Surprise Top-3 – Azerbaijan GP 2017
The Azerbaijan GP was easily the most exciting race of the season thus far and I’m really happy about this. Several safety cars, collisions, flubbed stops, puzzling penalties, a red flag and a top-3 I would have not expected in a million years. One driver won his first podium and all the teams have now officially scored points.
Not to mention, a tie for most retirements in one race and neither of the championship candidates on podium…
- Daniel Ricciardo – Despite a flubbed pit stop early on, Ricciardo kept a cool head and when both Hamilton and Vettel were dropped due to additional pit-stops, he took the victory despite some minor issues with the car. Red Bull lost one car in the race to technical problems, so Ricciardo has all the right to be proud.
- Valtteri Bottas – Bottas and Räikkönen collided on the first lap and Valtteri fell one lap down as a result of his extensive pit-stop (during which both his tire and front wing were changed). Luckily, the many Safety Car sessions allowed him to catch up and when he was finally in the pack, he was able to rise the ranks. He passed Stroll on the finish line. Bottas can really pat himself on the back for this excellent result.
- Lance Stroll – Stroll has really come up the food chain in the last two races. In Canada, he scored his first points and already on the following race, his first podium. Stroll can be really proud of this result and it will hopefully cool down the criticism he’s been receiving.
- Sebastian Vettel – Vettel couldn’t catch up to Hamilton despite the several restarts, but when Hamilton was forced to make an extra pit-stop, it seemed Vettel was getting the race victory handed to him on a platter. However, Vettel received a 10 second penalty for dangerous driving which dropped him behind. However, Vettel fought his way back to the Top-5, chased by Hamilton.
- Lewis Hamilton – Hamilton raced flawlessly but unfortunately the headrest on his car came loose after the restart to the race and Hamilton was forced to pit by the stewards in order to get the rest back into position. Hamilton kept driving furiously and caught up to Vettel but by then it was too late.
- Esteban Ocon – Ocon drove over his team-mate’s front-wing on Lap 20 (resulting in a safety car) but he was chasing down Magnussen for the podium by the race’s latter half so you can say Ocon managed to keep himself in the game. Force India probably had a chance for a lot more points, so the result was a little disappointing, but still, Ocon’s finish was still impressive.
- Kevin Magnussen – Magnussen drove a clean race and brought valuable points for Haas, so he must be a bit disappointed to not have achieved the podium despite being in the Top-3 at one point. Great result none the less.
- Carlos Sainz – Sainz was forced to dodge his team-mate Kvyat when the Russian exited and returned to the track. Sainz lost control and spun out but was able to regain his composure and rise up the field as the race went on, bringing more solid points to Toro Rosso (who also lost one car).
- Fernando Alonso – Though I wouldn’t say McLaren’s rut has ended, they did have promising performance in this race and Alonso has finally taken the team (and himself) out of the 0-points club.
- Pascal Wehrlein – Despite Alonso’s good result, Wehrlein brought points (or 1 point) for Sauber for the second time this season, keeping the team solidly ahead of McLaren for the moment.
Golden Pineapple Award: Marcus Ericsson, Sauber
For the first time in a while, Ericsson was defending his position during the early part of the race and this makes his 11th place somewhat admirable. I’m not convinced Ericsson will be seen next year, but he is at least headed in the right direction (for all its worth).
Drop-out count: 7
This race matched the season opening race’s amount of retirements and had several safety car sessions (one on Lap 17 due to excessive debris).
Daniil Kvyat suffered a technical issue which lead to a safety car session on lap 12. Jolyon Palmer, Felipe Massa and Max Verstappen were also forced to call it quits with technical problems.
Nico Hülkenberg threw away a position in the Top-5 by hitting the wall during the circuit’s tight part and totalled his suspension.
Sergio Perez and his team-mate had a promising start to the race which was ruined by the two drivers colliding. Perez seemed to be out at this point, during the ensuing Safety Car which lasted from Lap 20 until 22 when the race was red-flagged. Perez was pulled into the pits but his car was patched up and he was unleashed onto the track. However, he made little progress and had to retire late in the race when his seat started to move inside the car.
And lastly, Kimi Räikkönen ducked into the pits a few laps before the finish line after suffering a rear wheel puncture from debris prior to the second safety car and after he thought he had already been forced to quit before the red flag. Not a good day for the iceman.
Back of the Lot News:
Stoffel Vandoorne was unable to overtake the Saubers which is a shame as he wasn’t able to help McLaren’s position. Stoffel at least survived the race unscathed.
Dead Last: Romain Grosjean – Honestly, I have no idea why Grosjean’s result was this poor, considering his string of points-scoring finishes. I guess today just wasn’t the Frenchman’s day.