Bravado can either work for you and buttress your awesomeness or it can end up making you look a bit silly and this weekend, Lewis Hamilton’s berating of drivers who complained about the new Baku circuit, his disdain and avoidance of simulators and confession that he never walks a track sounded like a guy who was completely in control and in no need of driving aids or preparation but perhaps some of those could have helped as he’s been a bit ragged all weekend long culminating in a crash in the third session of qualifying today for the European Grand Prix.
The track has been the talk of the weekend and its potential safety concerns with massive speeds in a confined street circuit. Despite much of the press and fan commentary and talk of safety, the drivers seemed to like the track and found it challenging with multiple levels of grip, as the brand new asphalt weeps oils from its chemical composition and the turns range from runway width to seemingly hallway proportions in turn 8.
Qualifying was a tale of three sessions with Q1 offering a surprising relegation for McLaren’s Jenson Button and a great performance from Manor Racing’s Rio Haryanto. For Q2, it was the error by Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg that cost the team what otherwise may have been two cars in the top 5 had he been in sync with the team’s instructions. Finally, for Q3, it was Lewis Hamilton’s ragged attempts for pole that saw him overshoot several corners and eventually detach his front right suspension at turn nine by hitting the wall.
For all the talk, hand-wringing and unknowns, Nico Rosberg was clinical in his approach to the Baku circuit placing his car on pole with over a second in hand. He didn’t make a final run even though Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel were challenging him for pole.
Ultimately the performance of Force India’s Sergio Perez was a terrific effort given the team had to re-build his car after a late FP3 crash. He finished second in Q3 and suffered a gearbox change penalty due to the FP3 crash which seems draconian if I’m honest. Getting penalized for changing a gearbox due to a crash seems like a double penalty. With a 5-place grid penalty, here’s how the grid will look for the first race in Baku.
|2||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull/Renault||1m43.966s||1.208s|
|6||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso/Ferrari||1m44.717s||1.959s|
|7||Sergio Perez||Force India/Mercedes||1m43.515s||0.757s|
|9||Max Verstappen||Red Bull/Renault||1m45.570s||2.812s|
|12||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India/Mercedes||1m44.824s||–|
|13||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso/Ferrari||1m45.000s||–|