Ambient 33° Track 40° Humidity 31% Wind 4.2 m/s
Once again brutal sunshine hammered down on spectators and drivers alike, but as the race start for the nominal European Grand Prix approached the track temperature began to approach normality ensuring similar conditions to qualifying yesterday.
Grid Drops of 5 spots for Magnussen and Sainz, with both taking new gearboxes and KMag opting to change some suspension bits as well and rather cleverly starting from the pitlane to avoid potential carnage in T1.
And for anyone who saw the GP2 races frankly calling them a goat rodeo would be an insult to the organizational abilities of goats. What is obvious is that brake and tyre temps are very difficult to maintain under the SC and the leader is beyond vulnerable on restart thanks to the early in and long tow down the straight.
Mercedes start will certainly be in the crosshairs as well, but given the high likelihood of a Safety Car, even a large lead could be vulnerable. Lewis being granted permission to swap out his flat spotted front left tyre from quali also not making everyone happy, though it should be noted that he had to take a used one with a similar amount of wear.
Oh yes and early congrats to Porsche, Signatech Alpine, Ford Chip Ganassi, and Scuderia Corsa doing some proper racing back in what most people think of as actual Europe. Special shout out to Joey Hand from TJ13. Killer California Karter and all round class act made good in the Ford GT taking the win for GTLM Pro class.
One final personal note to Mr E. If/When you get tired of Baku (which, it must be said has been pretty awesome track wise), you may not be aware, but geologically speaking a big chunk of Staten Island is technically part of Europe. Thus NYC could be the next European Grand Prix. So yeah, just sayin…
Lights out and off they went with Rosberg taking it into T1 in the lead. Perez up to P5 with some scrappiness with Gutierrez further back but no utter carnage. Button was the big winner going 4 spots up to P15. Verstappen got by Kvyat and Hamilton was still in P10, bottled by Bottas just ahead.
AS they crossed for lap 2 it was Bottas all over Kvyat towing Hamilton with him. Bottas nailed Danii into T3 leaving Lewis on Kvyat’s gearbox for the moment as DRS was enabled.
Lap 4 saw the end of that battle as up front, Rosberg extended his lead to 2 seconds. Bottas continued his charge as Grosjean cleared the rather slow Kvyat. Bottas slipped Verstappen with a sweet move as Sergio Perez made it clear that he was here to race, going after Kimi.
Bottas and Hamilton both managed to pass Verstappen going into lap 6, one on either side and again no tears into T1, which speaks perhaps a bit to the maturation of young Max. Though getting passed like that not so much maybe. Meanwhile the man he displaced, Kvyat, was retired with a suspension issue, continuing his season of woe.
At the end of that lap Verstappen pitted for new Softs whilst in all the excitement Vettel snuck his way around Ricciardo and was looking at 8.5s to Rosberg. Ricciardo came in as Red Bull decided to change tactics to a 2 stop. With Red Bull shuffled out the leaderboard was now Rosberg, Vettel, Raikkonen, Perez and Massa. Slightly farther back Hamilton finally started to have a go at Bottas as Massa came in lap 8, exiting just ahead of Palmer.
Raikkonen came in lap 9 after a bit of discussion, being told he was protecting against undercut from Ricciardo, with Sebastian a bit dubious but ultimately compliant. this put him out just ahead of Massa, which likely was the key factor, though the plastic bag that was stuck in his FW that rather spectacularly disintegrated did him no favours either.
Those on the 2 stop were now all stuck behind Wehrlein as Hamilton finally cleared Bottas into T1 on the 11th lap. His next bit of fun:Sergio Perez. Ricciardo and Raikkonen finally managed to get past Wehrlein as Grosjean, running ahead of Pascal, headed into the pits after climbing up to P8.
The following lap saw Massa past Wehrlein as it was announced Kimi was being investigated for crossing the line at pit entry. Rosberg continued to sail effortlessly at the front, extending his lead over Vettel to 15 seconds and lapping over a second faster than any other car on the track. 5 seconds on the naughty step for Raikkonen, despite the fact that it seemed a bit dubious on playback.
By lap 15 it was time for shots of Verstappen passing Wehrlein when Hamilton enlivened everything by reporting a massive vibration, likely caused by the swapped out tyre. the team called him in and helpfully for him, he wound up behind Massa, Raikkonen, Ricciardo and Bottas, undoing all the work that he had previously done. To add a little salt, Perez, reacting straight away, managed to get in and out in front of Lewis as well.
During that bit of drama, Raikkonen closed in on Ricciardo and eked himself into DRS. Rosberg locked his tyres up so he could get a bit of camera time, such was his unchallenged place at the front. The race began to settle as the early stoppers settled into making their strategies work. Hamilton continued to reel in Perez but on the front straight, Raikkonen got by Ricciardo and changed his race according to his engineer. At lap 20 they ran Rosberg, Vettel, Bottas, Raikkonen and Ricciardo for the top 5.
