Highs and Loews: Azerbaijan

Highs

Daniel Ricciardo – 1st

 

Couldn’t have put it better myself. There are times where you don’t get a victory that you should have, Ricciardo will point to Monaco 2016 as a prime example of this, and then there are times when somehow everything inexplicably works in your favour, but this was quite something. Ricciardo started 10th after an error in qualifying, and of those in front of him on the grid:

–                      Hamilton had an extra pitstop for a new headrest
–                      Bottas made contact with Raikkonen to put him a lap down
–                      Raikkonen had contact from Bottas
–                      Vettel received a penalty
–                      Verstappen’s engine gave out
–                      Perez’s car was damaged after being hit by Ocon
–                      Ocon damaged his car by hitting Perez

That’s position 1-7 on the grid all having their race compromised, it was like the parting of the red sea for the Red Bull man as he raced to the front. Ricciardo did however manage to pass the two Williams who started 8th and 9th in one move, which is worthy of praise, but there was a reason he was laughing on the team radio after clinching such an unlikely victory.

Valtteri Bottas – 2nd

After the first lap incident with Raikkonen which left him a lap down, Bottas must’ve thought he was in for a long, arduous afternoon. But having kept out of trouble from lap 2 onwards, he was able to cut through the field, helped in part by others profligacy, and eventually pipped Lance Stroll on the line to steal 2nd. Important points for the Finn if he wants to be considered a title contender still.

Lance Stroll – 3rd

After Canada I alluded to the fact that although he had done well to score his first points, that the Williams had more potential still, and that he needed to now build on that. And did he ever manage that in Baku. There will still be questions regarding his ability in the future, but this was an excellent drive in a race where more seasoned professionals couldn’t stay out of trouble. There were no desperate moves from Stroll, no signs of inexperience or pressure getting to the 18 year old as one might have expected, and his first podium was thoroughly well deserved by the end. Not even Bottas stealing 2nd on the line could dampen his jubilant mood, and there can’t be many who weren’t happy for him.

Kevin Magnussen – 7th

Magnussen barely made an appearance on the coverage, thanks largely to all that was going on in front of him, but will be pretty happy with his day’s work to finish 7th, as will the Haas team.

Fernando Alonso – 9th

A double world champion scoring points shouldn’t be anything of note, but this season, in this McLaren that hasn’t scored points in the first 7 races, it is. McLaren apparently have an engine upgrade coming, hopefully Alonso achieving 9th being viewed as a good result will be a thing of the past, but don’t hold your breath.

Pascal Wehrlein – 10th

Sauber getting into the top 10 would normally be a quite a big story, but not in Baku 2017. Still, Sauber won’t care, they needed something, especially with McLaren also benefitting from the issues faced by others.

Loews

Sebastian Vettel – 4th

Where to start?! The petulant behaviour, the post-race interviews, the now precarious penalty points situation? It’s fair to say Vettel came out of the whole weekend looking rather foolish.

Let’s begin with the behaviour that got him a penalty and in turn cost him the race victory. Vettel, as Hamilton pointed out, is a four time world champion. Even if he had been brake-tested, this was not the way to respond and he should know much better than taking things into his own hands. Vettel was slower than Hamilton in Baku, the Briton doing something foolish that risks a penalty should have been welcomed by Vettel if anything, Hamilton had no reason to do this, given that it was very unlikely he was going to be passed on track. As it was, the data showed he didn’t brake-test him, and so Vettel’s subsequent reaction looks even more asinine as a result.

Then there was the post-race interviews, in which Vettel bizarrely avoided all questions regarding whether he intentionally banged wheels with Hamilton, seemingly pretending to be puzzled as to what he was being accused of. It seems all so needless on Vettel’s part, and as a few have alluded to, this was perhaps a red mist moment that he is trying to play down, as he realises how it must look in retrospect.

People do things in the heat of the moment they regret, and for all the valid criticisms of his actions, at the speed they were doing it wasn’t in fact dangerous on safety grounds. But it could have hugely impacted Hamilton’s race had he caused him to clip the wall, so Vettel was fully deserving of his penalty, he is lucky didn’t cost him the championship lead. He must now also avoid any potential issues in Austria, or risk being the first driver banned for reaching twelve penalty points, an accolade someone of his stature and experience shouldn’t be at risk of obtaining.

Lewis Hamilton – 5th

Not in the Loews for any fault of his own, more for the fact that during a weekend where he was completely dominant, he still lost ground on Vettel thanks to an errant headrest. The gap now stands at 14 points, and Hamilton needs to ensure it doesn’t creep out of reach. On the plus side, Mercedes had the advantage over Ferrari during the course of the weekend, Hamilton and the team will hope this continues into Austria and beyond.

Esteban Ocon – 6th

An impressive recovery drive to 6th unfortunately won’t mask the error that ended teammate Perez’s race and potentially cost Force India the chance of their first ever race victory in Formula One. There’s never a good time to collide with a teammate, but this was especially bad given how the race panned out. You feel there must have been some heated words behind closed doors that may still be ringing in the Frenchman’s ears come Austria.

Romain Grosjean – 13th

Whilst his teammate was busy finishing 7th and picking up vital points, Grosjean was the only driver who finished a lap down. Further complaints about brakes are not helping endear people to Grosjean this season, which when his teammate is achieving points, looks somewhat less credible.

Kimi Raikkonen – DNF

As the results show, Raikkonen is more often than not behind Sebastian Vettel. However, on the occasions he does find himself in a strong position as was the case in Baku, he seems to be on the receiving end of some terrible luck. It went down as a racing incident, but if there was to be any blame apportioned, it certainly wouldn’t have been at the feet of the Ferrari driver as he once again clashed with Bottas. Probably isn’t going to be kept on after this season and isn’t in the title race, but a few race wins would be a fitting and deserving way for him to end his career, if he could just get the right breaks.

Sergio Perez – DNF

Some might say that after he refused to yield to Ocon in Canada, that perhaps Perez set up a situation where his teammate was going to be more aggressive on track, knowing that Perez had set the gauntlet. But still, there are limits, and Ocon cost Perez the opportunity of an unlikely race win. This one looks like it’s heating up, which is not what Perez needs from an inexperienced teammate as he hunts for a top drive.

Nico Hulkenberg – DNF

With half the field paving the way for unlikely high points scoring by lesser teams, Hulkenberg’s error in hitting the wall might be hugely costly for Renault, and there was no one else to blame here but himself.

Felipe Massa – DNF

Like many other drivers, missed out when a great opportunity was presented. Unlike some of the others though, this didn’t appear to be any fault of Massa’s. How costly could missing out on both drivers being in the top 4 be for Williams come the end of the season? There won’t be many better opportunities.

Daniil Kvyat – DNF

Another victim of the ‘DNF not his fault’ fraternity, but with his teammate rightly or wrongly placing the blame for his spin on the Russian, the rivalry at Toro Rosso have gone up another notch, and Kvyat once again lost out to Sainz when points were there to be had.

Jolyon Palmer – DNF

Almost totally anonymous in Azerbaijan, having failed to get out for qualifying, then pulled up after just 7 laps. On this occasion can avoid blame, but on a weekend where points were possible for anyone who saw the chequered flag, it will be viewed as a missed opportunity by Palmer, who desperately needs points as the vultures continue to circle.

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