Sebastian Vettel says setting up the car for the combination of slow corners and the long straights of the Baku City Circuit will not be easy.
The Scuderia Ferrari driver heads into Azerbaijan on the back of a podium finish from the previous round in Shanghai, China. The trip to the rostrum was his first of the season, but it came without controversy after another episode of Ferrari’s team orders came into light.
Vettel felt he was faster than team-mate Charles Leclerc, who jumped ahead of him at the start of the race. The team gave the call to Leclerc to allow Vettel through and chase down the Mercedes AMG Petronas cars up front. The German failed to do so but remained ahead of Leclerc, who felt the switch back to their previous positions needed to happen. The cars stayed as they were and Vettel ended the race in third whilst Leclerc lost out in fifth.
The four-time world champion lies in fourth place in the drivers’ standings with 37 points, one point ahead of team-mate Leclerc with one podium appearance. This time last year heading into Baku, Vettel was leading away in the championship with 54 points and two wins to his name.
The German for the last three years performed strongly throughout the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, but has only stepped onto the podium once back at its inaugural race in 2016 where he finished second.
During the 2017 race, Vettel was in contention for the race win until he made contact with then race leader Lewis Hamilton whilst behind the safety car. The Ferrari driver was handed a stop-go penalty for the incident and lost the chance to win the race when Hamilton’s head rest became loose and was force to make a pit stop.
Last year, Vettel once again lost an easy win when he led majority of the race before a late safety car allowed Valtteri Bottas in front. In the restart, Vettel locked up heavily going into Turn 1 as he made a move for the lead. He lost several places as a result and ended the race in fourth place.
Ahead of this year’s race, Vettel has noted the challenge of setting a car up around the twisty streets of the Azerbaijan capital, saying it is ‘not an easy compromise’ over deciding the right wing levels for the combination of slow corners and the long 2.2 kilometre back straight.
“This six kilometre circuit has the longest straight on the calendar, 2.2 kilometres, where we reach 360 kph before the very heavy braking for the first slow left hand turn,” said Vettel.
“The steep climb past the old city walls is only seven metres wide, which feels very tight in a Formula One car – you feel like you are threading a needle. There isn´t enough space for two cars here so you have to agree on the right of way between you!
“A big challenge at Baku is to find the right wing level to get good grip for the slow corners but also to be fast enough on the straights where we spend a lot of time at full throttle. It’s not an easy compromise.”