Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Ferrari SF-23.
30.04.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 4, Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Baku Street Circuit, Azerbaijan, Race Day.
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Formula 1 has switched on the engines one more after a break of almost a month with a new format for the weekend made up of two qualifying sessions and just as many races.

I honestly find it hard to understand this format. After only an hour of free practice the cars ended up in the parc fermé without the possibility of making changes, except with a penalty. It is a very demanding format, especially when run on a street circuit such as Baku where it takes little to compromise the whole weekend or to force the team to make a superhuman effort. With this setting this format did not excite me and it must certainly be revised.

On the grand prix front, it was an exciting race, especially the final laps with Perez, Verstappen, Leclerc and Alonso giving life to a succession of fast laps. In the end George Russell took it out with the help of a final pitstop and the red tyres.

Beyond this, we saw a crazy Red Bull. Both Perez and Verstappen were incredible with a series of fast laps. In the end the Mexican got the upper hand, confirming his excellent feeling with the city tracks.

However, the month-long break was good for Ferrari. Without having made major changes- visually speaking- it has grown, above all in the management of the tyres, as we saw at the end with a low fuel load and with hard compounds, the great weak spot. Leclerc managed to keep pace with Red Bull, while staying in the tussle for the extra point for the fastest lap. This is certainly a positive aspect. We are still talking of three tenths of a second per lap in favour of Red Bull but it is a good step forward compared to the recent rounds. Fernando Alonso showed he is the same fighter, even if for the first time since the start of the season he failed to make the podium.

With the first European race in Imola (May 19-21), I expect even smaller gaps and, Ferrari and Aston Martin, could begin to interfere with Red Bull’s schedule. Amongst other things, it will be the stage of another change of regulations seeing that in qualifying the drivers will face Q1 with the hard compounds, Q2 with the mediums and Q3 with the softs. We hope that this experiment will entertain us. I am sure that we will follow the first European grand prix with a lot of motivation and I look forward to seeing many of you at the Imola Circuit.

Gian Carlo Minardi