The weekend looked like it could be Lewis Hamilton’s if you were watching Friday’s practice session but it all went pear-shaped by Saturday and the weekend came to his teammate Nico Rosberg who clinically drove to pole position and converted that to a comprehensive win on Sunday in the European Grand Prix from Baku Azerbaijan.
Nico Rosberg has extended his championship lead to 24 points with a win on Sunday and was joined on the podium by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in second and Sergio Perez in third who equaled fellow Mexican Pedro Rodriguez for podium finishes.
Overall the hand-wringing over the safety of the street circuit that saw average lap speeds of 130mph in the streets of Baku was thankfully not an issue and the slow and high speed circuit was a real challenge and the drivers seemed to have fun with it even if it was a bit of a processional race.
A win for Nico Rosberg who was watching his championship lead drain away with a resurgent Lewis Hamilton. Nico’s car had the same issue that Lewis Hamilton’s had with an engine setting but per team boss Niki Lauda, Nico recognized it quickly and corrected the situation. Nico needed to reclaim his progress and increase his points lead and that’s what he did if only due to Lewis’s difficulties from Saturday onward.
A big win for Force India’s Sergio Perez who had a terrific race to a podium finish while his teammate, Nico Hulkenberg, languished in 9th. Perez put a pass on Kimi Raikkonen on the final lap to take the podium. To be fair to Hulkenberg, he had a one-stop strategy and his tires were seriously worn.
Sauber’s Felipe Nasr had a sort of win with a 12th place finish reversing his role as being behind his teammate Marcus Ericsson and giving the team a decent result.
It may not be quite a win but in McLaren’s season, it’s close enough. Jenson Button finished 11th while his teammate, Fernando Alonso retired. Button said he enjoyed the race and gave everything to get from 19th to 11th. To beat Williams is a big ask for the team and that’s where they are in pace. They took a lot of downforce off the car and the Prime tire worked well for them. For Alonso, he suffered a gearbox issue and had to stop the car so as not to damage the power unit.
Lewis Hamilton had an engine setting issue and said he had no idea what setting needed to be changed and according to Hamilton, it fixed itself. Sky Sports were bemoaning the radio ban and Lewis said it’s a real shame he couldn’t just race and there were 100 possible positions to change. They are the same for every driver including Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen who had an issue and the team couldn’t tell him what to do. According to Toto Wolff they had a problem on both cars and Lewis’s came first, Nico’s a little later. It caused confusion and took a 12 laps for Lewis to reset. Toto says that you either reduce the complexity of the spec or look at the radio rules.
While Red Bull typically isn’t quite as competitive on high-speed circuits, they had a terrific qualifying session from Daniel Ricciardo and he needed it if he was going to make it a good race. At first blush, the early pit stop strategy by the team may not have been the best call as Ricciardo sunk to 7th having started second and teammate Max Verstappen finished 8th. Ricciardo said they simply had rear tire issues and his wheels were spinning in fourth gear. They weren’t expecting to suffer from tire issues so they were forced to a 2-stop strategy. They had better pace on the mediums but clearly the soft and super soft were the better compounds, the team just couldn’t make them work.
Finishing 4th is ok but Kimi Raikkonen’s crossing on the pit lane entry line garnered a 5-second penalty and then had back marker issues and eventually was passed by Sergio Perez for the final podium finish denying Ferrari a 2/3 finish. Kimi had a different strategy than his teammate Sebastian Vettel but losing a podium wasn’t good.
Toro Rosso had a dual DNF with suspension issues and both Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat both ended the race early. A bad day in the office for the team.
Williams F1 suffered a 6th and 10th place finish for Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa respectively. The car was predicted to be quicker than it was and had no speed in the corners with a lack of grip. Rob Smedley said it was steady race and the race didn’t really deliver the excitement people were expecting. The team is in need of more car pace and the cars were struggling with graining.
Not a great day for Haas F1’s Esteban Gutierrez who had a ragged start with a damaged front wing and ended up 17th four spaces behind his teammate Romain Grosjean who also struggled
A WTH for the un-ending wave of Sky Sports dog-whistling the draconian nature of the radio ban which has been in place since Australia but after Lewis Hamilton’s issue for 12 laps, the narrative was all about the radio ban and how silly it is. It’s the same for everyone but Fernando Alonso says it’s like giving the drivers a space ship and then denying them the ability to radio ground control.
It wasn’t long ago, Spain to be exact, that the wave of commentary via fans was about how Nico Rosberg was a dope for having his car in the wrong setting and what a daft lad he was. Now, Lewis has an engine setting issue (so did Nico but he fixed it quickly) and the world is now questioning the viability of the radio ban. No one was calling for a lift of the radio ban on Nico’s behalf in Spain and even here, Nico managed to remedy it quickly but Lewis wasn’t so we are now all in a rage over the radio ban. (Editorial Update- According to Will Buxton’s tweet, he says that Nico caused his issue and fixed it quickly but Lewis’s situation happened on its own and he didn’t cause it…no reason to doubt Will on this but it does seem odd)
On one hand, you’d like to just see them race and lift the ban so the drivers can get on with it but on the other hand, fans were not happy with the prolific team radio coaching the drivers at every turn. It wasn’t an issue until today when Lewis couldn’t seem to get his engine setting corrected. Ultimately, it’s the same for everyone and whether or not Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen lost 3rd due to his inability to get assistance from the team, I would argue his 5-second penalty was going to ruin his chances regardless.
A WTH for the 5-second penalty to Kimi for crossing the pit entry white line when both Ricciardo and Nasr both crossed the same line and weren’t handed penalties. Again with the consistency of the calls. It didn’t factor in the finish as Kimi was passed by Perez but it certainly could have.
European Grand Prix Results:
|3||Sergio Perez||Force India/Mercedes||25.241s|
|7||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull/Renault||1m09.229s|
|8||Max Verstappen||Red Bull/Renault||1m10.696s|
|9||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India/Mercedes||1m17.708s|
|12||Felipe Nasr||Sauber/Ferrari||1 Lap|
|13||Romain Grosjean||Haas/Ferrari||1 Lap|
|14||Kevin Magnussen||Renault||1 Lap|
|15||Jolyon Palmer||Renault||1 Lap|
|16||Esteban Gutierrez||Haas/Ferrari||1 Lap|
|17||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber/Ferrari||1 Lap|
|18||Rio Haryanto||Manor/Mercedes||2 Laps|
|–||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso/Ferrari||Retirement|
|–||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso/Ferrari||Retirement|
Driver’s Championship Points:
Constructors’ Championship Points: