Grand Prix 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix Practice, Qualifying & Race Discussion

What season 2018 has turned out to be! Many predictions from winter tests have been if not completely thrown out at least seriously frown upon. So far this year we've seen 0 races won by either Lewis Hamilton or Mercedes who were the pre-season clear favourites. All of this doesn't necessarily mean Mercedes won't bounce back and run away with the Trophies by the time F1 circus crosses the pond for second time this year, but what we have here is a much better product than most of what 2017 had to offer. At least they got my attention. However if you look at the top 6, you'd see the usual suspects, you have Vettel, Hamilton, Bottas, Ricciardo, Raikkonen and ... Alonso? It is a little surprising to see the Spaniard so high as many expected the McLaren to continue to stink this year. And it does but somehow Alonso finds a way to always be there. More surprisingly still not to see Verstappen, you'd need to all the way down to #8 to find him. After 3 seasons in F1 and having shown he's the top dog at Red Bull, the Dutchman was also "the chosen one" to wrestle Hamilton for the title. This has not been the case so far. Multiple errors, at least one per race, has marred his progress and has casted serious doubts about his capacity to even beat his team-mate. Ricciardo on the other hand is smiling more than usual with his surprising though deserved win (with a pinch of luck). Yes, the Aussie doesn't have the sheer speed than the young Max has but he can capitalize when an opportunity comes his way.

What to expect from the Azerbaijan Grand Prix? The very long, claustrophobic, twisty, non-forbidding narrow circuit was brought about more for political reasons than sporting enthusiasm. 2018's is going to be 2nd Azerbaijan's Grand Prix and it'll be the 3rd time F1 runs at the Baku Street Circuit. First time around it was named the "European Grand Prix" probably trying to tap in the heritage this name evoke. I guess they have forgotten what the infamous Valencia Street Circuit damaged the brand, 2012 notwithstanding. Compared to Monaco but with sections as fast as Monza, a real downtown circuit by the Caspian sea. The first race in 2016 was totally a Rosberg affair, was considered by our own panel of experts, the worst race of 2016 ( Nevertheless 2017 dramatically steered their opinion and instead it was "unofficially" named the best race of the year ( Really last year had it all; first lap mayhem, wheels banging, a plethora of drivers retired and overtaking! and a podium not seen anytime before or after. Even Canadian Lance Stroll, the prototype of a paid driver, somehow managed to score 3rd place, his best position since his debut. Ricciardo who had issues at the start of the race, can be seen at times overtaking 3 cars at a time and at the end winning the race in somewhat similar fashion to how he won in China last weekend.

Here's hoping that next weekend race is as exciting as 2017 and continues the trend of 2018 where so far it seems, anything can happen. Nuş olsun!
The leader of a race in Baku will earn his corn if he is ever required to lead a Safety Car restart down what is, in effect, a straight right from the point the lights go off the top of the road-car. And let's face it, if there's any circuit to put your money on yellow and red flags making appearances, then it is this one.

If the Safety Car comes out, they should deploy Jonathan Pearce's Robot Wars commentry modus operandi of effectively shouting "Carnage!" down a microphone.

You get the feeling that every race here will be either epoch-defining epic or ditchwater-ready crap.
Am I the only one that's starting to like the Askaban Grand Prix? Great F2 and GP3 racing round here with drafting galore.

Speaking of which Mclaren got their drafting practice in early in China didn't they? I'm sure poor old Stoff will be given the duff middle of the session run again and made to give Fernando a pull at optimum run time (not like that). Mclaren should be careful with Alonso and drafting though - he was really not very nice about Ferrari when it messed up at Monza that time.
I think that Baku is a pretty race. If the racing is dull at least the circuit is interesting as they drive round.
Riccardio looks promising today could be back to back wins equally as quick as bottas on step softer. But im sure mercedes will be turning it up over the weekend & nice graphics it almost made the halo tolerable

I suspect there is a little bit of sandbagging going on. Where lap times are concerned it all turns on who gets the best tow down that last straight anyways.
They seem very sure the Ultrasofts are going to last, judging by the selections. Hopefully they're wrong.
For a race to be tactically interesting, the softest tyre should be rapid yet fragile, the hardest tyre hardwaring yet competitive and the middle one about half of one and twice the other in terms of both pace and durability.

Bonus points if one team is faster on equivalent hards but slower on equivalent softs.

So for the best chance at entertainment, the ultra ought to fail within the first third of the race distance.
Raikonnen’s time was tow-assisted for sure, but it’s only Friday so I wouldn’t get too excited by the times yet. The Bulls do look quite handy though.

High winds are expected over the weekend, and that will inevitably produce a lot of yellow flags, maybe the odd red. A windy quali could be fun.
I suspect there is a little bit of sandbagging going on. Where lap times are concerned it all turns on who gets the best tow down that last straight anyways.

I expect sandbagging. Those mercedes will find a bunch of time tomorrow. But 10th & 11th 1.5 & 2 secs off seems a bit too much for me
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