April 29, 2018

F1 Update!: Azerbaijan 2018, The Ruminations Edition

A windy day greeted the Thundering Herd as they waited for the crimson illumination to extinguish.  Gusts of up to 30mph, they said.  Seb Vettel, on pole in his Ferrari, surely didn't seem worried, either of the wind or of his opponent, Lewis Hamilton for Mercedes, right along side.  And why should he have been?  He was leading the Championship, the Ferrari had proven to be the fastest on track this season, it all looked bright and shiny for him.


*MOST OF THE RACE: Taken in the macro, most of the 2018 GP of Azerbaijan wasn't overly exciting.  Yes, in the micro you had drama, but it didn't look like it was going to amount to anything, not really.  It was brought to us by the two Red Bull teammates, Smiley Ricciardio and DH Verstappen.  The two of them decided that they had to go at each other hammer and tongs all day, no matter what it meant to their personal chances for the race or the benefit lost to the team.  Four or five times they clashed, bumping at least twice and once hard enough to draw smoke from their tires, in a race-long fight that had to be causing team boss Christian Horner to lose his cool.

It's good this was going on, because up at the front we had all the makings of a complete runaway.  Seb Vettel had a two second lead after the end of the first lap.  While an early safety car would kill that lead, the restart saw the Ferrari driver leave Hamilton in the dust.  A flat spot on the Mercedes made it even harder for the Brit to make up time, and a pit stop put him behind his teammate Valterri Bottas.  Vettel stopped 10 laps later, coming out behind Bottas who had yet to stop, and ahead of Hamilton.  It all looked bright and shiny for Vettel; the gap to Bottas would go away when the Finn stopped for new tires, yet Bottas would probably return to the race ahead of Hamilton... perfect!

And then those wacky Red Bull guys showed up again.

*RACECHANGER:  Ricciardio had slipped behind Verstappen, falling into fifth, but had DRS enabled as they came down the 2km long front stretch and was closing fast.  Approaching Turn 1, he faked to the right (which Verstappen fell for, moving to block) then went to the left.  

And so did Verstappen.

Suddenly, the gap Ricciardio had been aiming for was gone and the rate of closure was so fast that there was nothing he could do.  The resulting nose-to-tail collision knocked both cars out of the race, caused Christian Horner to shoot blood out his ears, and Red Bull owner Dr Helmut Marco to say something fierce in German.  Of course, everything sounds fierce in German so that's not saying much.  Both drivers would be reprimanded by the FIA, and Horner made it perfectly clear that both would be apologizing to the team... possibly by being flayed alive.

Out came the safety car on Lap 40 of 51

*SPRINT:  With the appearance of the safety car, the entire texture of the race changed.  Instead of being Vettel's to lose, it suddenly became Bottas' to win as he could make his stop for tires without any loss of time.  Now he had the lead, a fresh set of ultra-soft tires (as did the rest of his challengers), and an ever-shortening number of laps to deal with.  It wasn't until Lap 47 that the safety car period ended, extended thanks to Lettuce Grosjean binning his Haas whilst trying to warm his tires.

Bottas handled the restart about as well as you can, getting an early jump on Vettel, et al.  On any other circuit, this would have worked a treat, but at Baku it just means you're giving your opponents a tow down't the long, long front straight. A tow that Vettel, Hamilton AND Raikkonen tried to exploit.  Vettel made a daring attempt at a pass going into Turn 1, locked up his front brakes, and simply skidded right past Bottas.  While he attempted to recover, Hamilton and Raikkonen both passed him, sending Vettel down to fourth, and with a massive flatspot to boot.  He would later lose another position to the Force India of Sergio Perez.

Then, at the end of the lap/beginning of Lap 48, Bottas ran over a chunk of debris and had his right-rear tire dissolve... just past the entry to the pit lane.  He did, eventually, get the car parked safely, but his race was over thanks to a piece of metal nobody saw.  FROM THE LEAD.

This promoted Hamilton to the lead, a position he would not relinquish.  Kimi Raikkonen finished second, just ahead of an ecstatic Sergio Perez and Force India pit crew.  Vettel finished fourth.

So a vaguely dull race saved by the final 10 laps or so.  Not bad!  Next race is Spain in two weeks... see ya there!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 11:07 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
Post contains 835 words, total size 5 kb.

1 And thus fate (or the idiocy of others) doth make a mockery of the best & brightest. Wowza.

Posted by: GreyDuck at April 30, 2018 07:34 AM (h8yX6)

2 The only things that would make it better would be audio of Ricciardo and Verstappen goofing like Hamilton and Button did the Tooned cartoons, and it not being Hamilton who was the beneficiary.

Posted by: Ben at April 30, 2018 02:27 PM (h8yX6)

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