Grand Prix 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix Practice, Qualifying & Race Discussion

Welcome to Azerbaijan, a country with a rich history and which straddles Europe and Asia. F1 has been going to Baku, for a race around the city streets, since 2017. We missed the race last year because of the COVID pandemic, but we are back in 2021. We can look forward to 51 laps around an almost exactly 6km long circuit which includes a super long straight, wide enough for 4 cars to run together, and one corner so narrow the cars must go though in single file.

Previous years have been full of incident, including the two Red Bull cars taking each other out in 2018, Lewis Hamilton having to pit to have his cockpit surround refitted in 2017, the same year Sebastian Vettel gave Lewis a "telling off" for not going as fast as Seb thought he should behind the safety car and Valterri Bottas getting a puncture whilst leading and being forced out of the race. And then there is one of my favourite moments in an F1 race when Romain Grosjean radioed to his team to complain that "I think Ericcson hit us", when it was his own incompetence at having wound the brake bias all the way to the rear which caused him to stick it in the wall.

To give you a flavour of the country, which prior to the fall of the Soviet Union probably few of us had heard of, I had a dig around on the interwebz to see what delights a trip to Azerbaijan may offer. It's a country rich in natural resources, especially oil and gas. This presumably explains why Liberty Media see fit to run an F1 race in a country with no history in the sport, as they have a sizeable wedge they can throw their way to pay for the race. The President of Azerbaijan , IlhamAliyev, took the role from his Father in 2003 with nearly 77% of the vote. A positive mandate, although Human Rights Watch catalogued widespread voter abuse and fraud, the arrest of opposition candidates and police violence against journalists and at political rallies. In subsequent elections he has won with 85%, 87% and 86% of the votes. Clearly the population love him!

However, he is no mug as he's a close ally of Vladimir Putin and keeps the EU on side with what is referred to as Caviar Diplomacy. Many EU politicians have been investigated for taking payments from the Azerbaijan government and Portsmouth's own Mike Hancock was a well known apologist for the regime in the British parliament. Hancock is one of those politicians who you know what not to agree with as he supports it.

Fed up with politics? Sorry, but Azerbaijan, like many F1 race venues, is very far from being a pleasant place for it's citizens to live with wide spread reports of ill-treatment and torture, and many of the basic freedoms we enjoy being severely restricted.

On a positive not, if you fancy a holiday there Google answers says "On the whole, Azerbaijan is very safe. Since the country is ruled by a strongman who wants very much to increase tourism to the country, crimes against visitors are virtually unheard of". There is also some stunning architecture in Baku, old and new, and the Maiden Tower and Palace of the Shirvanshahs are both UNESCO world heritage sites.

So enjoy the Azebaijan Grand Prix, another which we can add to the list of venues we would would probably prefer that F1 didn't go to because of the despotic ruling regime, but hey ho they have plenty of money so let's all look the other way (me included).
a cracking race but then it always is in baku, brilliant entertainment, glad for Perez, i was probally his biggest advocate of him getting the red bull because i felt he was good enough, it was a great drive, if anyone has a better 1st lap & stint to lesser effect, than him this season i want to see it because the way the he got up to 4th on the 1st lap & jumped hamilton at the pit stop was outstanding then withstood all that pressure, is curse of the 2nd Red bull seat been lifted now. 1st win since 2018 monaco GP, ironically in a car nearly had to be retired as well

what range of emotions in closing for lewis & max. max was staring a down the barrel 10pt loss, then lewis locked up at the restart & theyve maintained the 4 point lead. if anything that probably the 2 rivals equal now. because hamilton got out of jail with his mistake in imola & nothing came of verstappen's bad luck today

here is the question after underwhelming start. is Vettel back to his (sort of) best, as that was the ive seen him drive since germany 2018. which i was felt was the start of his downward spiral. because he was never been the same since he put it in the barrier. the way he bided his time, from 11th kept the tyres alive to have advantage towards the end.

in hindsight of course, i wonder if a red flag shouldve been brought post stroll horrible accident. because everyone needed to & wouldve pitted but they couldnt because pit lane was closed & by the time it was opened, everyone had been brought together & as we all know track position always trumps safety. who is going to drop to 18th to go on safer tyres & kimi from 2005 most famous of all will tell you that. couldve pitted & taken 2nd, but they wanted to win & got nothing. it cost them the constructor championship

Bottas it was poor what more can you say, whereas hamilton made a breakthrough as he always managed to do. but bottas struggled all week. the 1st half was pretty terrible i knew it was bad when vettel was pulling away. obviously it was on here that we believe his fate has been sealed, if it wasnt already in that sakhir pass. but i will give him some help, when all the drivers towards the back with nothing to lose pitted, im baffled at the mercedes strategy, as why bottas was left as a sitting duck
They have two laps to do ! Why on earth are they restarting ?

