AzeGP: Safety Car madness destroys dominant victory!
Scuderia Ferrari proved fastest all weekend, Vettel was P1 in saturday practice, later took pole by an impressive margin and cruised away from the pack in the first half of the race. It almost seemed too easy…
Pole in Bahrain, pole in China and pole in Baku. Vettel is in great shape when it comes to 1 lap flatout. Is it because of the mysterious paddle? No, it’s not. Nobody knows exactly what it does, but we assume it’s legal since it’s still on the steering wheel. The pole time was set on the first run in Q3, and Seb made a mistake on the second run. Which opened an oppurtunity for Kimi, who delivered the most impressive sector 1 I’ve seen in a long time. He was on his way to pole but lost it in the final corner. A shame for the many Kimi fans, but the powerslide was impressive. Seb on pole, Kimi P6.
Oh boy, for the second time in a row I’m lost for words after a Grand Prix. What a crazy season this has been so far. Entertaining for the neutral fan, surely. But from a Ferrari perspective, today was rather painful.
The start was, as expected in the narrow Baku streets, not clean at all. The top 5 got away, Vettel leading. But Ocon turned into Raïkkönen, breaking the Ferrari front wing and launching himself into the wall. Sirotkin got sandwiched between Hulkenberg and Alonso. Sirotkin out, Alonso a double puncture (yes, two flat tires!) but managed to bring the Mclaren to the pits and continue. Kimi also continued with new tires and a new front wing. And as the safety car finally disappeared, Vettel started to build a comfortable lead. Meanwhile the two Red Bulls were battling hard and even touched wheels in turn 1. Fair to say, Mercedes could not keep up, so they had to try something different. Hamilton pitted, but they left Bottas out. Vettel pitted as planned, expecting to see Bottas in the pits eventually and easily winning the race.
But this is Formula 1, and expectations don’t match reality. The battling Red Bulls crashed. The biggest sin in F1, crashing with your teammate, and it happened again. Just 2 weeks after both Toro Rosso’s collided. (And those who remember Turkey 2010, you know.) This brought out the safety car for the second time, and the top 4 fitted new tires for the final laps. Bottas lucked out and was already dreaming about the win, while Vettel was eager to overtake him and still win this race. Hamilton, close behind now, was also hoping for an unexpected victory. After an embarrassing crash from Grosjean (under safety car!) delayed the restart even more, the front-runners were ready for 4 laps of hard battle! Hamilton was attacking Vettel while he was attacking Bottas! In an all-or-nothing divebomb he locked up and ran wide, rejoining the track in 4th with flat-spotted front tires causing vibrations. He was later overtaken by Perez because of that issue. Bottas ran over some debris and got a puncture, robbing him from the win and putting team mate Hamilton into the lead. That is how the race finished. Hamilton wins, Kimi 2nd and Perez completes the podium.
Lewis now leads the championship. It went from Vettel expanding his lead to falling behind 4 points in a few minutes. This made it a very painful afternoon. Now Ferrari needs to show true strength and get back into the lead of the drivers championship (Still leading the contstructors thanks to the Bottas DNF).
Special mention to Ferrari Young Driver Charles Leclerc for his brilliant performance this weekend, both in qualifying and in the race. He finished P6! We are secretly not so secretly hoping to see him in a Ferrari seat, sometime 2020?
Alright now, can we please have a bit less drama in Spain?