It’s took a while, but Sunday finally gave F1 fans around the world exactly what they have always wanted to see. A non-stop adrenaline ride that left you on the edge of your seat and provided action and drama at (almost quite literally) every turn.
By the end you were just disappointed it had to finish. The circuit helped, Baku’s tight and twisty streets meant any driver was only the lock of a brake away from causing carnage – and so it proved. The 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix was a war of attrition, and Daniel Ricciardo was the last man standing.
Last season Mercedes dominated the headlines for negative inter-team relations between its drivers but last weekend saw some other teams get involved in arguments with those of whom they share a garage with. It started early on when Carlo Sainz accused Toro Rosso teammate Daniil Kvyat of barging back onto the track without using his mirrors after some early chaos, while Force India’s impressive start to the season was soured slightly as Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez tried to put cars into a space designed for one. Ocon went on to finish sixth, leaving Perez back in the garage. Fuming.
Ridiculed since the start of the season for being way off the pace and a committing a serious of embarrassing mistakes, the young Canadian hadn’t exactly won many admirers in his first few weeks and months at the highest level of Motorsport. But the last two races have changed all that.
A solid drive to ninth two weeks ago at his home race in Canada was backed up by a calm and collected drive to third in Baku. Never mind he was pipped on the run down to the chequered flag by Valtteri Bottas for second, while all those around him were losing their heads (and several pieces of bodywork too) Stroll simply soldiered on to earn his best career race result and become the youngest man to ever stand on an F1 podium.
This weekend probably confirms Baku as the best and most exciting street circuit on the Formula One calendar. The tight, intricate flow of corners keep drivers on their toes and guessing for the entirety of the lap, while the long straights provide ample opportunity for DRS to be deployed successfully, meaning overtaking – whilst still being a challenge that needed to be judged to perfection – was more than on offer for the whole race. The ridiculously narrow turn 7 was widened but it was other part of the layout that also provided drama, and the circuit could now become the race everyone looks forward to for years to come.
If there’s a point to be had, Fernando Alonso will find it
Like Stroll, McLaren had also become the butt of most jokes in Formula 1 so far in 2017. Engine failure after engine failure has left the partnership between the Woking team and Honda hanging by a thread. But when the door to the points opened on Sunday afternoon as accidents and bad reliability saw a throng of drivers fall by the wayside in Baku, Alonso – arguably the most talented driver on the grid – ground out a his team’s first points haul of the season in ninth. Undoubtedly helped by the collisions in front of him, it was still a strong statement that so long as his engine has a pulse, the two-time world champion knows how to get the best from car underneath him.
The Austrian Grand Prix takes place between the 7-9 July.
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