Max Verstappen was looking to bounce back strongly in Baku, following a dismal Chinese GP. Yet in P1 he put his car into the wall and then managed just 16 laps in P2 before his engine failed.
However, Max will not take a grid penalty when the engine is replaced because he will still be under the three allowed for the season. It may well hurt him later in the year but for this weekend things are looking good for the Dutchman and Red Bull.
While Valterri Bottas was quickest in P1, Daniel Ricciardo was a mere 0.035s behind the Finn. P2 was a different matter, with Ricciardo fastest then Raikkonen then the lap restricted Max Verstappen. This of course looks good for Red Bull’s qualifying tomorrow, yet they were quickest in P2 last year in Baku, but failed to make the front row of the grid as the Mercedes duo turned up their engines on the Saturday afternoon.
Yet this year, Mercedes haven’t been able to dominate qualifying and with the exception of Lewis pole lap in Melbourne, Ferrari have ruled the Saturday afternoon session. But now it appears Red Bull are in the mix for pole position too which is double trouble for the Silver arrows. Bottas and Hamilton were 4th and 5th in P2 and unfortunately their long run pace was no better.
Interestingly a number of the teams have suggested the soft tyre could be the best for the race, however, no driver has opted for more than 2 sets of this compound for the entire weekend. Lewis Hamilton tried a stint on the soft tyre at the end of the session, and there was a glimmer of hope for Mercedes there as he slipped in a couple of 1:46s laps hidden amongst those ranging between 1:49 and 1:52.
The long runs were conducted by the main protagonists on the Ultra Soft tyre and the pecking order of average times was as follows.
This is a disaster for Mercedes, and even if they have more engine mode to deploy, a second is a lot to find on Sunday.
It really does appear the pecking order in F1 has changed substantially and Mercedes have a lot of head scratching to do. If the silver arrows are P5 and P6 on the grid, the temptation will be for them to try and stop once less than the Ferrari’s and Red Bull’s, but as TJ13 analysed last week, that strategy isn’t working for Lewis and Valterri either.
Mercedes’ best strategy hopes are to run the race with the theoretical quickest strategy and in Baku it appears a once stop just won’t cut it.
MORE F1: Revealed: Why Azerbaijan GP 2018 Even better than 2017
TJ13 TV reveal their thoughts for the weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, hinting at the possibilities that 2018 could be a cracking race. The Pirelli factor, Hamilton bogey track(?), poor poor Williams, Red Bull on a charge and the bi-polar nature of Baku.
Do you agree or disagree with the comments made?
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