This weekend saw F1 head to Baku for the first ever Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Last year’s race was run under the ‘European Grand Prix’ banner but failed to deliver anything of note.
Admist what proved to be a very interesting weekend and an unpredictable race, fans learned five valuable lessons as the season approaches the halfway mark.
No better place to start than saying that there was a marked improvement in action throughout the weekend, than witnessed last year.
One main theme in practice saw drivers struggle to keep their cars on track in all three sessions. One notable casualty was Romain Grosjean, who had several offs down escape roads.
Turn eight proved to be a major issue for several drivers, especially when reversing. Felipe Massa and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel found this out when the former followed Vettel down the escape road. Massa struggled to find reverse whilst the latter managed to nearly go into him reversing quicker.
Sergio Perez and Jolyon Palmer were caught out by the corner itself when they suffered crashes during Friday practice. Whilst Palmer’s incident was soft, the former managed to tear off his right rear tyre showing how brutal that corner can be.
With engine power being key alongside high downforce, qualifying wasn’t as unpredictable as it was in recent races as demonstrated by Mercedes taking an easy front row lockout.
Race day saw an rejuvenated race 12 months on with several incidents including Vettel running into the back of Lewis Hamilton and the Force India drivers colliding. The icing on the cake came when Daniel Ricciardo brought his car home to victory from tenth on the grid.
2. May the power be with Force India
Force India deserves team of the weekend because they have been excellent to watch in every session.
Friday didn’t bring much luck when Perez put his car in the wall at turn eight during first practice. Nevertheless, they demonstrated plenty of speed and the ability to mix it with Ferrari and Mercedes, when they looked to be in trouble at the start of this weekend.
Saturday saw them continue to put cats amongst the pigeons, when nearly everyone made steps forward. Even though qualifying saw them finish behind the three big constructors, there was clear progress from recent races in terms of time gaps to Red Bull and Ferrari.
Race day saw an impressive performance from Perez to pressure Vettel on the first safety car restart. There is however clearly inter team issues between him and Esteban Ocon, given that they collided on the second restart.
Ocon then produced a brilliant comeback to finish sixth from outside the points, following a red flag period.
If deputy team principal, Bob Fernley can diffuse the situation quickly, both drivers could be ones to watch out for rest of the season.
3. No more strolling
Lance Stroll seems to have gained plenty of confidence from his first points finish in Canada.
Practice and qualifying saw him demonstrate speed that hasn’t be on show till this weekend. On top of that, he outqualified Felipe Massa for the first time this season.
Both Williams were evenly matched during the race till Massa retired with an suspension problem. Stroll then went on to record his first podium finish in F1, which surely is a welcome boost for the young Canadian, after his first points finish in Canada.
Baku required speed, which hadn’t been Stroll’s strongest point till now. Could the young Canadian finally be settled in F1 and ready to show his talents?
4. From penalties to points
McLaren suffered a miserable weekend due the track’s layout exposing their lack of power.
With the team exceeding the five element limit for certain parts of the power unit regarding both drivers, a total of 70 grid drop penalties were amassed between Alonso (40) and Vandoorne (30).
A back row start became 18th and 19th thanks to Palmer not setting a time. A chaotic race then saw the Spaniard climb up from the latter position to a ninth place result and two precious points.
5. Ruthless Ferrari
Ferrari will surely need to take a long hard look at their drivers after an appalling race.
Questions surely needs to be asked about Kimi Raikkonen’s first lap collision with Valtteri Bottas. The fact that it let Vettel who leads the championship through into second behind the man hunting the German down is something worth debating.
Vettel’s clash with Hamilton under the safety car too has to leave questions. The latter was entitled to brake as late as he wanted to and Vettel clearly showed little sign of braking early to leave a gap.
The fact that he pulled up alongside and shoved into the left side of Hamilton’s Mercedes immediately afterwards demonstrates a clear lack of respect for the rules.
On the radio when asked about their incidents, both drivers denied what had happened which clearly demonstrates no respect or willingness to take responsibility for their behaviour.
Surely action has to be taken against both drivers at least internally before they cause more trouble.
If missed other races and want a brief round up, click on the links below.