Front to back: the European Grand Prix

Reviewing every F1 team and driver from the maiden race on the Baku city streets.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON REDBULL.COM.AU

Mercedes
Lewis Hamilton:
qualified 10th, finished 5th
Nico Rosberg: qualified 1st, finished 1st
Rosberg came into the first race held in Baku under pressure after seeing his 43-point championship lead slashed to just nine after a trio of scruffy races; a win from pole while recording the fastest lap and leading every lap was the most emphatic response possible. The German tore off to a 10-second lead after just five laps and cruised from there for his fifth win in eight races this year. Hamilton’s weekend went from domination to despair from qualifying onwards; after leading all three practice sessions, the reigning world champion made a catastrophic mistake when he hit the wall in Q3, condemning him to a 10th-place start. Brake issues and being in the wrong engine mode for much of the race made for some fraught exchanges with the Mercedes pit wall over the radio, and he finished 56 seconds behind his teammate in a frustrated fifth.

Ferrari
Sebastian Vettel:
qualified 4th, finished 2nd
Kimi Raikkonen: qualified 5th, finished 4th
Given the sheer gulf in speed between Mercedes and everyone else in Azerbaijan, Vettel looked to be happiest of the podium finishers by coming second, minimising the points loss to Rosberg on a day when Ferrari and everyone else had no answer to the German’s searing pace. Vettel jumped Ricciardo into second on lap six and was largely untroubled thereafter, with Raikkonen moving aside for him on lap 28 in a perfect demonstration of team orders. Given Ferrari’s struggles in slow-speed corners all weekend, second was a solid result. Raikkonen’s chances of racing his teammate when it mattered were scuppered when he was assessed a five-second penalty for crossing the line indicating the pit lane entry when chasing Ricciardo; the Finn had his own series of discussions with the Ferrari pit wall (with less words but more obscenities than Hamilton) as he attempted to hold onto third, but could do nothing to prevent Perez passing him on the final lap. On an identical one-stop strategy, Raikkonen finished 16 seconds adrift of his teammate, but was able to leapfrog Ricciardo in the drivers’ standings.

Williams
Felipe Massa:
qualified 6th, finished 10th
Valtteri Bottas: qualified 8th, finished 6th
Williams deputy team principal Claire Williams admitted she had her eye on the fourth-placed team making up some ground on Red Bull in the constructors’ race at a circuit where their Mercedes power plant was the one to have; in the end, it was Force India who closed the gap to Williams in the teams’ race after both Bottas and Massa had lonely afternoons on the Baku city streets. Bottas had a messy qualifying after getting into seemingly unnecessary stoushes with Verstappen, and could only advance to sixth in the race and finished a full minute behind Rosberg, while Massa managed points for the seventh time in eight races this season, but only just as he finished 10th. Given the characteristics of the track and coming to Azerbaijan just a week after Bottas’ podium in Montreal, Williams would have hoped for better.

Red Bull Racing
Daniel Ricciardo:
qualified 3rd, finished 7th
Max Verstappen: qualified 9th, finished 8th
Other than the team’s pointless race in Russia, Baku was Red Bull’s worst showing of the year, Ricciardo’s seventh after starting on the front row a letdown, and Verstappen finishing one place ahead of where he started to snatch two points. Ricciardo made a solid getaway from second but was in the pits after six laps with heavy graining on his supersoft rubber, and a second stop to the barely-used medium tyre on lap 23 was a strategy born from desperation and the hope of a safety car, which surprisingly didn’t make an appearance after the GP2 support races had been peppered with them. The Australian had enough life in his tyres to finally nail Hulkenberg for seventh with three laps left, but six points on a Sunday that promised more saw him slip to fifth in the drivers’ standings. Verstappen was only a second adrift of his teammate at the finish at a circuit where Red Bull’s straight-line speed disadvantage was all too obvious on the two-kilometre straight to complete the lap.

