Ferrari's chief strategist has explained the calls made by the Scuderia during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, revealing his confidence that Charles Leclerc was set for victory in Baku. Leclerc was leading the race on Lap 20, when a Ferrari power unit failure halted his charge - the second time in three races he's retired from the lead of a Grand Prix. Leclerc has taken the lead thanks to a bold call to pit under Virtual Safety Car conditions on Lap 10, which was deployed after Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz retired with a hydraulic failure. Leclerc was set for a very long second stint on the Hard tyres, and would have had to contend with the pursuing Red Bulls behind him on considerably fresher tyres desperately trying to close the 10+ second gap and then overtake. His retirement meant the question of whether he could have done it went unanswered.
Rueda explains Ferrari's thinking
"Charles was fighting for the lead with Perez, and he had Verstappen on his gearbox," Inaki Rueda explained after the race. "Verstappen got within DRS range of Charles, and this is something we've been working on lately. With such small margins with Red Bull, we find ourselves winning or losing games with DRS overtakes. "For Baku, we brought a different rear wing, and we worked on our strategy. Crucially, when Sainz stopped, we realised that it was very likely going to be a Virtual Safety Car period, and we got ready. "We got ready with Charles to pit in case race direction thought they had to deploy the VSC. This was crucial for our race because a pitstop under VSC costs roughly 10 seconds less than a normal pitstop. "Because of this, Charles was able to do his only pitstop of the race with much less penalty than both Red Bulls. So after the VSC period, Charles set off to go to the end on the Hard tyre. "Red Bull tried to go as long as possible on the Medium tyre, but they were dropping a lot. The Medium tyre had a lot of degradation, and Perez lost a lot of time trying to go longer and longer to offset himself to Charles. Unfortunately, after 11 laps on the Hard tyre, Charles suffered a power unit failure and this cut our race short. "Our simulations indicate that, had there not been another VSC period, Charles would have won the race comfortably against Verstappen."
Rueda vows Ferrari fightback
The latest blow to Ferrari's championship has seen them slip to 80 points behind Red Bull in the Constructors' Championship, meaning an increasingly difficult task lies in wait for the Scuderia as F1 heads to Canada for Round 9 this weekend. Rueda said that Ferrari are holding on to the positives from the Azerbaijan event. "We come back from Baku disappointed from not having scored the number of points we should have," he said. "But we bring some positives. We have a very strong performing car in qualifying and in the race - we're capable of fighting in every possible scenario. "Our reliability is a weak point. We're aware of this and we will address this in the future. Our ambitions are still high and our aim hasn't changed."