We are often spoiled with exciting races in Baku but all the factors that can contribute to that were neutralised yesterday. The Azerbaijan GP was disappointing in terms of entertainment, partly due to the use of the virtual safety car. Twice!
In the case of Magnussen, in particular, I did not understand it: his car was half behind the guardrail in front of a medical car. That should never happen in my opinion. But Ferrari, that other factor necessary for excitement, didn’t cooperate either. The double retirement meant a free passage for Red Bull. Ferrari has the fastest car, but is not taking advantage of it enough. Mistakes are being made by the drivers, strategically things are not going smoothly and there is a lot of mechanical trouble.
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Leclerc bears very little blame for all this, in my opinion. Apart from the mistake in Imola, he is driving well. It would only be logical if the last three races have caused him frustration. That’s not something I approve of though, because you win and lose together and as a driver you should never distance yourself from the team. But Ferrari does have a problem. In Baku, three cars retired due to problems with a Ferrari engine. Sainz’s problem was the hydraulics, but this was nevertheless dangerous because the rear brakes stopped working. All in all very disappointing, but the car remains lightning fast and is good to drive. The championship still has a long way to run, and it could turn around in an instant.
I expect Red Bull will still lose points – to Mercedes, for example. There’s still everything to play for. Red Bull was almost written off in Australia and look where they are now. They currently have the strongest pair of drivers, although Pérez was less happy with his tyre management in Baku. Something he is normally good at. Verstappen’s advantage is that he is already the world champion, and the team loves him for that. He knows what it takes, never gives up and – like Pérez – makes few mistakes.
And look at Russell: he’s just behind Leclerc with a car that’s one second slower! Imagine Mercedes finds something… I have been very impressed with how Russell has been maximising his opportunities. Hamilton is having a hard time, also with his back problems. That is a serious matter: damaged vertebrae can cause you problems for months if not years. In the 90s we also had this problem because we were so low to the ground. I remember clearly that I once hit a bump in Argentina and saw stars. It felt like an electric shock went right through my body.
I understand Russell and Wolff’s concerns but I have the solution for Mercedes: raise the car’s ride height. Nobody is forcing them to drive so low, perhaps the car is sensitive to this due to minimal sidepods. But Wolff’s call for a change of rules is, in my opinion, nothing more than the usual political game in Formula 1. Mercedes will do everything they can to get close to Red Bull and Ferrari, just as they have wanted to change as little as possible in recent years.
Coming up next is Montreal, my home race. It’s completely sold out, they’ve even added extra stands. But the omens for the Canadian drivers are not good. Latifi is having a really hard time, it sometimes seems like he’s had enough. The same with Stroll, and he also had the bad luck of a DNF. Just like in the rest of the world, F1 is hugely popular in Canada, it’s getting crazy. For Canada, I just hope that things will start turning around for Latifi and Stroll.