Bottas took to the pits at the end of the lap as Perez hammered past his teammate Massa, emerging just ahead of Verstappen. Hamilton ticked Massa off his list as well and Vettel decided it was time for some new tyres as did Verstappen out on Mediums, Red Bull struggling a bit with keeping the tyres in the window.
Lap 22 saw the race leader in, where he had time to order a pizza and give his wife a quick call without losing his lead. His teammate having to do a bit more work today, managed to put the knife into Ricciardo as he Perez and Daniel all screamed down the front straight within 0.5s of one another.
With the long runners pitted the top 3 were Rosberg, Raikkonen and Vettel in that order. Red Bull brought Ricciardo in as they continued to struggle with he tyres, with the Colgate Kid out on the Medium tyre lap 24. Further back, Hamilton inexplicably dropped almost 3s back of Perez now that the work of passing Ricciardo was done.
Hulkenberg, who was the author of Gutierrez’ discontent, finally got his race sorted and had gradually worked his way up to P8 by getting round Carlos Sainz lap 27. FOM also chose lap 27 to play a radio message from Hamilton, complaining of “de-rates” everywhere, meaning his engine was jumping into power saving mode unexpectedly and depriving Lewis of the full deployment of his ERS power.
Lap 28 saw Vettel catch Raikkonen, and with Ferrari’s promise of an ice cream and vodka float after the race, right by went Sebastian to lose slightly less time a lap to Rosberg than Kimi.
Massa boxed the following lap as Kimi reminded the team that Seb needed to push because “now he is in front of me”. Judging by the expletive laden reply, the team were not amused. Regardless, it was effective as Vettel rapidly streaked away, nearly a second a lap faster.
Lap 33 saw Sainz retire also with suspension issues, bringing out the double yellows between T15 and T16. Lewis meanwhile was told by his team that the problem was the mode he was in, but the team was unable to offer him advice due to radio ban, thus explaining the sudden lack of chase to Perez. Fascinatingly, the team told him there was a wrong setting, but he had done nothing wrong. Then they told him not to change anything when he suggested that was his next step. The regulation dance continued with the race rolling on around it. Ricciardo up to 8th being a fairly massive disappointment for starting P2.
Near the sharp end, Ferrari were confronting a bit of an issue with Raikkonen currently P3, but with a 5s penalty actually P4 on the road as Perez lingered roughly 3s off his rear wing. Lap 39 McLaren tried to convince us a battle for P12 was exciting as Button took Alonso into T1 and Alonso tried to cut back with a remarkable lack of success into T2.
Kimi, meanwhile did a stellar job of convincing listeners that Ferrari might not be a fun place to work after all with an expletive laden rant about something mumbled, to which they team replied they were on it and doing the best they could.
Wehrlein headed for the showers lap 41 with toasted brakes as Alonso continued to drive backwards after a brief scrap with Grosjean for P14.
With that sorted it appeared that Lewis worked out what had gone wrong as he suddenly picked up 2s a lap and with 9 laps left to close a 13 second gap to Perez, confirmed by the team a lap later. Alonso gave up the ghost and retired, but only from the race for the time being at least.
Verstappen got round the increasingly useless Massa for P9 as Hamilton’s short recovery was over and his lap times soared yet again. One began to get the idea that perhaps Bernie was tired of this rule as a radio message from Kimi demanding to know which switch to change also received a rather prominent airing. Perez all the while bobbing happily astern well placed to take the podium given the 5s time penalty hanging round Kimi’s neck.
Ricciardo made a nice move on Hulkenberg for P7 and gouts of brake dust went pluming out as he hit his braking point at the end of the straight where he made his move. Silly Season, which is usually year round anyway, made it’s official debut as the name of Sergio Perez began being thrown round the airwaves as a potential Kimi replacement at Ferrari.
On the penultimate lap, Verstappen showed imitation to be the sincerest form of flattery as he emulated Ricciardo and took Hulkenberg whilst on the last lap it was Perez taking the utterly defenseless Raikkonen into T1 with the Force India having the DRS advantage finally.
It was Rosberg, Vettel, Perez as the checkers fell with Raikkonen then Hamilton rounding out the top 5, thus resetting the WDC to pre-Canada levels. Should be some interesting discussions with the team managers regarding the radio ban, certainly more interesting than the race on the track. GP2 flattered to deceive apparently, but there was plenty of radio dramatics to try and hide the fact, much like the canvases hung to obscure the brutalist architecture that doesn’t fit F1’s own rather high self image from the unblinking eye of the telly.
Stunning win for Rosberg, great drive from Perez at rather the proper moment and tears at Toro Rosso with both drivers out of the Grand Prix. Meanwhile Sebastian and Kimi continue to lead the WDE (World Driver’s Expletives) and a big fat Zero for Red Bull and it’s strategy this time round, eclipsing Ferrari in Canada perhaps.
And remember to play nice in the comments!!