What went down at Azerbaijan?

Hi everyone! I hope you’re all doing well and having a fabulous day. I’m currently sitting on my bedroom floor, surrounded by HEAPS of books and notes and all sorts of things I have to do by this weekend. However, I’m also aware that I haven’t blogged in what feels like forever and most importantly to me, or anyone else who avidly follows my F1 race reviews, I’m certainly aware of the fact that I have not yet reported on the Azerbaijan Grand Prix that took place last weekend. Therefore, I’m making the very much use of my 10 minute revision break to talk to you all about how the race really went down in Baku.

So just a brief description of the race track itself… The race consists of 51 laps and the first Grand Prix was in 2016 so the circuit itself and the hosting of the Grand Prix is somewhat fairly new. The circuit length is 6 km with the race distance being 306 km long. I think that’s all that we really need to know at this point…

Moving on to the race then! I’m just going to go ahead with the results and spoil it (sorry to anyone who still has not watched the race, I’d recommend you to stop reading right about now). First up, Riccardo brought it home with an outstanding pole position followed by Bottas in 2nd and Stroll in 3rd. (I know, I was extremely surprised too!) Vettel finished 4th, followed by Hamilton in 5th position, who undoubtedly will be disappointed, and Ocon finished behind too. Magnuessen came 7th, Sainz Jr came 8th, Alonso arrived in 9th position and Wehrlein managed to get himself in the top 10 finishing positions just by a mere few seconds. However, there were a significant number of drivers who retired throughout the race: Raikkonen, Perez, Massa, Hulkenberg, Verstappen, Kyvat and Palmer. Although the race was won by Riccardo, the limelight was primarily on Sebastien Vettel and Lewis Hamilton throughout the race. Let me provide you with an insight into why…

So it is with no surprise that there is a strong sense of rivalry between Vettel and Hamilton, with tension in the previous years in terms of the world championship, and now both drivers are head-to-head for this year’s championship in two of the world’s best cars. Taking those facts into account, the rivalry was bound to reach a climax at some point in this year’s championship battle. And boy, were there fireworks and explosions. (Not really, Vettel was just given a 10-second stop-and-go penalty in the race on Sunday but you get what I mean).

Moving on to what happened… Vettel was basically following Hamilton as they prepared for a re-start and ran into the back of him when Hamliton still had not accelerated out of the penultimate corner, while Vettel did. Believing Hamilton had deliberately slowed to cause him problems, Vettel pulled alongside him, gesticulated and his car swerved, banging wheels and causing the Ferrari to jump briefly into the air.

Here’s a video to show you what exactly happened and what both drivers had to say about the incident:

I should probably mention that Vettel has been on a warning since last year’s Mexican Grand Prix, when he was penalised also for moving under braking while defending from Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and, angered by the driving of the Australian’s team-mate Max Verstappen, swore over the radio at race director Charlie Whiting. However, there was no action taken against Vettel at that time, after he wrote letters of apology to Whiting, but he was told that any similar incident would lead to an FIA International Tribunal.

Taking into account of the incident, Vettel in fact ended up finishing fourth in Baku, one place ahead of Hamilton, who was also delayed by having to stop to have a loose headrest replaced. It’s extremely arguable whether or not Vettel truly does deserve to finish ahead of Hamilton after the behaviour he conducted, particularly as he is a four-time World Champion. However, more news is to actually come from this as he faces a disciplinary hearing on 3 July after swerving into Hamilton’s Mercedes. Vettel’s actions in Azerbaijan will be analysed at a meeting by Jean Todt, whom actually is the President of governing body, the FIA, who has spent much of his term campaigning for better road safety.

