The Baku Grand Prix went from a challenging Friday and Saturday to almost comical on Sunday. With seven cars out of the race, two safety car periods and flaring tempers, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo started 10th and turned a bad qualifying session into a race win by keeping cool, measured and on top of his game.
The bizarre nature of the Baku Grand Prix led to a slightly different podium and the fourth different winner in the first eight races of the season. Perhaps the sheer elation Williams F1 and Lance Stroll must be feeling for their podium finish was slightly tarnished as the young Canadian missed second place in the last few feet by a charging Valtteri Bottas who pipped Lance at the line. Regardless, a podium finish for the young Canadian due to a brilliant and measured drive.
A very big win for Red Bull who hasn’t led a lap this season. Ricciardo managed to win the race and take advantage of the carnage and mishaps of the drivers ahead of him. Being there to win it is all part of the game and Ricciardo drove brilliantly to get himself in that position coming back from 17th.
A massive win for Williams F1 and rookie Lance Stroll who made it to the podium for the first time in his young career. The ebullient young man could barely contain his elation having never been in the cool-down room or the podium in F1 and even though he lost second place at the line to Valtteri Bottas, he has a lot to be proud of being the youngest podium winner ever in F1. Not too bad for a rich kid huh?
A win for Mercedes who managed to get Valtteri’s recovery drive in place early on and for Bottas to execute the strategy recovering from being a lap down and claim the second spot. Bottas drove his tail off getting back to second and it was a terrific recovery drive.
A big win for McLaren to finally get in the points and for Sauber who radioed Ericsson to move over for Wehrlein who secured 10th after having contact with his teammate.
A win for Kevin Magnussen who seems impervious to the team’s mystery brake issues and brought his car home in the points.
A fail for Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel who threw away a possible podium finish, If not a race win, by ramming Lewis Hamilton out of frustration when he felt the British champion purposefully brake-checked him prior to a re-start behind the safety car. Seb’s point was that the brake-check was the wrong thing to do and he felt that Lewis should have had a penalty for deliberately backing the field up too much and being to slow behind the Safety Car. Banging Lewis’s wheel was a way of letting him know he wasn’t happy about it and in F1, you can’t do that sort of thing.
A fail for Force India who missed out on a possible 1, 2 victory and due to the coming together, both cars were off the podium with Perez retiring. This teammate battle is heating up to a boil now.
A fail for Red Bull who delivered another DNF for Max Verstappen with a mechanical failure. The fourth such failure this season adding to rumors that Max is seriously looking for another ride…possibly Kimi Raikkonen’s seat for 2018.
It’s a tough situation at this track due to inability to have cranes trackside to remove cars quickly or debris and what we thought we’d see last year actually came to fruition this year. Safety Cars, debris and a red flag and it’s mostly down to the nature of the track and inability to clear it quickly.
A fail for Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen who knows that going to quickly with a flat tire can actually cause it to windmill your rear wing off and damage the suspension…which is exactly what happened.
A fail for the Mercedes head support that came loose on Hamilton’s car prompting a pit stop to secure it and the win.
A fail for Renault for having more mechanical issues for Jolyon Palmer’s car and then for Nico Hulkenberg to throw away a great points drive by hitting the wall and ending his race.
A fail for Haas F1’s Romain Grosjean who got all snippy about the press and world feed focusing on his brake commentary over the radio and then spent he entire race complaining about his brakes and eventually trundled around to finish the race with bad brakes.
Mercedes warned Lewis that his re-start was very close to over the Safety Car line which would have incurred a penalty and Lewis said, “Trust me, it wasn’t”. Lewis was very vocal on the radio about the slow Safety Car and wanted a Virtual Safety Car instead. He was constantly backing up the field trying to get a clear re-start and he had a point for the debris calls in that the VSC may have been a better option.
Lewis was clearly troubled by the Safety Car in Baku and each time it was used. He nearly ran afoul of the re-start line and then backed the field up which prompted the accident and Vettel felt it was not a good move on Hamilton’s part. While not justifying Seb’s reaction to the rapid slowing in pace and ultimate collision, Lewis was a little awkward behind the Safety Car and did show some drastic slowing and gapping to the SC.
A WTH for Force India’s driver seat which broke ending Sergio Perez’s race or perhaps that was the clout from Ocon that broke his seat which adds to the gravity of keeping these two drivers apart from each other although I would say that Ocon just sent a message that he’s not playing happy helper to Perez any longer.
The Baku Grand Prix is a newer race and perhaps you could forgive the marshals from not being quite the cream of the crop yet but banging stricken cars against the walls and prompting long Safety Car periods didn’t help matters.
I did enjoy the new Charlie Whiting commentary from Lewis Hamilton who has realized that his team radio can double as a real-time Charlie Whiting communication device replete with praise and or criticism of the race director during the race.
I also feel for the race stewards who had to call this race…what a fiasco this would have been to manage.
Baku GP Results:
|1||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull/Renault||2h03m55.573s|
|6||Esteban Ocon||Force India/Mercedes||30.298s|
|8||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso/Renault||49.400s|
|13||Romain Grosjean||Haas/Ferrari||1 Lap|
|14||Kimi Raikkonen||Ferrari||Not running|
|–||Sergio Perez||Force India/Mercedes||Retirement|
|–||Max Verstappen||Red Bull/Renault||Retirement|
|–||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso/Renault||Retirement|