These are some of the things that I’ve been watching.
- F1: Baku
- FE: Paris
- IndyCar: Barber
F1: Grand Prix of Azerbaijan
Wow, what a dramatic race! I can’t do a blow by recap, seek out the race, seriously.
Close racing through the field, very close combat between the Red Bull drivers which looked like ending in tears and eventually did, different strategies among the front-runners, a driver in the wall (when behind the Safety Car!), a puncture for the leader, the points leader locking up allowing his main rival through, a Force India driver on the podium, and countless recovery drives.
Street racing is a lottery in any category, they punish errors more severely than most tracks. After the car park runoff areas elsewhere this is a welcome change. At Bahrain you go off line and you lose half a second, at Baku if you go the same margin outside the line you hit the wall and are out of the race. Benefits to both approaches: at Bahrain they go can flat out, at Baku they need to be more measured and disciplined.
I thought the racing between Verstappen and Ricciardo was fantastic. It was just on the right side of acceptability, each giving barely a millimetre. They even banged wheels once. Ricciardo eventually made a pass stick, immediately losing it in the pit stops. Even early in the race it looked like they might take each other out, that the team should let the faster driver go. Just when you thought they’d found the limit, Ricciardo ran into the back of Verstappen taking both cars out.
At first I blamed both: Max moved in a braking zone, Daniel went for a closing gap. Watching again now, there is no gap. This one is 80% Ricciardo. I’ll say 20% Verstappen for not letting it go, for moving on the line. The team blamed neither and while Christian Horner looked livid on the Channel 4 post-race show, his comments were measured, saying both knew where the team stood and both should be contrite and apologetic. They were.
That threatened to overshadow everything else. All drivers seemed to adapt to strong wind gusts, struggling more with tyre temperatures. Up front, Vettel had the measure of everyone with Hamilton just 4 seconds back. The midfield was tremendous fun and TV focused on that: a lot of overtaking attempts, cars running out of their usual position, action throughout.
While Bottas got lucky with the timing of the Safety Car caused by the Red Bulls, falling after Vettel and Hamilton pitted but before he’d stopped himself, those two then changed tyres when he did anyway – having learned from the last race in China to take new rubber. Vettel tried to pass him but locked up, looked like Bottas had it sealed. You had to feel sorry for the guy when he got the puncture. He’s shown excellent pace in Bahrain, China and Azerbaijan, could’ve been in the title hunt yet has little to show for it.
Further back, Alonso – the magician – got a car with two punctured right-side tyres to the pits at the opening lap Safety Car, restarted last and passed 4 or 5 other cars (including his team-mate) within a few laps. He was one place behind Charles Leclerc, who raced well, even overtaking some cars in a Sauber. Both drivers helped by DNFs of course, but good nonetheless.
I haven’t even had space to mention Raikkonen vs Ocon (Kimi’s lucky escape), Perez, Sainz, Stroll or Hartley.
As a race track, removing political concerns, Baku is a winner for me.
1st Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 25 points;
2nd Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 18 pts;
3rd Sergio Perez (Force India) 15 pts;
4th Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 12 pts;
5th Carlos Sainz (Renault) 10 pts;
6th Charles Leclerc (Sauber) 8 pts;
7th Fernando Alonso (McLaren) 6 pts;
8th Lance Stroll (Williams) 4 pts;
9th Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren) 2 pts;
10th Brendon Hartley (Toro Rosso) 1 pt;
Just 13 cars finished. You want uncertainty, unreliability and random top tens? Race at Baku. Well done, Baku.
70 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) [+1];
66 Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) [-1];
48 Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) [+2];
40 Valterri Bottas (Mercedes) [-1];
37 Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) [-1];
Alonso 6th after consistent scoring. Verstappen only 8th. Perez jumps from 0 into 9th. Hartley’s 10th gets him on the board, leaving just Grosjean and Sirotkin with no points.
114 Scuderia Ferrari [+1];
110 Mercedes AMG [-1];
55 Red Bull Racing;
36 McLaren Renault;
35 Renault F1;
Force India 6th. Williams get off the board, still last but good pace this race will give them hope.
Next round: Spanish Grand Prix, May 13th.
Formula E: Paris ePrix
Points leader Vergne on pole at a track where there is only one slightly sketchy passing spot. An early Safety Car for Ma Qing Hua not getting going off the line, plus contact elsewhere which broke various wings for Tom Blomqvist and Mitch Evans, while Nico Prost decided to keep going with no rear wing for 13 laps until he got the meatball flag.
It got incredibly tense with Vergne, Bird and Lotterer running nose to tail for lap after lap, inches apart, cars sliding! Back in the field there was some passing, the only way to do it was to dive-bomb in that sketchy spot and hope the other guy leaves you space. Daniel Abt was on a mission, starting way down and making pass after pass.
