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Rosberg Boosts Championship Lead

The European GP returned to the F1 calendar after a 4-year absence to give Nico Rosberg the title boost he needed, with a comfortable win at the Baku street circuit in Azerbaijan. The excitement before the race was building as the supporting GP2 races had seen carnage and brilliant action. Even the F1 practice sessions and qualifying was a brilliant watch, as the winding street circuit was catching out even the best drivers. Ultimately though, as with many of the new circuits in recent years, the race fell flat and Rosberg eased to a 20 second victory. Sebastian Vettel did what he could to challenge Rosberg, but could only finish a distant 2nd. Sergio Perez continued his superb form to take another 3rd place for Force India, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen who finished 4th. Lewis Hamilton finished almost a minute behind Rosberg in 5th, after he suffered technical issues throughout. Williams’ Valtteri Bottas was 6th, ahead of the Red Bull pair of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. Nico Hulkenberg and Felipe Massa rounded off the points positions with 9th and 10th respectively.

It was a comfortable afternoon for the championship leader who led every lap of the race after fending off Ricciardo at turn 1. From then on, he drove off into the distance to record his 19th win in Formula 1. His team mate Lewis Hamilton however did not have as easy an afternoon as his team mate and championship rival. Throughout Friday and Saturday, Hamilton looked almost certain to overhaul Rosberg in the championship come the end of the race on Sunday. His pace was scintillating throughout practise, and going into qualifying he was building momentum. This came to an end in Q2 however when Hamilton pushed that bit too hard and ending up crashing out of qualifying and started 10th. As with Rosberg in Canada, many expected Hamilton to fly through the field and maybe challenge Rosberg. Again, as with Rosberg, Hamilton struggled to make it through the field due to an engine settings problem on his car, the tight and twisty nature of the track certainly didn’t help.

Elsewhere on track, it was a very drab race with nothing else really happening. Red Bull’s race was ruined by strategy calls due to the risk of safety car deployments. Unfortunately for Red Bull, there was no such incidents. One highlight of an otherwise dull race was the performance of Jenson Button who came from 19th on the grid to finish in 11th place. Despite expectations before the race, there was next to no drama at all, with 18 of the 22 drivers finishing the race.


Perez Equals Mexican Podium Record

Sergio Perez’s rejuvenated Formula 1 career continued at the European GP as he equalled Pedro Rodriguez’s record of 7 podiums for a Mexican driver. It is amazing what can happen in just three years. His 2013 season was a disaster at McLaren, with a series of high profile errors leading to the team dismissing him after one season. Force India could clearly see the talent the young Mexican possess and have really changed his career prospects in the sport. His performance in Baku, I believe, has put him in pole position to take Kimi Raikkonen’s seat at Ferrari in 2017, should Ferrari drop the Finn.

His podium in Baku was his second in three races, and that was after a big mistake in practice resulted in him receiving a 5 place grid penalty. Without the penalty, Perez would have started an incredible 2nd place behind Rosberg. Furthermore, Perez’s race craft was brilliant throughout the race. To top everything off, Perez overtook Raikkonen, despite knowing that Raikkonen had a time penalty and would have finished behind Perez. What Perez did with this move was send out a clear message to the F1 world, especially Ferrari. What is certainly clear is that Perez has matured since the McLaren fiasco and is ready to return to the F1 big leagues. Ferrari would be foolish not to seriously consider Perez for 2017.

Has the Radio Ban Gone Too Far?

Not for the first time in F1, rules and regulations off the track dominated the post-race talk, with the radio ban sparking huge debate. Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen suffered with technical issues throughout the race that could have been solved with a reset message from the team. However, due to the restrictions on radio communications, both drivers were not able to solve their issues. This message effectively ruined Hamilton’s race as he was seriously down on power. Hamilton was getting more frustrated as the race progressed and threatened to reset everything to solve the issue. Eventually Hamilton figured out the issue and made the changes. By the end of the race, he was the fastest on the circuit. This has led to the debate about the ban. Many feel that this ban cost the fans the opportunity to see what Hamilton could do coming through the field. Had the ban been a bit more relaxed, an actual race might have broken out. With this ban in place, I feel it has taken something away for the fans. I used to enjoy listening to what went on inside the cockpit as it gave a brilliant insight into just how focused these drivers need to be. There has to be a happy medium with regards to this ban. I agree that drivers should not be almost coached by their engineers throughout the race, but these cars are extremely complicated. Knowing how to reset every little thing and focus on racing is a challenge. There has to be a way of balancing this out so that we do not have to keep talking about the ban. Formula 1’s talking points should be made on the track not off it.

Report courtesy of Simon Gray

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