‘No holy cows’: Wolff
The sight of a seven-time world champion in the prime of his life wincing from back pain and grabbing onto a helping elbow as he gingerly got out of his car at the end of Sunday’s race will live long in the memory. Lewis Hamilton had warned Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff before lights out that there was a danger his car’s bouncing, which returned with a vengeance on the streets of Baku, might force him into an early retirement. But drawing on reserves of the professionalism and drive and obstinacy he’s called on to overcome any adversity blocking his journey through Formula One he stuck it out to the bitter end. His reward was fourth behind teammate George Russell and the dominant Red Bull duo. With a dozen more points in the bank he approaches another tricky weekend of street fighting in Montreal with a grand total of 62 to leave him sixth in the Max Verstappen-led drivers’ table, with his teammate on 99 in fourth. Wolff apologised to Hamilton over the team radio. “This is a bit of a box to drive. And sorry for the back problems.” Despite Russell last week urging the FIA to rethink the radical new designs for the cars that some teams have done better with than others it’s clear F1’s so-called ‘porpoising’ generation isn’t going anywhere fast, a bit like the car Hamilton had so much trouble extricating himself from. “There are no holy cows, everything is being looked at and we’ve got a great team trying to solve our issues,” said Wolff.
Leclerc’s season unravels
Hamilton and Mercedes can at least take comfort from one of the curious aspects of a season now a third of the way through – that his tally of 34 points from the last five races since Australia in a struggling machine is only four fewer than Charles Leclerc has managed at the wheel of a far superior Ferrari. Leclerc was looking every inch world champion material after Australia. But he has endured a catastrophic time of it since, especially taking into account in four of the last five races he was on pole. With Carlos Sainz also limping out Ferrari once again are putting their heads together to find out what went wrong.
Sweet and sour for AlphaTauri
Another member of the grid left Baku in a far happier frame of mind. Pierre Gasly was celebrating an “incredible” fifth for his Alpha Tauri team’s best result of the season after “a nice little battle with Lewis”. AlphaTauri left ‘the Land of Fire’ with a bitter-sweet taste though after Yuki Tsunoda was deprived of what looked a likely sixth place finish when he was forced into an unscheduled pitstop after his rear DRS mechanism broke. “For Yuki the mechanical damage meant we were forced to stop and repair the issue, losing many positions,” said the team’s performance head Guillaume Dezoteux. “We apologise to him, he did a fantastic job this weekend.” Tsunoda’s mechanics came up with a novel and inexpensive solution to repairing his multi-million pound car – they reached for a roll of sellotape and stuck the bits together – not hopefully a sign that they are scraping the coffers for coins after budgets were capped this season for all the teams at 140 million dollars.