After the third race of the season, Mercedes already have a good lead over Ferrari. The teams head to Azerbaijan this weekend with Ferrari looking to close the gap.
Drivers – 68 – Lewis Hamilton 62 – Valtteri Bottas 39 – Max Verstappen 37 – Sebastian Vettel 36 – Charles Leclerc
Constructors – 130 – Mercedes 73 – Ferrari 52 – Red Bull
Grid Penalties are Back
Alfa Romeo probably won’t win a race this season, but they have come first in terms of grid penalties. Antonio Giovinazzi has received a ten-place grid penalty after a new control electronics box was fitted to his car. That’s the third change in four races and only two are permitted before the grid penalties start being applied.
First Practice Cancelled
The weekend didn’t start well as the first practice session was cancelled. George Russell’s Williams had its floor smashed after his car caught the edge of a loose manhole cover. The chassis needed to be changed and that meant the Williams won’t be able to run again until final practice on Saturday.
The blame for the loosening of the manhole seems to have been directed towards the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc. At that point only the Ferrari’s had set lap times. That was important though as the Italian team have a major aerodynamic upgrade for this weekend.
The bizarre start to the weekend continued as the truck given the job of taking Russell’s car back to the pits crashed into a bridge and leaked hydraulic fluid onto the Williams car. Lewis Hamilton used the additional time to catch up on ‘Game of Thrones.’
Charles Leclerc avoided the manholes and finished fastest in an eventful second practice session. He finished 0.324 seconds ahead of Sebastian Vettel for a Ferrari 1-2, followed by Lewis Hamilton (now up to date with the goings on at Winterfell) in third place. His Mercedes was 0.669 seconds behind Leclerc. He wasn’t too happy with Kevin Magnussen who swerved towards him and then to make it worse gesticulated at the British driver.
Fourth went to Max Verstappen who was 0.252 seconds behind Hamilton. Both Red Bull and Toro Rosso have seen their Honda engines receive an upgrade for this race. A “quality control issue” is the reason given for the upgrade.
Valtteri Bottas was fifth fastest but 1.13 seconds off the pace. He was ahead of Daniil Kvyat in sixth, more about him in a moment. The McLaren of Carlos Sainz was seventh, 0.006 seconds behind the upgraded Toro Rosso. Alexander Albon finished eighth-fastest in the other Toro Rosso with Lando Norris tenth.
Pierre Gasly was ninth in the other Red Bull but half a second behind Verstappen. It was a poor session for him as he ended up being penalised for failing to stop at the weigh bridge. As a result of that, he’ll be starting the race in the pit lane.
The red-flag came out twice during the session. Lance Stroll crashed his Racing Point at Turn Two. That took off the front-left corner of his car. Also, in trouble was Daniil Kvyat who was sixth-fastest when having problems at Turn Seven damaging the left-hand side of the Toro Rosso.
Speaking after the second practice session, Lewis Hamilton said “The Ferrari’s are clearly very quick, and it looks like they’re quite a bit ahead of us.” He’s not confident of Mercedes making up 0.7 seconds overnight.
Not exactly a quiet Friday then but one that was promising for Ferrari. They need to get a win this weekend to close the already wide gap that Mercedes have. Their upgrade seems to have added some more pace, so it’ll be an interesting qualifying session tomorrow. I’ll be back tomorrow with news of the final practice session and qualifying, till then enjoy your racing.