Photo courtesy of Jamey Price JameyPricePhoto.com
How did it happen? After all the carnage on Friday, several mistakes on Saturday, and two yellow flag ridden GP2 races, most everyone thought the Baku street course would invite many drivers to take the moped ride of shame from their mangled cars to pit garage, helmets hung low. But no, aside from the occasional local flag flown for cars set to DNF, the race ran clean and green, lap one through fifty-one.
Nico Rosberg won the race, easily, his teammate, Lewis Hamilton, finished in fifth, nearly a minute behind. For a large chunk of the race, Hamilton suffered from a “d-rate” issue, a problem that reduces electric motor output, and indeed total power. This particular fault merely took some fiddling with settings on the steering wheel to fix. But here’s the perplexing bit, the team couldn’t tell Hamilton which settings to change because current FIA rules forbid such topics of discussion over the radio.
Kimi Raikkonen suffered similar troubles in his Ferrari. He bemoaned the FIA’s rules, publically and repeatedly. And I have to agree with him, what purpose do these rules serve? Improving the show? I don’t think so. For the Finn, it’s unclear whether fixing the problem would’ve allowed him to keep Perez over five seconds behind him and stay in third (he received a five-second penalty for crossing the pit-in line without pitting in). Alas, he managed fourth and received 12 points for his efforts, overtaking Ricciardo for fourth in the Driver’s Championship.
Mercedes carried the widest performance gap from its competitors we’ve seen this season. Sebastian Vettel, finished second, but 17-seconds behind. Force India showed major pace in Baku, with Sergio Perez stepping on the podium in third. Hulkenberg botched qualifying and performed so-so in the race, finishing ninth. On the whole though, great day for the Silverstone based team. They scored 17 points, comparing favorably to both Red Bull and Williams, who scored 10 and 9 points, respectively.
Just outside the points, Button finished 11th for McLaren, Alonso exited the race early with a problem. Among the small teams, Sauber finished well, Felipe Nasr snagged 12th ahead of top Haas driver, Romain Grosjean.
In many ways, the European Grand Prix was flawed. Held the same weekend as Le Mans, which is poor form. And the street course came with a couple corners with questionable safety standards. But we saw 230 mph top speeds—on a street course! That’s crazy good. And the fact that F1 held a race on a track that eschews the bland trend towards homogenization? That’s crazy better.