Racing Point get Double Points Finish in Azerbaijan
Monday, 29 April 2019 | Ravenol Marketing
Our F1 Technical Partners SportPesa Racing Point have shot up to 5th in the Constructors Championship after a double points finish in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
After an incident filled qualifying, with the first red flagged session meaning Lance narrowly missed out on getting into Q2, finally the team got their break when Checo made it into Q3 and qualified in P5, starting from the 3rd row on the grid. On race day, a couple of other drivers had to start from the pitlane, so Lance started from P13.
Both drivers got a great start. Lance made up a couple of places into 11th, behind the luckless Charles Leclerc who had also crashed his Ferrari out of qualifying. Towards the front of the grid, Checo managed to get past Max Verstappen, and with Lando Norris coming up hard behind the Red Bull in his McLaren, Checo was able to pull away.
A few laps later, Lance caught up to and overtook Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo, meaning both Racing Points were running in the points positions! But Ricciardo was keen to take the place back and by now DRS had been enabled. Lance just managed to stay ahead, the Mercedes engine power coming into its own down the straights. Further up it was a similar story for Checo, just about managing to keep Verstappen behind him by the skin of his teeth by making his Pink Panther as wide as possible. However, it wasn’t to last and a couple of laps later, Verstappen finally managed to squeeze past under DRS. By this time, Leclerc had also caught up and he too stormed past the Racing Point car, leaving Checo down in 6th.
It was turning into a better race for Lance though, screaming past Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso and up into 9th. He then moved up to 8th when Norris took an early pit stop, but soon had Pierre Gasly for company, who had started from the pit lane due to missing a weighbridge check. Gasly got past under DRS, and it was back down to 9th for Lance.
The team brought Checo in on Lap 11 for his pitstop, and decided to double stack the cars and bring in Lance too. The mechanics did a good job on both cars, but unfortunately for Lance, Ricciardo followed him into the pits and his garage was closer to the pit entry, meaning he was back out before Lance. The mechanics had to keep Lance in for a few more seconds whilst Ricciardo got past to avoid an unsafe release, and he slipped down to 18th.
A few more early stoppers came in to go onto the Medium tyre, which was working well for Leclerc out in front. Once the two Mercedes of race leader Valtteri Bottas and team mate Lewis Hamilton had come in for their stops, Leclerc was released and set the fastest lap of the race. Further back, Romain Grosjean, who still hadn’t stopped, was a sitting duck for Checo on ageing Soft tyres and the Mexican moved up into 7th. Lance was also having a good run of overtaking, making it past Willams’ George Russel and the two Alfa Romeos of Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen to move up into 14th.
By now it was halfway through the race and Grosjean’s tyres were shot. He span off into the runoff area, whilst behind him his team mate Kevin Magnusson was overtaken by Lance, who effectively gained two places up to 12th, tantalisingly close to the points places. Then the narrow streets and tight corners of the Baku Street Circuit took their first victims – Ricciardo locked up overtaking Kvyat and the pair were forced into the run off area at Turn 3. They were unscathed, until Ricciardo reversed to go back onto the track without checking his mirrors and went straight into the Toro Rosso. Lance swooped past the stricken pair into 10th place and back into the points. Both drivers did make it back out onto the track, but later were forced to retire due to damage.
Out in front, temporary race leader Leclerc was now being challenged by the Mercedes. Ferrari didn’t want to bring him in too early, considering how quickly the Soft tyres had lost pace earlier. It was also backing the Mercedes into Sebastien Vettel, who was not showing the same pace as his young his team mate. Soon Leclerc had no pace left to hold off the Silver Arrows and Bottas was back in the lead of the race, followed by Hamilton, and the pair took turns to go for fastest laps. To add insult to injury, Leclerc then had to pull over to let Vettel through before his team finally pitted him. Even then they missed the window and Leclerc ended up coming back out behind Pierre Gasly, who still hadn’t pitted, and lost a lot of time trying to get past.
Further back, Checo had two McLarens for company and was struggling to stay ahead as Norris moved into DRS range. Then disaster for Gasly, whose upgraded Honda power unit failed. He limped on into a run off area, but there was still a Virtual Safety Car called whilst the marshals collected the car. Although it only lasted a couple of laps, it was enough for the tyres to cool down. Checo did well to maintain their temperature and got a decent restart, quickly putting a healthy distance between his Racing Point and Norris’s McLaren.
With the race in its closing stages, Lance was up to 9th following Gasly’s retirement and Checo was up to 6th with a comfortable gap to the McLarens. The midfield was in a stalemate, with the only action being towards the front where Hamilton was making an attempt to take the lead off team mate Bottas, who was so cruelly denied the win here the previous year due to a late puncture. This year would be different though – Hamilton went wide and lost some time, allowing Bottas out of danger and with a comfortable gap to finish the race in the lead. Behind them, Ferrari had brought Leclerc in again for fresh tyres and a fastest lap attempt, which he managed on the last lap.
So a double points finish for the Pink Panthers in Azerbaijan and 10 points to add to their Constructors Championship hopes, where they are now in 5th place, just one point behind McLaren in the race to be the best of the rest.