Leclerc was more surprised by Aston Martin than Gasly
The Monegasque and the French enjoyed their brief battle, but Aston Martin left the Ferrari driver impressed
Ferrari’s Leclerc started F1 Azerbaijan GP from pole, after a great first lap in Q3. The red flag triggered by Yuki Tsunoda’s crash, and the subsequent Carlos Sainz’s, might have helped him to keep the position – which surprised him and everyone else.
But the pace that Ferrari showed during the qualifying made a lot of people believe that the Monegasque could, at least, achieve a podium in Baku. They ended up suffering on the long main straight, and Leclerc was also unlucky in wasting time when he swerved to the left of a kerb while avoiding a tree branch.
He lost positions on Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, and Sergio Perez, to drop to fourth, but in a respectable position. Ferrari called him in the pits to try an undercut, but he found himself P6, behind Pierre Gasly and a late-stopping, Lance Stroll.
Leclerc then gained P5 when Stroll retired but ended up losing it over Sebastian Vettel, who passed him in a solid move. It was the pace of the two Aston Martin was what surprised him the most, when he expected bigger fight against AlphaTauri, McLaren and Alpine.
“It is more or less the race we expected, with two surprises that is the two Aston Martins, that we did not expect to be so quick”, said Leclerc to TV media. “To be honest, Seb has done an incredible job, I am happy to see him on the podium already with Aston Martin.”
Leclerc then continued to discuss his fight against close friend Gasly. “It was same as Seb for Pierre, it was a hard fight at the end,” he said. “I couldn’t do much. But apart from that, the beginning of the race for us was as expected, we expected the Mercedes and Red Bull to be quicker than us and overtake us in the first stint, which happened.
“Then I tried to do the best job possible, I had a big lock-up at the re-start of the first safety car, and that was the most difficult part. I thought I wouldn’t arrive to the end and then we had the red flag. I thought about the podium but we didn’t make it.”
From Gasly’s side, the Frenchman was passed by Leclerc on the main straight at the re-start of the race, but Gasly took the slipstream and regained the position at Turn 1, which was a delight for the AlphaTauri racer, as he was facing some engine issues.
“We even managed to go and get that P3 with our elbows out with Charles in that last few laps”, said Gasly. “I must say I really enjoyed the battle. It was intense racing, really hard racing but fair racing as well. I like it. I was really late braking and with Charles the same. I really wanted that podium.
“I took some big risks but it was clearly worth it and I’m super-happy.” It was a great day for the Honda powered teams, Red Bull and AlphaTauri, despite Verstappen’s accident, with Perez and Gasly on the podium, while Yuki Tsunoda was seventh. For Ferrari, though, in their fight against McLaren, they managed to crucially score more.
[Note: This story was written on FormulaRapida.net]