Headrest and Brake Checks- Baku GP
The Azerbaijan Grand Prix was as controversial as it was exciting. A race through the narrow (very narrow) streets of central Baku, a city still sporting castles and vestiges of history (think old) descended upon by the most advanced racing series ever created would create a lasting mark on the 2017 season.
Though the on-track carnage that began as soon as the lights went out, the typical finishing order was up to chance. Raikkonen and Bottas made contact early in the first lap, with Bottas dropping way down the order. A disabled Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat would bring out a safety car. A short while later, after numerous other collisions, including the teammates at Force India colliding, debris on the track brought out a safety car. That is where things got a little nuts. Hamilton, leading the field behind the safety car, backed up the pack well behind the safety car. Coming off of a particularly blind corner Hamilton appeared to brake check Vettel which led to Vettel crashing into the back of Hamilton. Vettel, reacting to Hamilton’s move to accordion the pack, pulled along side Hamilton and drove right into him. Vettel, the championship leader, showed incredibly poor judgement in falling for the trap while Hamilton would demonstrate again his passive aggressive way in which he goes after both teammates and other drivers. It was a bone headed move by both drivers, but Vettel would pay with a 10- second penalty a little later, while Hamilton would have to pit due to a loose headrest. Vettel would emerge from the pits ahead of Hamilton with the latter complaining over the radio that the 10 second penalty wasn't harsh enough.
The FIA would conclude later that according to data that Hamilton did not slow down, but an on-board shot a second before impact shows that he was on the brake pedal full stop, even if for a moment. Vettel’s reaction absolutely deserved a penalty, but Hamilton is not without some guilt. Hamilton has a history of bunching up the field behind the safety car which is predictable, but its hard too ignore what appears to be full brakes exiting a corner.
After the drama, the race would finish with a unexpected podium line-up of Ricciardo, Bottas and Lance Stroll. It was Stroll’s eighth career start, and his first podium. He was the second driver in F1 history to take a podium finish while still a teenager (18 years old). He is also the first Canadian since Jacques Villenueve to take a podium spot.
Mr. Nice Guy Drives Nice:
Ricciardo, the nicest guy in F1 played things to perfection, using the safety car stints and multiple incidents to work his way to the front grabbing his first win of 2017. Starting tenth and finishing first put a exclamation point on what was otherwise a terrible weekend for Red Bull, after losing Verstappen earlier in the race due to engine problems. Shoeys all around (nasty).
Williams F1, the longest running privateer team in F1 got a third place on the back of 18 year old Stroll. They did what Williams always does, consistently drive their own race taking advantage of the mistakes of others. It's a good sign when Williams does well as it demonstrates that a small team can still be competitive.
McLaren Honda finally finished a race. Not only was it a finish, but Alonso came home in 9th place and at one point had been up to 5th place. So sad that things became so bad that a 9th place finish is newsworthy.