Grand Prix 2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix (990th GP) Practice, Qualifying & Race Discussion

F1's whistle stop tour of countries with small F1 fan bases and dodgy human rights comes to Azerbaijan in the last week of April for a race round the 'historic' city streets of Baku. You can tell it's 'historic' because there is a castle and everything. It's fair to say that when this Grand Prix was first put on the calendar it was universally hated. Firstly it was yet another street circuit, secondly it called itself the European Grand Prix when Azerbijan is not in Europe, and thirdly it was set up to clash with the 24 hour race at Le Mans. Frankly it was the worst PR campaign since someone said "hey Mr Millerband let's get a picture of you eating that bacon sandwich" - however a few years in and something has changed. It turns out that the circuit lay out generates interesting races and now, for the first time, the majority of the F1 fan base are looking forward to coming back here.

So why does the layout create good racing? Well basically it's two circuits in one with a tight twisty technical section and a silly long blast down it straight. Modern F1 cars struggle to set up for both meaning teams have to try and strike a balance which leads to some getting it spot on and some very wrong. The straight is so long that it brings old fashioned drafting and slipstream back into play. This means you can do this thing called overtaking which is an old fashioned concept in F1 but a good one. The other reason it creates good racing is there is very little run off area and, as modern F1 drivers seen incapable of colouring between the lines, this leads to accident, which in turn leads to bunched up racing and mixed up positions.

This will only be the 4th running of the race but already the track has many memorable moments. The Force India's playing demolition derby with each other. The early FINNish (Kimi and Bottas collide). Vettel's moment of road rage. Bottas getting Lance Stroll on the line for 2nd. The Red Bulls taking each other out. Lewis having loose straps. Bottas last lap puncture. Vettel's lunge for the lead. When you list it like that you realise how much has happened here in only a few races. Let's hope for another classic. God knows F1 needs it right now after the snorefest of China and ever falling viewing figures.

A quick look at the form book and you'd have to be brave to bet against Mercedes. Closer inspection shows that Bottas has always been good round here and might be worth a punt. Bottas has impressed me this season so far. It's very hard to impress when your team mate is Lewis Hamilton but there seems more fire in him. Taking a look over at the red side of the grid you would think the grunt of the Ferrari's engine would give them a distinct advantage with the long straight in Baku but let's not underestimate Ferrari's capacity for self destruction. I'm sure they will try drafting in quali and I'm sure they will mess it up. I'm fascinated to see how the Red Bull goes this weekend as the Honda engine now does seem capable of being respectable in power situation. With the potential for a mixed up race you would think Red Bull would be all over this one, however street circuits do not tend to be Verstappen's speciality as he tends to hit things (or cars). I also fully expect to see some exploding Renault engines this weekend - although if we get into proper mixed up race territory then keep your eye on Danny Ric. Your dark horse from the midfield? This is Giovanazzi's favourite track and he has gone very well here in other formula.

For your amusement here is your Azerbaijan bingo card. Tick them off as and when they happen and see if you can get a full house:

- The word 'historic' will be utter at least 5 times when discussing the city in commentary

- It's just like Macau will be uttered every twenty mins.

- at least one team will try drafting in qualifying

- at least one team will mess up drafting in qualifying

- one of the commentators will tell us how beautiful the city is and how we should all come visit

- Verstappen will hit something or someone

- Perez will hit something or someone (bonus if it's his team mate)

- at least two punctures

- at least 3 safety cars

- at least 4 mentions of Vettel's road rage incident

- Toto Wolff telling us how they love circuits like this because it creates mixed up racing whilst simultaneously looking like he can't stand the place.
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1.5 seconds between Ferrari and Mercedes!!! I don’t know how party mode is going to make up that gap.

Two others things catch my eye 1) Leclerc continues to be faster than Vettel and 2) Kvyat
im pretty happy ive still stuck with leclerc & Ferrari LOL & my replacements kimi & Norris are doing well

currently my drivers 1st 5th 7th & 11th

I snuck in and amended mine right before quali stated (the wildcard was still valid). Not sure whether I made it better or not, but there you go. Tomorrow we shall find out I guess.
Yet again when the pressure counts the Mercedes drivers deliver,even though Leclerc looked the fastest over the last two days it means nothing if you can’t get through qualifying.
Is there any justification for the late (local) start time for quali and the race itself? I wonder if it goes back to 2016 when the European Grand Prix was run there.
mercedes again taking advantage of all luck. that's the big difference between why they are constructors champions & ferrari arent

because leclerc had that pole sown up. he had a such a gap to everyone in FP3 it was 1.4 secs to the mercedes & vettel was 2 tenths even with a huge tow. but it bodes well for a great race. because leclerc 10th & he could easily have the pace to win if/when pack closes up due to safety car. but they tried to over clever & in dropping temperatures he locked up in mediums. there are no room for error espically in old town
Ferrari got suckered by Mercedes thinking they were going to get a cheap tow only for them to do practice starts before leaving the pitlane

Whilst its a tall order for Le Clerc.. given the pace of the Ferrari I think he will be on the back of Verstappen within 5 laps and still be within a shout of a win

Ferrari really are trying their best to screw LeClerc
So Gasly was already starting in the pitlane, then he was disqualified from quali so would have had to start from the pitlane. Then Kubica joined him after some parc ferme infractions by the team when they fixed his car. Now Kimi has been disqualified for a problem with his front wing and he's also starting in the pitlane. At this rate there will be more cars there than on the grid!!

It's good for Leclerc though, he's moved up to 8th, though he says he'd rather have started 9th on the grippier side of the track.

It's all go, even before lights out!!
Not sure what to say about this race. It had the potential to be a great race, with the Mercedes on the front row and the faster Ferrari's further behind...but it did not turn out that way. Kind of an interesting processional race, where I kept waiting for something to happen, and it never did.

1. Bottas: Good race. We will see how many more wins he gets this season (if any).
2. Hamilton: "And then in the race I was too friendly at Turn 1 and basically gave it to him. He drove a fantastic race and made no mistakes so he deserved the win this weekend."
- Was Hamilton too friendly in turn 1?
- I sort had the impression that Hamilton was in a pretty good position to take it from Bottas when the Virtual Safety Car suddenly showed up and appears to have kind of ruined the end-of race drama.
3-5: Nothing to say.
(6): Gasly - it looked like he was heading for a well deserved 6th. Would have been nice to see because he has had a terrible and demoralizing start to the season. Hopefully we will see better performances from his for the rest of the season.
(6): Kvyat - the guy who was 6th all weekend, in free practices and qualifying just kind of disappeared. Then got backed into by Ricciardo.
6: Perez - re-establishes himself as the best of the rest, with a team that was in bankruptcy less than a year ago.
7-9: Good work on the part of McLaren and Racing Point.

Renault: Sort of mystified why they sucked so bad this weekend.

I am still stunned that Ferrari was howling around 1.5 seconds faster in FP3...and come race day, were not competitive. Good enough to grab the fastest lap, but not good enough to actually race anyone. Leclerc did look good moving up through the field early on, with a lot of his passes not done under DRS. It appears that Ferrari is the fastest car when everything is perfect, but for some reason, it rarely is. We shall see how Barcelona goes.
Both, Haas and Ferrari are complaining about difficulty with rapidly optimizing temperature of thin tires. (Grosjean, Vettel and Leclerc were all on the same page regarding this subject.)
Why do Ferrari always choose to destroy one of their drivers each season. I reckon Vettel can stop panicking now. The team has obviously decided to sacrifice Leclerc for the greater good. Or something.
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