 

“Sebastian did something he shouldn’t have done and got penalised for it. If we hadn’t had a technical problem we would be sat here with Lewis having scored substantially more points than he did, so Lewis would have won the race and that would have resulted in a different complexion. It shouldn’t have happened; it shows the passion of the guys fighting for the World Championship. That’s the passion we want to see. Sebastian will reflect on what happened and learn from it. We want to see that passion in the future but perhaps not as raw as we saw in Baku.”- Ross Brawn, a F1 Boss

Although Hamilton called Vettel “a disgrace” and said he did not want to discuss the incident with him, Brawn also said that he believed the respect each had shown for the other so far this season would ultimately not be affected. There’s a huge amount of respect between them and that hasn’t changed.”

“You don’t have one incident which destroys everything before. It wasn’t that severe of an event. Some fierce competition fought in the right way is what Formula 1 is about. Perhaps this will add a nice edge to the competition but we’re not advocating one approach of the other. There was heat, several red hot moments and your perception of what’s going on can sometimes get through.

One thing that also came out of this incident, or rivalry more so, was that Vettel was also given three penalty points on his licence, taking him up to nine points. I should probably mention that if a driver receives 12 in a 12-month period, it triggers an automatic race ban. THEREFORE… if Vettel receives three penalty points at the next race in Austria on 9th July, he would face a race ban. Good news for us Hamilton fans, right?

Thankfully, Hamilton was not penalised as the stewards examined data from his car and found that he had maintained a more or less constant speed, had not lifted off the throttle or braked, and had behaved no differently at that restart at that point on the track than at the other two restarts so he really hadn’t done anything wrong or displayed any behaviour that went against the Formula One drivers’ conduct. Well done you Lewis.

Vettel said: “It was very clear. We are racing with men. I don’t have a radio to him. If we get a penalty, we should both get a penalty. 

“His restart was really good; I didn’t think it was necessary. The problem is me right behind getting ready and all the other cars. He did something similar a couple of years ago in China at the restart. It is not the way to do it. The leader dictates the pace, but we were exiting the corner, he was accelerating and then he braked so much that I was braking as soon as I saw and I could not stop in time and ran into the back of him. That was just not necessary.” SIGH. Okay, Vettel, whatever you say.

Apparently, Vettel was also unaware immediately after the race that his penalty was for swerving into Hamilton. He said that he thought the penalty must have been for hitting Hamilton from behind and Lewis Hamilton responded to the interviews saying, “I didn’t [brake-test him]. I controlled the pace. All the restarts I slowed down in the same spot.

“He was obviously sleeping and driving alongside and deliberately driving into a driver and coming away scot-free is a disgrace. He disgraced himself. If he wants to prove he’s a man, we should do it out of the car face-to-face. Driving dangerously in any way can put another driver at risk “Luckily we were going slow. If we were going fast it could have been a lot worse. Imagine all the kids watching Formula 1 today and seeing that kind of behaviour from a four-time world champion. It says it all.” Ouch. So much tension.

 

“We had the upper hand this weekend. We can continue to move forwards in the future. Through difficult times true colours show, so it is a good day for me.”

Vettel said the fight was “still respectful”, adding: “I don’t have a problem with him. It is just one action today that was wrong. I am willing to sort it out with him. I don’t think there is much to sort out. I will talk to him when you (the media) are not there and then we move on.”

Hamilton was also asked if he expected Vettel to apologise, to which he said: “I don’t fancy seeing him. It might turn into something else.” Honestly, when things like this happen on track or between drivers, I really wish I was part of the engineering team or backstage in the paddock or pit lane to see the drama unfold because I would really love to see what happens between Vettel and Hamilton, and their first interaction with each other since this incident. I suppose I can’t though and that’s just life. ANYWAY, so it’s clear that Azerbaijan was drama central for Vettel and Hamilton mainly but congratulations to Riccardo for winning the race because he gave an incredible performance and the victory is truly well-deserved.

Tune in on 9th July for the Austrian Grand Prix, which I hopefully shall be blogging about soon. Like, comment and remember to follow my blog, thank you!

Safa X

Update (3rd July 2017) – Vettel is disqualified.

 

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