Because the track was safe to race on, the full race distance had not been covered and we were within the time limit.

Standard rules and has been for a long long time.

My surprise is they threw the red flag. Usually they just go round under safety car and complete the laps. However everyone always moans about that in any series of racing so surprised people are moaning the other way now.
Because the track was safe to race on, the full race distance had not been covered and we were within the time limit.

Standard rules and has been for a long long time.

My surprise is they threw the red flag. Usually they just go round under safety car and complete the laps. However everyone always moans about that in any series of racing so surprised people are moaning the other way now.
Keep your hair on, or take a chill pill. I wasn’t moaning. With two laps to go I found it strange that they stopped the entire race, instead of the usual safety car, which they normally do at the drop of a hat.
I’m as aware as anyone else of the time and lap rules, I’d be massively thick if I didn’t .
If the track was safe to race on, why did they stop the race.
But then you have Pirelli claiming debris on the track was causing tyre failures, so was it really safe? The fault was either with debris on the track or with Pirelli's tyres, and neither of those suggest to me it was safe to continue.
Having said that it was great fun.


Are Mercedes getting rattled?

The practice sessions were poor and not due to sandbagging.

They split the set-up for qualifying, Hamilton was given a low down-force rear wing whilst Bottas was using a high-force setup.

The first run of Q3 Bottas acted as Hamilton's lackey to get him a tow meaning that Bottas was depending on getting a tow for the second run. The team simply ignored him. To add insult to injury it became clear that the low-down was clearly superior.

After the restart there was a scramble to go in for tyres but not for Bottas, why did the team call him in?

Hamilton made an elementary mistake which left him in last place.

And now Toto Woolf says that it is unacceptable when the sensible thing to do as the team manager is to soothe things down in public saying something about it being down to unfortunate circumstances and it could have been worse. After all five laps from the end it looked as though Verstappen was a cert for a 14 point lead in the Championship but in the end it stayed at 4 points.

i know 2 people who ran to airport quickly, Paul Di Resta & Pirelli Advisor

paul di resta on lap 45 "i dont want to tempt fate, but i think max has got it under control, hardly put a foot wrong & in world of his own" i joked at the time so perez is going to win with that commentators curse.

& then Ted kravitz interview "ive chatted to the pirelli advisor about stroll tyre, he told me he isnt worried in the slightest & confident they can still do 40 laps"
It's Toto job to tell the team when they've done good and when they've done bad. They did bad this weekend, in a host of different ways: engineers, drivers, pit crew.

On the Bottas wing, I understood they did back to back testing and Valterri preferred the high down force wing, no one forced him to use it. There was some discussion about Bottas having some trouble getting to Baku (trouble with a private jet?) which, after recent events, meant his head was in an even worse place. Can't find anything on the web, but I recall some discussion in commentary.

Just on commentary, I really hope Sky don't choose to use di Resta again if Brundle takes another race off. I know commentators are paid to talk but please, have something interesting to say. He was just using words for the sake of it and it added nothing to the event. That said, I watched the C4 highlights in the evening and PdR was better than Mark Webber. He simply could not offer any words of praise for Sebastian Vettel's second place. If the chip on your shoulder is that big Mark you shouldn't be doing the job.
Other drivers safety once again being shown no regard from Mazapin.

There is no beeps when Schumacher uses the F word,
Sorry for his bad language

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I read somewhere once that by the time Senna arrived in F1 he had such a reputation for either pass or crash many drivers would just get out of his way when he came to overtake them. Incidents such as the one in the video below in F3 typified the attitude Senna had. Mick will now think carefully about how and when he passes Nikita at the next race, although he will probably be about a minute down the road by mid-race ;)

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