Azerbaijan GP: Ferrari flattering to deceive, say pundits
Where are Mercedes making the difference in F1 2019 after Ferrari's hopes are again extinguished in Baku?
By James Galloway and Matt Morlidge in Baku
Last Updated: 29/04/19 8:41am
Ferrari are flattering to deceive in F1 2019 and are failing to match Mercedes' "perfect" execution of race weekends, say the Sky Sports F1 pundits.
A season in which Ferrari were expected to start with the fastest car after a strong winter testing programme has fallen into an early pattern, with Mercedes recording a sequence of four successive one-two race finishes - a new F1 record.
"Mercedes can do no wrong, Ferrari can do no right," said Paul Di Resta after the Azerbaijan GP when the Scuderia finished third and fifth.
"Ferrari have got a very good car when it's in a sweet spot. When it falls out of that, they can't get the job done."
Johnny Herbert agreed, saying: "It's the execution of Mercedes. They have been so perfect from the outset in Australia and continue to do it.
"We keep talking up the Ferrari challenge, especially at this track, and it isn't happening."
Baku, like the previous event in China, had been tipped to be a 'Ferrari track' owing to the circuits' respective long straights, yet Mercedes monopolised the front of the field on both occasions in qualifying and the race.
"We have to stop saying that Ferrari are going to be so fast at the next race," said Anthony Davidson.
What's going right for Mercedes and wrong for Ferrari?
Ferrari's advantage in the final two practice sessions in Baku - 0.7s in P2 and 1.2s in P3 - had been such that pole position appeared a near inevitability for them.
Yet a crash for hitherto front-runner Charles Leclerc and falling temperatures as part of an elongated qualifying session changed the picture and brought Mercedes into play.
"They are very good at proving they've got the pace when it doesn't count - that's the problem," suggested 1996 world champion Damon Hill.
"Mercedes are so mature now, they don't need to show what they can do. We spoke to Toto before qualifying and he was very pessimistic about their chances against the Ferrari, but they just know where they really stand and how to use the cards in their hand."
For their part, Mercedes are insistent that Ferrari do have a quick car and the W10 is far from the fastest at all times.
"It is that we see a strong Ferrari and then on Saturday... I still believe that Charles was the fastest man on track today but like in Bahrain, it didn't come together," said Mercedes boss Toto Wolff.
"You can say now, 'stop saying these things, it's the fourth one-two in a row', but it is still very much our mindset. We still believe there are so many things that we need to understand better and improve.
"We did some work for the race yesterday and we knew that we were very much compromising our qualifying in order to have a good racecar. But even today, at times Gasly and Verstappen were the quickest, then it was us again, at the beginning it was Charles who was flying on the mediums.
"What we did in the first races was to actually put all things together. The team didn't do any mistakes, the strategy calls were right, the drivers didn't put a foot wrong and that made us win the first four races. Then you look at the other side, and they had more problems."
Lewis Hamilton concurred, telling Sky F1: "Fortunately we are delivering on a very high percentage. Both Valtteri and I are delivering the laps, the team are pumping on all cylinders, they're not. If they start pumping on all cylinders and start delivering then we will have more of a fight."
And Sebastian Vettel believes it is the reading and execution of tyre performance in varying conditions which is making the difference between the two teams.
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"The second stint was a lot better and we were able to stick with them," said Vettel, who finished third and 11s back on Bottas. "We weren't really that much faster but not much slower either. For us it's much more of a conscious effort to get the tyres in the window and perform.
"I don't think they understand why they are in the window as much as we don't understand that we're not, it's something that we need to work on."
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