Sunday 18 February 2018 / 01:59 PM


Round 8 of the Formula 1 season took place at Azerbaijan’s Baku City Circuit, a long street circuit that is regarded as combination of Monza and Monaco, sporting long fast straights, tight slow sections and unforgiving walls.

Day 1 began with Free Practice 1 littered with cars struggling for grip, with Mercedes Valtteri Bottas and Renault’s Jolyon Palmer both having spins, while Kevin Magnussen, Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen all joined Palmer in missing a turn and going into the run off area. Both Red Bulls set the fastest times, while Perez clipped the wall at turn 8, ending his session early. FP2 saw the Red Bull’s again set the pace while many drivers continued struggling with grip while Palmer repeated the crash by Perez. Verstappen damaged the rear of his car when he banged into the wall.

Free Practice 3 on day 2 saw the curse on Palmer continue with a wiring issue causing his car to set itself on fire. Sebastian Vettel saw his Ferrari suffer a minor reliability issue which reduced his session to just 7 laps. Romain Grosjean wasn’t comfortable with the setup of his Haas and was unable to get the issues rectified.

Despite a strong showing in practice, Red Bull looked a little sluggish in Qualifying. Q1 saw Ricciardo receive a gentle hurry up from his team, while Lewis Hamilton topped the times in the session. Grosjean’s Haas ran third last. Palmer’s Renault was not repaired in time and missed all of Qualifying. Hamilton again topped the times in Q2 with both Williams and Force India’s showing good pace to advance to Q3. Lewis Hamilton blitzed the field to post an amazing time almost half a second quicker than his team mate Bottas and a full second clear of the Ferrari’s. The session ended when Ricciardo’s flying lap ended abruptly when he lost the rear and hit the wall. Hamilton claimed pole for the 66th time, passing Ayrton Senna and just two behind all time leader Michael Schumacher.

Despite starting on the third row of the grid, Verstappen again made a great start, moving into the top 3 in no time, Bottas collided into Raikkonen which saw Bottas pit on the first lap which sent him to the rear of the field and a full lap behind. Ricciardo pitted 4 laps later due to debris impacting his brakes. This saw him drop back to second last, Hamilton and Vettel were running one and two respectively. On lap 13 Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso broke down, which saw the safety car deployed. Ricciardo had risen to tenth and was preparing for a long drive and no future stops.

The safety car though allowed him to make a competitive tyre change. It also allowed Bottas to unlap himself and get his tyres up to temperature. Kvyat’s car was finally cleared but within the first lap of racing, the Force India’s of Perez and Esteban Ocon collided, while Raikkonen ran over the debris and picking up a puncture. While behind the safety car, Hamilton entered a turn slowly and this saw Vettel run up the back of his car. Vettel drove up beside Hamilton to remonstrate and his Ferrari banged into the side of the Silver Arrow. The race was red flagged shortly after to remove debris off the track.

Raikkonen and Perez looked likely to retire, however their cars were repaired, although outside race regulations. Once racing resumed, Ricciardo pulled off a stunning move to overtake two cars in one turn to move into third place before news that Vettel had to serve a 10 second stop-go penalty for his incident was followed immediately by Hamilton being forced to pit due to his headrest not being properly secured. This saw Ricciardo take the lead with the Williams of Lance Stroll in second place. At the other end, Palmer and Grosjean both failed to finish on what was a weekend to forget for both drivers.

Bottas surged through the field and on the very last lap, pipped Stroll for second place on the podium just as both cars were crossing the line. Vettel finished fourth and Hamilton fifth in a crazy and exciting race, while Ricciardo came home for the fifth win of his career, to which he celebrated by simply laughing at the crazy race he just won.

Final Standings (Top 10)
1 – Ricciardo (Red Bull)
2 – Bottas (Mercedes)
3 – Stroll (Williams)
4 – Vettel (Ferrari)
5 – Hamilton (Mercedes)
6 – Ocon (Force India)
7 – Magnussen (Haas)
8 – Sainz (Toro Rosso)
9 – Alonso (McLaren)
10 – Wehrlein (Sauber)

Drivers Championship (Top 10)
1 – Vettel – 153
2 – Hamilton – 139
3 – Bottas – 111
4 – Ricciardo – 92
5 – Raikkonen – 73
6 – Verstappen – 45
7 – Perez – 44
8 – Ocon – 35
9 – Sainz – 29
10 – Massa – 20

Constructors Championship
1 – Mercedes – 250
2 – Ferrari – 226
3 – Red Bull – 137
4 – Force India – 79
5 – Williams – 37
6 – Toro Rosso – 33
7 – Haas – 21
8 – Renault – 18
9 – Sauber – 5
10 – McLaren – 2

[YouTube – Sportixer]

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About the author

Andrew Ferguson

A rugby league historian and stats buff – most notably as the brains behind the phenomenal Rugby League Project resource – Melbourne-based Andrew has written extensively for Rugby League Review and the Men of League magazine, and is a valued addition to CBS’s rugby league stable.

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