Hakkinen: Forte Mercedes – teamworkMay 1, 2019
Two-time world champion Mika Hakkinen in his column for Unibet summed up the Grand Prix of Azerbaijan and talked about the prospects of the teams at the first European stage of the season in Barcelona …
Mika Hakkinen: “On Sunday I could not be happier for Valtteri Bottas. Having won the Grand Prix of Azerbaijan, he not only took revenge for last year’s puncture, which deprived him of his victory in Baku, but also returned the lead in the individual competition.
After four races at Mercedes four victorious doubles – this is the best start of the season for teams in the history of Formula 1. From the side it seems that the victories were easy, but Mercedes every day works hard at Mercedes, and the stage in Azerbaijan was no exception. On the highway in Baku there are two long fast sectors and a winding part in the middle of the circle. On direct Ferrari cars were very fast. In training it seemed that Charles Leclair would dominate the whole weekend.
I have always said that for success in Formula 1, you need to pay special attention to detail. In Baku, this included monitoring the temperature of the track during qualification and the most efficient use of tires in such conditions. Because of the accident of Robert Kubica in the first part of the qualification there was a pause – and the track gradually cooled down.
LeClaire left for a try on a tighter Medium lineup, while the rest of the teams used Soft tires. Charles blocked the wheels and crashed Ferrari in the eighth turn – the narrowest corner of Formula 1. A small mistake had big consequences for Charles and Ferrari.
I have already said that one of the strengths of Valtteri and Lewis Hamilton is teamwork. In qualifying in Baku, it was important to use the advantages of a slip stream from another car on a long straight line at the end of the circle. This is necessary in order to increase your speed.
In qualifying, Valtteri drove onto the track at the perfect moment to use a slip stream behind McLaren Lando Norris, and Lewis used a slip stream behind the Valtteri car. Bottas better warmed the tires and was faster in the first part of the circle, which helped him to win the eighth pole position in a career in Formula 1.
Teamwork continued in the race – Mercedes drivers side by side drove the first two turns, but left each other enough space and did not collide. After that, Valtteri drove a fantastic first lap – at the end of his advantage over Lewis was two seconds.
This is one of the best performances of the Valtteri, which I have ever seen – he controlled the race from the first round. A few laps to the finish line engineer told Lewis that he could attack in full force, and Hamilton reduced the backlog, but Valtteri was able to respond. It was his race, no one could “steal” his victory.
Now he leads the championship with a one-point advantage earned for the best lap in Melbourne. He knows, to beat Lewis Hamilton, every point matters, and it is this approach that he adheres to – he wins when the opportunity arises, and earns maximum points in the rest of the time.
At the moment, the fight for the title is between two Mercedes racers. Ferrari has a very fast car, but it is important not to get into accidents and solve problems with tire temperatures, otherwise it is very difficult to fight one machine against two very competitive Mercedes riders.
I expect that the next stage in Spain in Ferrari will make every effort to return to the fight. They need it. Last year, to this stage of the season, Sebastian Vettel had two victories, so the start of this championship was difficult for the Italian team.
I am quite sure that they will be able to impose the fight Mercedes. Charles LeClair constantly learns and shows how fast he is. Sebastian also reacts to this, and if the Ferrari will keep under the control of their riders, they will be able to compete with Mercedes for the victory.
I expect Red Bull riders to be competitive in Barcelona. It is also interesting that Max Verstappen is just one point inferior to Vettel in the individual competition. The young Dutchman is growing up, and thanks to the innovations that were presented to Honda at last week, Verstappen and his partner Pierre Gusley must increasingly force the fight on Mercedes and Ferrari.
Finally, it is worth noting that all the teams know the track in Barcelona very well thanks to the pre-season tests. I expect that behind the Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull will be a very tough battle between McLaren, Renault, Haas, Racing Point, Toro Rosso and Alfa Romeo. I listed all the teams, except for Williams – it is a pity that their car loses four seconds per lap. It’s unbelievable how fortune turned away from the team that once gave Valtteri the opportunity to declare themselves in Formula 1. ”
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