Scuderia Ferrari plan to bounce back after their disappointing start of the 2019 Formula 1 season with the first round of updates brought to the Azerbaijan Grand Prix as confirmed by Ferrari team principal, Mattia Binotto.
The Italian team are playing catch up to rivals Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport after the Silver Arrows have accomplished three consecutive one-two finishes in the opening three rounds. Mercedes become the first team in F1 since Williams in 1992 to record this record breaking start.
Ferrari have shown potential with the SF90 by its strong straight line speed, and being dominant at the Bahrain Grand Prix with both cars starting on the front row with Charles Leclerc achieving his first pole position. They failed to turn pole into a win after Leclerc’s engine encountered an injection issue, resulting in him losing power.
But the team and their two drivers have made headlines recently due to the early use of team orders, which were in place during the early laps of the Chinese Grand Prix. Leclerc was given the call by the team to allow Vettel through, only to find the German wasn’t able to catch the Mercedes cars and hindered Leclerc’s race and strategy. The four-time champion ended the race in third whilst Leclerc was down in fifth.
Ferrari boss Binotto commented after Shanghai that every race sees a turn in the tide over who has the best car between his Ferrari team and Mercedes, and he expects his team to be battling at the front once again around the streets of Baku.
“Coming off the back of three races that definitely didn’t go the way we wanted, this GP is another important moment for us,” said Binotto.
“We have prepared for it very well, analysing all the data we have acquired up until now, looking at areas where we can improve and working on adapting the car’s set-up and the power unit management to the characteristics of the track.
“In fact, Baku features a very long straight, which places special demands on the engine, both the internal combustion part as well as the hybrid elements. It’s relatively easy to overtake on this track, partly due to the DRS, especially this year as it has a greater effect than in the past.
“The track surface is very smooth, which means tyre wear is generally low, but as the tyres therefore generate less energy, it can be difficult to get them in the right working temperature range.”
The last two years in Azerbaijan presented a great opportunity for Ferrari to take the top step of the podium, but the team have only managed a second place as their best result in the three years coming to the Baku City Circuit.
In 2017, Vettel famously made contact into the side of Lewis Hamilton whilst behind the safety car. Vettel was handed a stop-go penalty as a result and lost the chance to win the race when Hamilton’s head rest was loose and had to make an emergency pit stop.
Last year, Vettel had another great opportunity to win as he led majority of the race until a late safety car, caused by the two Red Bull’s allowed Valtteri Bottas into the lead of the race as he made his late stop. The German attempted to pass for the lead during the restart, only to lock up heavily and lose several places in the process at Turn 1.
Binotto has noted of the high possibility of a safety car and the importance it brings when considering race strategy. The Italian also confirms the team are bringing their first updates to the car as they aim to continue their chase to Mercedes.
“We know from past experience that there’s a high probability of the Safety Car appearing on track in Baku and therefore it’s an important aspect to consider when looking at the race strategy.
“We are bringing a few updates to Baku, as the first step in the development of the SF90.”