Azerbaijan made its Formula One debut with Rosberg winning the first European Grand Prix held on Baku’s streets. Here are eight things we learnt from the race.
On the back of two disappointing outings for Rosberg, the European Grand Prix marked his return to form as he chalked up another victory. But despite record top speeds and pit stop times, the Baku City Circuit did not create the exhilarating racing expected after two chaotic GP2 races.
1) Rosberg responds
After claiming victory in each of the opening four rounds, Rosberg’s season hit a bump in Spain as his mistake not to select the correct engine mode led to both Mercedes drivers colliding. Then another two poor races followed, in Monaco and Canada, allowing Hamilton to slice Nico’s once 43-point championship lead down to just nine.
Now though, Rosberg has responded by chalking up another victory to his name. As Nico drove flawlessly to claim victory at the first Baku European Grand Prix, stretching his championship lead back to 24-points.
2) Hamilton struggles despite strong start
When Formula One began to turn wheels in Baku, it was Hamilton snatching the early advantage by topping every practice session.
But come qualifying, mistakes crept into Hamilton’s driving. With Lewis locking up multiple times, ruining runs before they even began, and ending the hour by clipping the wall at turn 10.
Without setting a competitive time in Q3, the turn 10 collision meant he would have to start the race from 10th on the grid. As well as seeking FIA permission, along with his team, to change the left front tyre from his fastest Q2 run to an equally as used tyre due to a severe black spot from a lock up.
Even in the race, after making up ground slowly on the leaders, Hamilton had to settle for fifth place. With Lewis, as well as race-winning Rosberg, hit with energy deployment issues.
The energy deployment issue supposedly only cost the drivers two-tenths of a second according to Mercedes data, but once it arose Hamilton’s pace fell dramatically. Then once the issue was solved, Hamilton’s pace jumped straight back to being one of the fastest cars on track.
3) Perez impresses again
Sergio Perez, the Mexican at Force India, has set a new record for his team by securing their second podium of the year.
Prior to 2016, the most podiums in a season the Silverstone based outfit had achieved was one. With a single podium in 2009, a single podium in 2014 and another single podium in 2015. But as of Baku, Force India – via Sergio Perez – have secured two podiums in 2016.
Firstly the ex-Sauber and McLaren driver drove home a third place finish in Monaco. Then, to make it two podiums in three races, Sergio drove home another third place finish despite hampering his own race in FP3.
For Perez’s crash at the end of FP3 meant he was handed a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change, demoting him from his second place in qualifying to seventh on the grid.
But after a hard drive home in Azerbaijan, including overtaking Kimi Raikkonen on the final lap to secure third by his own-doing, Perez was rewarded with the trophy.
4) Williams break Red Bull’s pit stop record
Throughout 2015, the Williams Formula One team struggled with their pit stops. Leading the team to work hard over the winter to find a cause and fix it.
And from the off in 2016, their hard work has paid off massively, with Williams setting the fastest pit stop times at every race so far this season.
But that is not all, for in Baku Williams set a new Formula One pit stop record (according to their data).
Official F1 data suggest Williams’ fastest pit stop in Baku was 1.92-seconds, equaling the previous record set by Red Bull in 2013. However Williams’ own data, after the team conducted analysis following the race, suggested that Massa’s stop time was actually 1.89-seconds. A new pit stop time record in Formula One.
5) Williams and Bottas set new F1 speed record
William’s other driver, Valtteri Bottas, also set another (unofficial) Formula One record at the European Grand Prix. With Bottas officially clocked at 366.1 km/h during qualifying in Baku. That was however benefited by a slipstream from Max Verstappen.
But as the braking zone for T1 is after the start/finish line, Valtteri was able to keep pushing to 378km/h (according to Williams’ data). The speed Bottas reached, 234 mp/h, is now an unofficial F1 speed record, with the previous benchmark understood to be Juan Pablo Montoya’s 372.6km/h from Monza in his McLaren back in 2005.
Officially Bottas’ 366.1 km/h also broke the previous official record, set by his Williams teammate during qualifying for last year’s Mexican Grand Prix – with Massa clocked at 364.3km/h.
6) Baku’s kerb cause issues
After Formula One’s first outing around the Azerbaijan capital, concerns were raised over the kerbs dotted around the circuit. With Pirelli receiving multiple claims that some tyres had been cut during the practice session by the kerbs. A claim Pirelli confirmed, with the tyres cut down to the thread – luckily no tyres exploded or punctured.
With knowledge of these claims, the race director examined the track following FP1 – delaying GP2 qualifying. With Charlie Whiting deciding the metal kerbs needed to be welded together and to the floor as the metal edges were not flush to each other and some bolts were loose.
The work however did not fully solve the issues with the kerbs, as shortly after the start of FP2, the kerb on the exit of turn six began to flap around with drivers warned to stay off the kerbs.
7) Run off areas raise concern
Kerbs were not the only concern in Baku, with the narrow street circuit having only a handful of adequate run off spaces.
Luckily no run off spaces were severely needed other than at turn one, with the handful of smaller ones used throughout the weekend but only for lock ups. The smaller run off areas however caused drivers issues when they ventured into them, with some unable to turn their cars around quickly.
Unfortunately for the circuit, as it is set around Baku’s streets, there is not much more room to add more run offs in for next year or extend the current ones.
8) Red Bull suspend Aeroscreen development
In Monaco, Formula One teams agreed that the Halo concept proposed by Ferrari should be pursued for implication in 2017 – rather than the Aeroscreen concept Red Bull tested at this year’s Russian Grand Prix.
With that decision in mind, Red Bull have opted to end work on their concept as they do not wish to waste any more money or resources on a project that may never be used.
After Red Bull’s initial tests, FIA tests found the upper rim of the Aeroscreen potentially to be an issue – with concerns raised it may be in a position drivers heads could collide with in an accident. Leading to the FIA favouring the Halo for 2017, and potentially implementing the Aeroscreen for 2018.
2018 however would leave Red Bull needing to work on their 2016 car, their 2017 car as well as the Aeroscreen at the same time. A situation the team have decided not to be worthwhile. Despite Red Bull having already spent around quarter of a million Euros on the project.
Now though, Red Bull is hoping an outside party will continue to develop the project so it could be used in the future. But not only for F1 but all motorsport categories.