Azerbaijan Grand Prix: Four talking points

Richard Hazeldine Richard Hazeldine

Once again, the Azerbaijan provided Formula 1 fans with an exciting weekend of race action as Lewis Hamilton took the chequered flag following what could be described as an eventful contest.

FOX Sports Asia takes a look at some of the main talking points from the ‘Battle of Baku’:

More bedlam in Baku
Most people would struggle to pick out Azerbaijan on a map, but what F1 fans are now aware of is that the narrow streets of Baku provide for exciting, action-packed Grand Prix’s. For the second year in succession, the Azerbaijan race resembled a winner-takes all video game with endless amounts of thrills and spills as cars crashed and teammates took each other out.

There was drama from lights out right up until the very last lap in the kind of unpredictable, edge-of-your-seat race that spectators, but probably not drivers and team bosses, crave. With so much action taking place over the 51 laps, many F1 fans will be asking: “Can we race in Baku every week?”

Lewis gets lucky
Reigning champion Lewis Hamilton has been anything but himself this season. Since losing the season opening Australian Grand Prix thanks to a team miscalculation, the British superstar has looked well off the pace in subsequent races in Bahrain and China. Again in Baku, the Mercedes man was coasting to what would have been a very ordinary third place when he was able to profit from the error (Sebastian Vettel) and misfortune (Valtteri Bottas) of others for an unlikely win. Hamilton later said he felt lucky to win, and most observers would agree.

One thing that is clear to all is that Mercedes and Hamilton are still struggling to match Ferrari, and while the Silver Arrows (well, Hamilton) got lucky this time around, they won’t be able to rely on such crazy events channelling points in their direction over the next 17 races. They need to pinpoint the things that are going to make their car more competitive and fast – before Vettel and Ferrari start to pull away.

Red Bull duo in the dog house
After starting the season with high hopes, Red Bull now has a full-blown crisis on its hands following the spectacular crash that saw its drivers take each other out on Lap 40 in Baku. Observers suggested that Max Verstappen was at fault after he refused to yield to Daniel Ricciardo and the Australian thudded into the back of his teammate at 220 mph, bringing a premature end to the race for both drivers. Team boss Christian Horner, however, said that both drivers were to blame and insisted the duo apologise to the rest of the team after their intransigence cost Red Bull vital points in the championship race (they were in P4 and P5 at the time).

Although the team appears to have drawn a line under the incident with very public apologies, one suspects that this won’t be the last time the duo face off against each other this season. In fact, Red Bull could well find itself having to perform firefighting duties until the end of the season, when Ricciardo looks set to move on to pastures new.

Grosjean has a weekend to forget
Poor old Romain Grosjean. The Haas driver had one of those weekend’s in Baku and he will be keen to move on. Grosjean was only in the race at the discretion of stewards after failing to set a time when his Haas ran off the track just three corners into his qualifying lap. The Frenchman was unable to get his car into gear and was forced to switch his engine off. Then, during the race proper, things got even worse. Running at P6 following an eventful race, Grosjean earned the unwanted distinction of being one of the few drivers to crash out under the safety car when he careened into the wall while trying to keep his tyres warm.

After initially blaming Marcus Ericsson (bad move considering all the TV cameras present), the 32-year old later said that an accidental ‘switch bump’ was to blame for his error.
Either way, it has not been a great season so far for Grosjean. He remains pointless while teammate Kevin Magnussen has 11. Spain can’t come soon enough for Romain.