The leaders pitted at half distance, with di Grassi and Buemi staying out a few short laps longer, helping di Grassi to jump Engel. Mortara went even longer, leaving him a way down but with plenty more battery power which he used well to work through the field, until he and JM Lopez made contact. Edo was out on the spot.
Lotterer eventually passed Bird as did di Grassi, but would cause chaos on the last lap in the narrow final section when he ran out of useable energy. Di Grassi got by, Bird was nearly through but they hit which broke his suspension – luckily it was close to the finish line, Bird dragged it to 3rd on 3 wheels.
1st Jean-Eric Vergne (Techeetah) 28 pts (win + pole);
2nd Lucas di Grassi (Audi Sport Abt) 19 pts (2nd + FL);
3rd Sam Bird (DS Virgin) 15 pts;
4th Maro Engel (Venturi) 12 pts;
5th Sebastien Buemi (Renault DAMS) 10 pts;
6th Andre Lotterer (Techeetah) 8 pts;
Rosenqvist would only finish 8th.
147 Jean-Eric Vergne (Techeetah);
116 Sam Bird (DS Virgin);
86 Felix Rosenqvist (Mahindra);
70 Sebastien Buemi (Renault DAMS);
58 Lucas di Grassi (Audi Sport Abt) [+3];
56 Daniel Abt (Audi Sport Abt) [-1];
134 DS Virgin Racing;
113 Audi Sport ABT [+1];
107 Mahindra Racing [-1];
88 Panasonic Jaguar Racing;
JEV and Techeetah are looking very good indeed. Bird is a threat though, and di Grassi and Audi are coming up fast!
Next round: Berlin ePrix, Saturday, May 19th.
IndyCar: Grand Prix of Alabama
(from last week)
Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham, Alabama, USA
A wet IndyCar race on a road course promised much and delivered until a red flag lead to an overnight delay. As I couldn’t record Monday’s segment and couldn’t see a replay on BT Sport, I waited for it to appear on the IndyCar YouTube channel – they upload all of the races in full! So I watched this Friday night.
A single-file start helped the field get away cleanly and we had 10 laps of good racing with no trouble. I was surprised, IndyCar doesn’t race in the rain often and this was particularly heavy. There was even overtaking through heavy spray.
Andretti spun, then Jones tagged Kimball into the wall. Safety Car out. Slower cars didn’t kick up spray to clear the water, add a heavier spell of rain, so they lost the track. After 6 SC laps they went green anyway and immediately Power hit the pit wall, out on the spot. Race leader Newgarden nearly did the same and he could see where he was going! Immediate SC before a red flag on lap 19. They tried again 40 minutes later with 3 slow laps behind the Safety Car (during which Rahal spun) after which it was stopped.
A timed race resuming where they left off yesterday, except everyone was allowed to fill up with fuel and switch to slicks.
Josef Newgarden drove away to a huge lead over Seb Bourdais and Ryan Hunter-Reay, in turn miles ahead of the rest. Zach Veach became a bottleneck, struggling on red tyres I think, he slowly sank down the order but had impressed in the wet on Sunday.
Zach Claman de Melo got a 2-lap penalty yesterday but that didn’t deter him from overtaking his way through the field – until Pigot tried to repass him and tagged him sideways, both resumed.
Newgarden pitted first with spent tyres where he’d been pushing on, whereas Bourdais and Dixon stayed out much later aiming to go for one stop versus everyone else’s two. After they came in, remarkably Newgarden’s lead was up to 20 seconds. And then it got fun!
Light rain arrived with 22 minutes to go. At 14 minutes, Newgarden was the first driver to pit for wets. Rain would mess up the one-stoppers if they couldn’t hang on to slicks. Bourdais stayed out lap after lap, it looked like it was working while he was much faster than Newgarden, but the rain intensified and with 7 minutes remaining he said enough, took wets and dropped to 5th.
1st Josef Newgarden (Penske) 54 points;
2nd Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti) 40 pts;
3rd James Hinchcliffe (Schmidt Peterson) 35 pts;
4th Robert Wickens (Schmidt Peterson) 32 pts;
5th Sebastien Bourdais (Coyne) 31 pts;
158 Josef Newgarden (Team Penske / Chevrolet) [+1];
145 Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport / Honda) [-1];
119 Sebastian Bourdais (Dale Coyne / Honda) [+1];
119 Graham Rahal (Rahal Letterman / Honda) [-1];
118 James Hinchcliffe (Schmidt Peterson / Honda);
Next round: Indianapolis Grand Prix, Saturday, 12th May.
MotoGP at Jerez, WEC season-opener at Spa, IMSA with a welcome return to Mid-Ohio.
It is a Bank Holiday in the UK and I have a weekend of other plans, all weather-dependent. This year I’m trying to get out more at weekends to offset being cooped up in the office all week, especially after being stuck inside during a dismal wet Spring. So I’ll be watching a lot of things delayed this year.