I’m still not a huge fan of the Baku track itself, but we were served up another hectic race as it fast becomes the carbon fibre capital of F1, and so although not a classic track, it appears to create a lot of (mostly crash induced) drama.
Lewis Hamilton, leaves Baku with a slender points lead which he, and everyone else was not truly expecting as for a large part of the race Vettel had it under control. Ferrari look to have comfortably the fastest car at the moment and although Mercedes looked closer in Azerbaijan, there is still a significant advantage. In the early part of the race Vettel and Hamilton traded times but the gap eased out to 5-6 seconds. Hamilton did bring it back down to under 4 at one point, but the effort required to do so was highlighted when he locked up into turn one which necessitated an early pitstop onto the soft tyres. These appeared to be slow to warm up and Hamilton was in danger of losing second place to Valtteri as when he stopped, but this never came to fruition as the Red Bull duo saw to that.
Adrian Newey’s reaction on the pitwall said it all – an unnecessary and unfortunate end to their race. They’d duelled at various points, rubbing wheels enough to remove the Pirelli markings in one altercation and there was air of inevitability about the final collision. Much will be written by the media apportioning blame one way or another, but the fair result is to blame both. Daniel definitely overcooked his braking point, and Max definitely moved too many times in his defence of the position with the net result being a huge mess and another safety car.
Hats off to Vettel for having a go at the restart, it was ambitious, and it ultimately cost him the championship lead. After everyone’s criticism of Bottas at Bahrain for being too soft, I imagine Seb felt he’d get the same treatment if he didn’t at least try it.
In the end, bad luck to Bottas, well done to Charles LeClerc with an honorary mention for Alonso for getting his two wheeled car back to the pits (via a glancing blow off the pitwall) and carrying on.