Nico Rosberg wins the first European Grand Prix held at the Baku City Circuit.
With pole for Azerbaijan’s maiden Formula One Grand Prix, Rosberg lined up alongside Ricciardo on the grid. And with Ricciardo unable to snatch the lead off the line, Rosberg romped away to victory as Hamilton struggled with his engine de-rating.
Hamilton had been dictating the pace as Formula One made its debut in Azerbaijan on Friday, topping every practice session. But after locking up in Q2 and later crashing in Q3, Lewis began the inaugural race from tenth on the grid.
Somewhat fortunately for Hamilton however, the FIA gave Mercedes permission to switch his front-left tyre for an equally used alternative. With article 24.4g allowing the change under safety measures.
Lewis though was still starting from the fifth row of the grid, whereas his team-mate and championship rival was starting from pole.
Off the line Rosberg appeared to be under threat from Ricciardo. But as Nico swooped in for the corner, the lead was his and that was the closest Rosberg came to being challenged all afternoon as he walked away to victory.
Ricciardo’s early challenge also marked the closest he would go to challenging for the lead, as early pit stops for Red Bull sent their drivers down the order.
Before Verstappen would lose places with a pit stop however, Bottas and Hamilton were lining up the Red Bull down the long main straight. With Valtteri taking the inside line for turn one and forcing the Spanish Grand Prix winner wide. The wide line Max was forced into also allowed Lewis through into turn two, as after a careful start Hamilton began his route forwards.
As Ricciardo set to work regaining places lost in the pit lane, Ferrari became concerned that the Red Bull may be able to pull of the undercut on their drivers. Vettel though had other thoughts as he remained out, allowing Raikkonen to pit first.
The early stop for Raikkonen however left him behind the Manor of Wehrlein. With Pascal pushing hard early on, although better traction from the fresh rubber allowed Kimi to pull away. But Raikkonen’s race was already hampered, for he had crossed the pit lane entry without pitting early on as he slipstreamed Ricciardo. An incident worth a five-second time penalty.
Hamilton meanwhile was beginning to hit issues with his Mercedes. Firstly, reporting a lot of vibrations from braking. But after his first stop, a more prominent engine issue arose.
The engine issue left Lewis unable to gain the full potential electrical energy deployment on offer. With the team only able to tell him it was down to Hamilton running in an incorrect mode. A mode they could not tell him to get out of in favor of a more powerful mode.
As the laps were ticked off, while Hamilton fiddled around attempting to find the correct mode, Rosberg was pulling away completely unchallenged. While for Hamilton, he could not find the correct setting until the 44th lap, and by that time he was running 15 seconds behind Perez for fourth. With the Mercedes power unit and Force India package propelling Perez through the field early on, easily picking off the likes of fellow Mercedes powered Bottas.
With the correct setting engaged, Hamilton instantly became the fastest man on the track. But by that point it was all too late for him to challenge the cars ahead.
For Raikkonen, late issues were also causing him trouble in his Ferrari. As initially blue flags caught his attention with, with Kimi barking “where the **** are the blue flags? I’ve been following him the whole ****ing lap”
Late technical issues also cost Raikkonen a lot of time, and like Hamilton, the team were unable to tell him what he could do to manage the issue. This all coming after Kimi played the team game when he allowed Vettel through earlier in the race as Sebastian charged up behind him on fresh rubber.
With Kimi struggling for pace at the end of the race, Perez remained on a charge as he sniffed out the final podium position.
Even though Raikkonen had a five-second time penalty Perez was aware of, Sergio lined the Finn up down the main straight. With DRS blasting the Force India ahead of the Ferrari to secure third place.
In a quiet race of his own, Vettel too secured a podium place in second. But out in front, the race was controlled by Rosberg despite GP2’s support races suggesting a lot of action and a lot of safety cars.
In fact, the first Formula One Grand Prix held in Azerbaijan ended without a single safety car, and without a lot of contact. With Gutierrez’s turn one lock up slide into Hulkenberg at the start of the race the only real contact between drivers.
|12||Felipe Nasr||1 lap|
|13||Romain Grosjean||1 lap|
|14||Kevin Magnussen||1 lap|
|15||Jolyon Palmer||1 lap|
|16||Esteban Gutierrez||1 lap|
|17||Marcus Ericsson||1 lap|
|18||Rio Haryanto||2 laps|
|19||Fernando Alonso||DNF – Gearbox|
|20||Pascal Wehrlein||DNF – Brakes|
|21||Carlos Sainz Jr.||DNF – Suspension|
|22||Daniil Kvyat||DNF – Suspension|