“It’s going to be an incredibly tricky race,” said Hamilton during the track parade. Boy, was he right…
Azerbaijan has been home to criticism, and not only for it’s lack of on-track action during its inaugural race in 2016. But, thankfully, just like last year, 2018’s race provided drama, excitement and thrills.
Here’s a look back at the immense story of the race on the streets of Baku.
Bitter sweet for Mercedes
While it was a good outcome for Lewis Hamilton who secured his first win since Austin last year, it was heartbreak for Bottas who suffered a puncture in the closing stages of the race. Hamilton was able to capitalise on this and took the chequered flag first. It’s hard not to feel for Bottas who had driven exceptionally well. After outperforming his team-mate in qualifying three out of the four times in 2018, he’s proven that he’s a great driver in his own right and not just there in a four time world champion’s shadow.
Red Bulls Colide
Possibly the story of the race was the collision between the Red Bulls. The two drivers had already made contact in the race and there’d been several close shaves. Nonetheless, the close racing continued and, on Lap 40, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen came together. It has to be asked whether team orders should have been issued earlier in the race when the two had already brushed wheels?
However, the question of who to blame has been asked with no clear answer, although Red Bull could well bring in team orders in the future to stop this situation happening again.
Team Principal Christian Horner insists that the boys were asked to keep it clean after the first wheel touch, yet that didn’t stick. The team boss also says that they boys will be paying a visit to the factory in Milton Keynes to make an apology.
Away from the misery, Charles Leclerc had a stellar race.
Leclerc proved that he was the real deal in F2, and he’s doing that again now in F1. In Baku, he wrestled his Sauber into 6th position, securing the team’s most successful finish in 50 races.
After winning here in the F1 support series last year, the Monegasque driver knows the circuit well, which gave him that all-important confidence boost.
It’s going to be exciting watching his young man develop as a driver. Hopefully, we’ll see him in a Ferrari seat in the not too distant future.
The Windy City proved to be windy
Strong wind was forecasted for the race, and strong wind was what we got. During the Formula 2 support race, the drivers were quick on the radio to express their concerns about the wind. This continued into the afternoon and the F1 boys experienced similar issues, all thanks to the Venturi effect and urban canyoning. There was turbulence along the pit straight which made the drivers focus even more and added extra excitement to the race overall.
Crashes and more crashes.
Starting with Sergey Sirotkin binning it during Free Practice 3 and ending with Romain Grosjean, it wasn’t a surprise that many drivers came into contact with various walls and barriers over the course of the weekend. Baku ruined Esteban Ocon’s chance of points and sent Ricciardo home for an early bath. The incidents just show how much concentration the drivers have to put in on street circuits. A split second misjudgement and that’s your race over.
Perhaps the most spectacular incident was Grosjean’s crash under the safety car. The Frenchman then blamed Marcus Errikson for the crash, which was quite puzzling.
The drivers seemed to spend more time in reverse than what they did going forwards during the practice sessions. There was a staggering number of yellow flags as the drivers made good use of the run off roads. Thankfully, most were able to perform quick spin, or stick it in reverse, and they were away again. On a positive note, we know that the reverse gear does exist on a Formula 1 car, and it does indeed work.