FP1 problems had made its life difficult. he told Motorsport.com, “Unfortunately we had a hydraulic leak, which started a fire on Pierre’s car, And then, when we brought Esteban in, we also noticed a potential problem on the rear of the gearbox, and elected to investigate it further before we let him go out again.”
Szafnauer said the lost track time was costly as the team was not able to complete its planned programme of homework with the new floor package across the two cars. He also accepted the team made its life difficult by bringing a new package to a sprint weekend while knowing that there would be limited practice running. But they still believe a smoother session could have allowed them to optimise the car.
Ferrari sporting director Laurent Mekies is to replace Franz Tost as Alpha Tauri’s team principal amid a major management reshuffle at the team. Tost who is one of the sports longest serving team principals and will step down at a later date. In addition, former FIA executive director Peter Bayer will join AlphaTauri later this season as its CEO, with his remit to oversee the strategic direction of the team across both its facilities in Italy and the UK.
Tost had been in charge of the team since 2006, having been appointed by Red Bull GmbH once it had completed its takeover of the Minardi team at the end of 2005. Their appears to be multiple factors behind this including the recent break down in trust between the Tost and the engineer.
He said, “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.”
Mekies before joining the FIA had been a race engineer and head of vehicle performance at Toro Rosso, having been with the team during its Minardi. He and the team will be hoping that they can achieve the medium term becoming a front runner in the longer term,
Bayer departed the FIA midway through 2022 having served as the secretary general for sport at the governing body before adding his F1 executive director role to the mix in 2021.
Technical director Jody Egginton says Nyck De Vries has delivered on the team’s expectations his experience in other cars would help the team steer development. De Vries was brought in for the 2023 F1 season alongside Yuki Tsunoda to replace the experienced Pierre Gasly.
While De Vires maybe a rookie in terms of F1 experience, he is a world champion in Formula E, and he was still expected to make a significant contribution to the car development thanks to his wealth of experience outside F1. Egginton pointed out that the Dutchman has similar ideas of what the car needs compared to team-mate Tsunoda.
During the sprint race both Alpha Tauri’s collided in the opening corners of the race on the exit of Turn Three leading to Yuki Tsunoda being the only retirement from the sprint.
Tsunoda suffered front wing damage in the collision and had radioed his AlphaTauri team venting frustration at De Vries and telling them he was going to pit – only to understeer into the Turn 14 wall before he had the opportunity. When he re-joined the race after making a pit stop for repairs.
Asked for his account of the crash, Tsunoda replied: “I just had contact with some driver and I lost my front wing and he just didn’t leave me any space. The front wing got damaged [and I] didn’t really recognise it and went flat-out [into Turn 14], which usually I do. I mean, I released a little bit the throttle but I couldn’t control it at all and I went into the wall. But it’s really frustrating.”
The bright side for Tsunoda was a strong performance in Friday afternoon’s qualifying for Sunday’s Grand Prix – with the Japanese driver vowing to give it his all from his P8 starting slot to try and add to his tally of one point from the first three races of 2023.
Fernando Alonso believes the big improvements made by the team this year means that it is one year ahead of schedule in the bid to become a championship contender. The team in the opening three races has made the biggest step forward with them scoring three podiums.
We know the team has this long term target of championships, and recently team principal Mike Krack already revealed Stroll had been pushing the team to achieve even more and not sit back after its surprisingly strong start.
But according to Alonso, his new outfit’s breakthrough over the winter has shortened its planned trajectory to the top by a year.
Alonso said “I was hoping 2023 to be a learning season and in 2024 maybe to be challenging Ferrari and Mercedes and things like tha. But we challenged them in Bahrain in race one so obviously now everything looks more optimistic.”
Alonso cautioned that the true test of Aston’s progress will follow once rival teams start bringing sizeable upgrades and the team’s in-season development rate will be put to the test, a process which will begin in Azerbaijan.
Alonso says the pace of his and team-mate Lance Stroll’s AMR23 means the team has been able to change its approach and it now has the luxury to have more breathing space to get through Q1 and Q2, which was a pipe dream in 2022 for Stroll and former partner Sebastian Vettel.
Alonso reckons Charles Leclerc “got lucky” with third following a “tricky” weekend for Aston Martin was only marginally slower than Ferrari ‘perfection’. I think looking back on the weekend the gap between Ferrari and Aston has narrowed the gap being eight tenths.
The Spaniard told Sky: “I think they got lucky. The hard tyre was less degradation than expected. We put the hard tyre on when the safety car came [for AlphaTauri driver Nyck de Vries clipping the Turn 5 inside wall]. It was 38 laps to the end. It held on quite OK and also [there] was some clouds at the end so track temperature was dropping.”
This whole weekend has been difficult for Aston with the DRS failures and compromise set up, Alonso said, reflected everything “working perfectly” within Aston Martin.
Facts and stats (F1.com)
- Perez is the first driver to win in Azerbaijan more than once. Perez’s fifth Baku podium maintains his record for the most by any driver here.
- Perez’s last five wins have now all come on street or temporary circuits (Baku 2021 and 2023, Monaco 2022, Singapore 2022 and Jeddah 2023).
- Verstappen’s 81st podium finish surpasses Ayrton Senna’s career total, on the day before the anniversary of Senna’s death in 1994. Verstappen was on the podium in Baku for only the second time in his career (he won the 2022 race).
- Leclerc nearly quadrupled his 2023 points haul taking twenty-two points in Baku
- George Russell finished in P8 for Mercedes and set the fastest lap of the race on the final lap. Russell scored as many points in the Grand Prix as he did in yesterday’s Sprint (five)
Race Pole Position
Grand Prix Podium
|1||Sergio Perez||MEX||Red Bull – Honda RBPT||01:31:42.436||25|
|2||Max Verstappen||NED||Red Bull – Honda RBPT||+00:02.137||18|
|1||Max Verstappen||93||Red Bull||180|
|2||Sergio Perez||87||Aston Martin – Mercedes||87|
|5||Carlos Sainz||34||McLaren – Mercedes||14|