Well, even before the race began or even before the Grand Prix began most of the fans had given up on this race. After a very boring race last year most of the fans didn’t want this very race to exist.
On Friday, there were a couple of crashes as Perez and Max banged the wall near the castle. Though Redbull (Max Verstappen) was the fastest one out there in both the practice sessions on Friday. It seemed like Mercedes won’t be winning on Sunday. Best part of the practice sessions were the yellow flags. Race Marshalls at turn 8,9 waved the yellow flag for 113 times.
On Saturday, Mercedes and FERRARI we’re back on the top but the Qualifying was wide open for the top3 teams. Q1 didn’t went good for the McLarens as they messed up with the Redbull guys. Since the Honda speed at the start finish straight was around 40Kmph less than the Renault so the Redbull guys thought that the McLarens weren’t on their timed laps. However it didn’t matter much for McLaren as they were gonna start last on the grid since they had piled up enormous Engine penalties. Q2 was HAMazing since Lewis pulled up 0.7s on his team mate. Q3 saw Ricciardo getting crashed resulting into a red flag. However Lewis again found some time and pulled 1.1s on the FERRARI. (Mother of Sandbagging by the Merc)
Coming into the race day, everyone had some expectations, predictions, intuitions but no one in their wildest dreams expected this very Podium finish. Turn 1,2 was expecting some drama and it did got. Lewis had a clean start where Kimi & Bottas came so close to each other that Bottas pushed Kimi wide but ended up getting his front wing damaged. As a result of this Vettel went P2 followed by Perez at P3 and Max at P4. Whereas Sainz spun at turn 1. Bottas went for a front wing replacement only to be ending up last on the leaderboards. Ricciardo also came for a early tyre change. Then the race followed multiple yellow flags. Max again saw a retirement in this race that happened just after he tried to the P3 from Perez but ended up getting a 4th retirement in the last 6 raceas. There were a couple of Safety Cars as well. The safety car went and again in 1 lap it had to be bought back. Such was the race dynamics. When the safety car was about to go on that very lap Lewis braked all of a sudden thereby resulting into Vettel banging into Hamilton’s car. By the time Hamilton could digest that his car was hit from behind he experienced another impact from the left as Vettel came from behind to show his anger and banged his car and then went back to his position. After the safety car went Perez tried his best to get Vettel but couldn’t and then all of a sudden Ocon who was P5 at that moment came from no where and tried to take on Perez at Turn2 thereby resulting in damaging both the Force India as well as Kimi and taking them back on the standings.
It was over an hour and just 23/51 laps were done. But we saw multiple safety cars, a red flag and couple of retirements as well.
During the red flag when everyone was in the pits, both the Championship contenders Lewis & Vettel were a bit animated and busy talking with their race Engineers & team principals. Changing the tyres and slightly repairing the car as well. At the same time both Perez & Kimi‘s car was being repaired in the pit box whereas Ocon was a lap down.
The race restarted and at this time both the Williams were P3-4. Soon after the restart Lewis was leading followed by Vettel and Ricciardo took on both the Williams.
Then something magical happened which no one imagined.
Hamilton‘s headrest had some problem, it was coming out so Lewis while driving at 180+mph had to also make sure that his head rest is back to it’s position so with one hand on steering wheel and the other one occupied in rearranging the head rest was leading the race. But the team had to call him to the pits to make sure a new one is set. So Lewis pitted and everyone knew that now Lewis has lost the race. But when Lewis came to the pits , a 10sec Stop-Go penalty was imposed on Vettel was rash driving. So after that Vettel was P8 and Lewis was P9.
Both the Championship contenders were in the midfield trying to get back on the top. In this phase both of them went pass ALONSO thereby giving us fans an iconic scene VETTEL HAMILTON ALONSO all of them in 1 single straight. 9 World Titles in a row.
Massa had retired because of some throttle or rear damper issues so the top3 was RIC STR MAG but OCON took on Magnussen to get P3 but Bottas who was P6 at that moment took on the others and went P3 with Ocon P4 and Mag P5 but then Vettel & Hamilton came and went P4, 5 resulting in Ocon getting a P6 Magnussen a P7.
And just when everyone thought the drama was over another thing happened. That was Bottas going P2 with just 20m from the Chequered Flag. Was it coz of Stroll slowing down as he knew the race is about to end and it was his fist podium so couldn’t control the excitement or was it coz of the superior car of Bottas ? We don’t know.
But one thing was sure , an 18yr old rookie got a podium and a guy who started P10 went on to win the race and the one who went last from P2 on the opening lap ended the race at P2.
Multiple Safety Cars, Youngest Rookie on the Podium, Honda finishing in points, Red Flag and an unexpected podium followed by a shoey was all which the fans experienced this weekend in F1.
Who knew that a boring track could give an iconic race that would be remembered for a long long time & an underpowered Engine will finish in points by just not competing with the faster cars and maintaining a clean race.
That was a brief report of the Round 8 of Formula 1 2017 season which was held in on the streets of a beautiful city BAKU in the tiny country of Azerbaijan.
– Jwallant Parmar