Azerbaijan, Baku host of the European Grand Prix 2016, we haven’t had a European Grand Prix since Valencia, Spain in 2012. A brand new street circuit produced which at first glance looks similar to Monaco tight corners, extremely fast straight with a touch of class. Due to the structure of this circuit it was assumed that a safety car would be used at some point. We were wrong.
With Nico Rosberg still leading the championship by 9 points this was a golden opportunity for Lewis to take the lead. Unfortunately a mistake by Lewis in qualifying forced him to start the race in P10 next to an unforgiving Max Verstappen who throughout the weekend attracted unwanted attention from Bottas. Max being naturally an aggressive driver already had aggro from the pesky Williams of Bottas annoying him throughout the weekend already a seeing red– a Red Bull you may say!
Race commences, and a surprisingly good start for most except a few back markers who had a little bit of contact but nothing bad enough to bring out the safety car. The first corner was a squeeze for all but the drivers impressively got round it with caution and of course speed! Lewis kept it clean even with Max next to him and Perez in the Force India having a great start from P7 to P5.
All cars are close together and it’s tight.
Lap 3 we saw a move by Bottas in P9 taking over Kvyat closely followed by Lewis who overtook the Toro Rosso with ease. Could Kvyat have an issue? Or maybe it’s just the Ferrari of Vettel he likes to do the dirty on?
By Lap 5 we have a 3 car battle! Bottas, Max and Lewis both Lewis and Bottas manage to get passed young Max without any drama – Phew! Bottas now in P7 with Lewis in P8. At this point our leader Rosberg is flying ahead. Vettel in P3 overtakes the Red Bull of Ricciardo in P2 with a strange looking Ferrari it seems a large blue plastic bag has gripped to the front of Vettel’s car, lucky for him this doesn’t cause an issue.
The pit stops then start very early; starting with Max and Alonso in the Mclaren, could these drivers be looking for a 1 stop strategy?
At this point you will notice the amount of plastic on the track? Did somebody unload their Sainsbury’s shopping bags somewhere? Kimi on team radio expressed his dissatisfaction with this.
Kvyat who was losing places retires in the pit with suspension issues this answers our question to whether its just Ferrari’s he likes to fight obviously this issue was affecting him.
Lap 10 shows us some surprises! Pascal Wehrlein in the Manor is P8 and holding it although he hasn’t yet pitted he is showing a strong performance. Perez in the Force India is P3 and Max has dropped to P14.
Kimi unfortunately crosses the line to the pit lane from what we can see it looks like he was following the car in front or maybe it was another plastic bag and lost concentration. This was investigated with an outcome of a 5 second penalty which he can choose to take during a pit stop or be added to his time at the end of the race. Bad day for Kimi.
By Lap 15 the top 5 are yet to pit, Lewis in P5 breaks this by pitting complaining about a vibration, this is not a problem and rectifies itself by Lap 21. Perez and Ricciardo pit shortly afterwards, Perez making a good move by coming out in front of Lewis. Perez now P8. We are still waiting for the top 3 to pit.
Lap 18 brings in Ricciardo stalking Kimi in P4. Ricciardo one of the drivers you wouldn’t want to see in your mirrors! Lewis is the fastest man on track stuck in P9 with potential of being held up.
This track has tight corners similar to the wall of champions in Canada, a small glitch and you are in the wall. We saw Nasr in the Sauber clipping the wall sparks flying luckily with no problem.
Lap 21 and we finally see one of the top 3 Vettel who comes back out in P3, while Max pits for the second time maybe this early pit strategy was a bad idea with the tyres lasting longer than predicted.
Rosberg pits the following lap to come out still in P1 there is no competition out there this weekend for him. At this point Lewis is in P5.
Lap 23 and Pascal Wehrlein has a last warning for cutting the corner on turn 8.
Lap 24 Ricciardo finally pits only to come out in P12 he has a big fight ahead, nothing comes easy for Ricciardo.
Lap 27 and Lewis has a problem, he is in the wrong mode. By Lap 31 he is asking the team to give him some suggestions to what to do unfortunately rules state the team cannot do this. An angry Lewis states he may just change everything but the team strongly advise against this. What is wrong with his car? Was it set up wrong? Lewis is now robbed of being able to improve on his race.
While Lewis is having a nightmare Kimi is told not to hold up Vettel as he is faster. Kimi then stating he better be faster as he doesn’t want to see him right in front of him.
Lap 32 Sainz in the Toro Rosso retires.
By Lap 36 Rosberg is too far ahead that the only way anybody will catch up with him is by either a jet engine, safety car or if Rosberg makes an error.
A few laps later Kimi is going mad “where the f**k are the blue flags?” being held up back markers something he doesn’t need with a 5 second penalty hanging over him.
Lap 41 we saw Pascal Werlain retire, he has no brakes left but a good performance today from the Manor team.
No idea what happened but Lap 43 Lewis is now the fastest on track. Whatever that issue was seems to have shifted, did he turn it off and on again?
Alonso in Mclaren sadly retires at Lap 44 stuck in 4th gear.
Lewis starts dropping back again at Lap 46 what is going on!
With 5 laps remaining we have had no safety car, Rosberg is in a league of his own and Force India are showing a strong performance.
Final lap brings Perez to take over Kimi in P3. Perez will be on the podium either way with Kimi’s penalty but this moves makes it solid!
Race winner Rosberg who we have barely seen throughout the race he was untouchable his 5th win in 2016. As always a gracious winner and with a drive like that well deserved.
Azerbaijan was predicted to give us safety car action and a fight through the field from Lewis but due to car issues this was not possible. The championship now stands with Rosberg 24 points in front of Lewis with Vettel quietly sneaking up 21 points behind Lewis.
Austria next Rosberg won here last year, could we see another epic win from the Mercedes driver? We still have plenty of races left this year Mercedes still as dominant as ever but the Ferrari’s are showing improvement.