Rosberg takes pole for European GP in Baku

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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.

Pos Driver Car Time Gap
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m42.758s
2 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 1m43.966s 1.208s
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m43.966s 1.208s
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m44.269s 1.511s
5 Felipe Massa Williams/Mercedes 1m44.483s 1.725s
6 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso/Ferrari 1m44.717s 1.959s
7 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 1m43.515s 0.757s
8 Valtteri Bottas Williams/Mercedes 1m45.246s 2.488s
9 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Renault 1m45.570s 2.812s
10 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 2m01.954s 19.196s
11 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 1m44.755s
12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India/Mercedes 1m44.824s
13 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso/Ferrari 1m45.000s
14 Fernando Alonso McLaren/Honda 1m45.270s
15 Esteban Gutierrez Haas/Ferrari 1m45.349s
16 Felipe Nasr Sauber/Ferrari 1m46.048s
17 Rio Haryanto Manor/Mercedes 1m45.665s
18 Pascal Wehrlein Manor/Mercedes 1m45.750s
19 Jenson Button McLaren/Honda 1m45.804s
20 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari 1m46.231s
21 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1m46.348s
22 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1m46.394s

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longshot
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longshot

Yeah that gear box grid penalty always seems over the top to me. Wish they’d just give them a 20 second time penalty in the race, its not like teams choose to install new gearboxes on a whim, or that they gain an advantage from doing so especially when its damaged.

Rapierman
Member
Rapierman

You would think that Force India would have attempted to appeal on a claim of “force majeure” (and probably would have been appropriate given the circumstances).

MIE
Editor

Manor did well, very nearly getting into Q2.

Hamilton was fastest in every free practice session, it just seemed to be qualifying that caused him an issue. He should at least have an opportunity to overtake at this track.
If it was the low sun that caused him to misjudge his turn in on the narrow part of the track, it could make the last half of the race interesting in those corners.

jiji the cat
Member
jiji the cat

Well done to checo, bit of a downer on the penalty though. Very interesting quali. Really enjoyed it. I think Bottas and Vertapen need a wrap over the knuckles. Well done RBR and Ferrari on finding pace. Disappointed for Sainz but good on Kvyat.
I really like this track and what it is offering. Only question now is how many time we will see the safety car?

Rapierman
Member
Rapierman

I’m going to take a wild guess and say “four”.

longshot
Guest
longshot

Hmm. I’ll go unders on that. I tend to think there’ll be a lot of VSCs though, and at least 1 red flag when the track’s totally blocked.

jiji the cat
Member
jiji the cat

Yeah, I would think no around that amount also.

longshot
Guest
longshot

So Hamilton’s going to be given a replacement set of supersofts to start the race on, because the FIA deemed his flat-spotted set as dangerous despite the fact that he set a 1:43-ish qualifying time on them.

I know this will be defended because its in the rules, but honestly, if any other driver had flat-spotted their Q2 tyres I’d be 100% certain they’d be told to race with them.

MIE
Editor

I think it is only one tyre the is to be changed, for one of a similar mileage.
This rule has been applied before.

longshot
Guest
longshot

True, but there have also been times when the rule has _not_ been applied. Remember Spa 2011? Both Vettel & Webber had blistering on their tyres, the kind of thing that can lead to explosions, yet the FIA told them to either change the tyres in parc ferme & take a penalty, or suck it up & race on them. And “similar mileage” with these tyres is not equivalent to similar wear levels. A tyre that’s been 4 times around a track in practice doing installation laps is not the same as a tyre that’s had the hell flogged out… Read more »