Force India
Nico Hulkenberg:
qualified 12th, finished 9th
Sergio Perez: qualified 2nd, finished 3rd
A brilliant podium for Perez was his second in three races, but the Mexican could be excused for wondering whether it could have been even better; after clouting the wall in the final practice session, a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change saw his career-best second on the grid become seventh on Sunday, but he was quickly challenging for the podium places after a robust start and made it past Raikkonen at turn one on the 51st and final lap. Hulkenberg’s weekend was compromised by confusion in the second part of qualifying, where a spin and a communication breakdown with the pit wall saw him mired in 12th, way below the potential of the car. A long first stint running the softer-compound tyre at least gave him a chance to enter the top 10 on strategy, but he could do nothing to prevent both Red Bulls storming past in the shadows of the chequered flag.

Renault
Jolyon Palmer: qualified 22nd, finished 15th
Kevin Magnussen: qualified 21st, finished 14th
The good news for Renault was that both cars finished, which appeared unlikely after Magnussen and Palmer qualified on the back row of the grid, the first time that’s happened for the Enstone team since Australia 2014, when they were known as Lotus. Magnussen started from the pit lane after a gearbox change and tried a marathon second stint to sneak into the points, but faded badly late. Palmer at least saw the chequered flag after back-to-back non-finishes in Monaco and Montreal, but the Brit’s summation of his qualifying – “rubbish” – could have doubled as a descriptor for Renault’s weekend.

Front to back: what happened in Canada?

Toro Rosso
Daniil Kvyat:
qualified 7th, did not finish
Carlos Sainz: qualified 13th, did not finish
A short and sour race for Toro Rosso, which was tough for swallow for Kvyat in particular after the Russian was outstanding in qualifying on Saturday. Kvyat was the first retiree with suspension issues on lap seven, while teammate Sainz was parked on lap 33 with the same problem. It was the first race since Russia that neither STR driver scored points.

Sauber
Felipe Nasr:
qualified 16th, finished 12th
Marcus Ericsson: qualified 20th, finished 17th
No points for Sauber, but Baku was the best weekend of the season for Nasr, who made it into Q2 for the first time in five races on Saturday, and then had a season-best 12th in the race 24 hours later to match Ericsson’s 12th in Bahrain for the best result for a Sauber this year. The Swede never got back on terms with his Brazilian teammate after brushing the wall in qualifying and managing only 20th on the grid.

McLaren
Jenson Button:
qualified 19th, finished 11th
Fernando Alonso: qualified 14th, did not finish
The longest straight in F1 was always going to pose a problem for the Honda-powered McLaren pair, and neither Alonso nor Button came close to the top 10 in qualifying, Button never recovering after a spin at Turn 15, and Alonso critical of the traffic he was sent out into as he chased a time good enough for Q3. The race wasn’t a lot better, the veteran duo having a brief but entertaining battle outside of the points-paying positions before Alonso was forced to retire on lap 43 when his car became stuck in fourth gear.

Manor
Pascal Wehrlein:
qualified 18th, did not finish
Rio Haryanto: qualified 17th, finished 18th
Haryanto was Manor’s Saturday star, Wehrlein their Sunday standout as the team enjoyed seeing the German running inside the top 10 as the pit-stop strategies played out in the first half of the 51-lap race. A respectable finish looked possible after Wehrlein made his own tyre stop on lap 29, but his brakes decided they’d had enough with 10 laps to go for his first non-finish this season. Haryanto has proved more competitive in qualifying against the highly-rated Wehrlein than many anticipated – the Indonesian was just 0.116secs away from Q2 on Saturday – but his chances of a strong race were over quickly as he sustained front wing damage at the first corner that necessitated a lengthy pit stop, which saw him finish two laps down and last.

Haas
Romain Grosjean:
qualified 11th, finished 13th
Esteban Gutierrez: qualified 15th, finished 16th
Gutierrez was another in the wars at Turn One, clattering into Hulkenberg’s Force India and losing pieces of his front wing, while Grosjean was forced into an unplanned pit stop after picking up debris in his radiators, which sent temperatures skyrocketing and prompted a change to the medium-compound tyre on lap 26 for the run to the flag.

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