In Azerbaijan, Scuderia Ferrari confirmed the excellent qualifying potential highlighted in Monte Carlo. As anticipated ahead of the weekend, Baku and Monaco show strong similarities in the configuration of the corners, mainly slow and with a narrow radius of cornering. Thus, the main qualities of the SF21 emerged once again, particularly effective in slow turns thanks to its great capacity to generate load at low speeds, the good mechanical grip guaranteed by the new rear suspension and the excellent hybrid delivery mode during acceleration to maximize traction.
After competing in FP1 with a spoon-shaped rear wing, the effectiveness in slow corners made it possible to further unload the set-up by resorting to a lower load rear wing, which curbed the straight-line shortcomings of the thermal engine. The load reduction had led to the onset of graining in the race pace simulation in FP2, which was subsequently reduced thanks to the 1 psi increase in the minimum pressures of the Pirelli tyres, a change that prompted the Maranello technicians to continue the weekend with the ‘wing more discharged’. The set-up chosen thus contributed to taking pole position, but made it more difficult for the Maranello team in the race.
Since the beginning of the season, the SF21 has appeared as a car particularly aggressive with the rear tires, but the low degradation shown on all the cars in Baku suggests that other factors may actually contribute to Ferrari’s suffering on race pace. The SF21 emerges as a car that is more sensitive to weight gain with a full tank of fuel, an element underlined by the improvement in performance as the tank gradually gets lighter. Considering that the gap from direct rivals in the second stint has progressively shortened with the passing of the laps, the limits of Ferrari on the race pace do not therefore seem to originate exclusively in the management of the tires, whose difficulties however emerged in the first stint on the soft compound.
Finally, in Maranello they will think about the strategy choices of the pitwall taken in the race. The Ferrari technicians tried to implement an undercut to defend themselves from Alpha Tauri, a strategy driven by the loss of performance of the Monegasque’s soft tyres, but which did not pay off in Baku, just like in Monaco. Similar to what happened to Hamilton on the streets of Monte Carlo, the early stop exposed Charles Leclerc to Pierre Gasly’s overcut, which in the end led to Charles losing the third step of the podium.