Rosberg back on top – European GP 2016 (Azerbaijan)

AzerbaijanNico Rosberg took his fifth victory of the season after a three-race log gap. Though there was lots of overtaking in the very first Grand Prix of Baku, not too many crashes or much excitement over-all. However, the circuit is pretty and I do see a lot of potential with it (also as a future Formula E venue).

The Top-10:

  1. Nico RosbergA flawless race coupled by a Grand Slam result (pole position,  fastest lap and race victory) – Rosberg is back to prove he won’t be bested easily in the championship.
  2. Sebastian VettelWith Red Bull again failing despite a good start, Vettel drove a solid race. Admittedly, he needed a little help from his team-mate but I’m just generally happy that the German is still in the running for the championship (albeit 45 points down).
  3. Sergio PerezCheco has now tied himself in the all time charts as the most successful Mexican F1 driver with his seventh podium finish. As a result, the Mexican is beginning to claw his way up the Top-10. It’s amazing how Perez’s results dash wildly between excellent and so-and-so, but he definitely gave it his all today.
  4. Kimi Räikkönen – The Iceman suffered a lapse in concentration that brought him a five-second penalty for cutting the in-lane of the pit-entrance. Räikkönen eventually gave up his third place since he would have lost it anyway. Even though Räikkönen rose back to fourth in the championship thanks to this result, I wasn’t really wowed by his driving today. Still, Ferrari must be really happy with the result.
  5. Lewis Hamilton – Considering Hamilton was forced to drive the latter half of the race with an error message flashing in his steering wheel, his fifth place finish wasn’t at all terrible. Part of me, of course, hoped Hamilton could have risen to challenge his team-mate (but with Rosberg’s incredible lead, that would have been more than unlikely). Hamilton had rotten luck in the qualifying and had to start from 10th, so maybe things will look up for him in Austria in July.
  6. Valtteri Bottas – Bottas also had some rotten luck in the qualifying and his rise from 8th to 6th wasn’t all that impressive, considering he was up on the podium in Canada. Williams seems to be back where they were before the previous GP.
  7. Daniel Ricciardo – It’s honestly quite disappointing how Red Bulls always crack at the most important moments this season. There’s really no defending Ricciardo’s drop from second to 7th.
  8. Max Verstappen – The Dutch bull-protege is once again beginning to fall behind, though at least in Max’s defense, he had an unlucky qualifying coupled with a slightly botched pit-stop.
  9. Nico Hülkenberg – Force India should probably be pleased with a podium and both drivers on points. However, with his team-mate now being on the podium twice this season, and The Hülk himself yet to have ever stepped up to the awards ceremony even once during his career, I would start to get worried about his employment possibilities in the future. At some point, Nico has to start taking more risks instead of playing it safe all the time… and I’m not talking about Rosberg this time.
  10. Felipe Massa – As I said, Williams seems to be back at square one for this season but Massa has been on a definite slump these past few Grand Prixs. Not very promising for the F1 vet.

Golden Pineapple Award: Jenson Button, McLaren

Button becomes the seventh name to be inducted into the Pineapple Chart this season. McLaren just seemed to have a generally miserable time in Baku, so here’s hoping they’ll do much better in Austria.

Drop-out count: 4

Rather anticlimactically, all the retirements today were technical in nature. After he drove in the Top-10 and even gave Räikkönen and Hülkenberg some trouble, I was seriously disappointed by Pascal Wehrlein‘s retirement due to his breaks giving out. Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz retired for the exact same reason and with Daniil Kvyat retiring into the pits early on, it was a seriously disappointing day for Red Bull’s junior team. One of the few genuinely exciting battles today was between Romain Grosjean and Fernando Alonso, who also had to retire when his gear-box stopped responding.

Back of the Lot News:

The Baku circuit proved extremely challenging for Haas, Sauber and especially Renault. Felipe Nasr did what he always does during GP weekends and just landed 12th. Haas’s poor performance baffled me even if the circuit was very challenging for all teams. Despite occasionally reaching the bottom-half of the top-10, Romain Grosjean had to make do with a rather paltry 13th place with his team-mate doing even worse and landing 16th.

However, it was Renault whose poor qualifying speed baffled me. They were able to improve though not by much, with Magnussen and Palmer landing back-to-back as 14th and 15th. but starting from both the final grid and the pit-lane should make anyone worried.

By far the driver whose performance I was the most disappointed in was the Swedish Marcus Ericsson. Nasr may be a nobody, but he’s only driving his second season. This is Ericsson’s third season and his result as 17th and second to last is especially damning in view of the way how the Renault drivers improved during the race (even if it wasn’t by very much). And indeed, the only reason Ericsson wasn’t dead last today was because one driver was forced to pit after the first lap.

Dead Last: Rio HaryantoMy opinion of Haryanto as a driver hasn’t changed, but this weekend he showed possibly for the first and only time some promise by being faster than his team-mate, the Renault cars, Marcus Ericsson, Jenson Button and Carlos Sainz in the qualifying. And although his team-mate once again ran away into the horizon early on, I wish Haryanto could have at least been allowed to start the race properly, but other drivers’ carelessness forced him to pit on the very first lap. Today, Rio didn’t deserve to be last.