HomeFormula 1What can be expected from the 2018 Azerbaijan Grand...

What can be expected from the 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix?

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Heat in the air and heat inside the car- that’s been the story of the Azerbaijan Grand prix. As F1 parks itself at Baku to enter its third run and only the 2nd Grand prix, the wind brushing past us brings a fiery throwback to the 2017 Azerbaijan Grand prix.
The last time 20 cars entered the constricted streets of Baku- sparks emerged. And in those sparks the F1 2017 championship rivalry between Vettel and Hamilton lit up in flames. Against expectations of another a hotly contested continuation of a Vettel vs Hamilton run with Red Bull watching from the sidelines, turned into a feisty contest.

What happened in 2017 Azerbaijan Grand prix?

There was Shoey on the top step of the podium, Lance Stroll picked up his maiden podium finish and, Bottas somehow overcame a contact with his fellow Finn earlier to savour a P2- that sounded like a win for Mercedes.
An all-encompassing race, with the makings of a magnum opus brought out Red Bull on top in the Central Eurasian heartland.
The master of late braking, as Daniel Ricciardo made up places in a race that saw no dearth in action- safety car deployment and eventual red flagging, the real battle among frontrunners changed drastically. On the halfway stage Vettel’s over-enthusiasm, it could be said, took the better of him as thinking Hamilton had ‘brake-tested’ him deliberately, the Ferrari driver, then on Hamilton’s tail attacked him from the side of the Mercedes. Undergoing a 10-second penalty, although surprised for being called out for ‘dangerous driving’, compromised his race and spelt trouble for the Mercedes driver.

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Red flag and Red Bull fightback

Hamilton’s headgear slide exacerbated Mercedes’ troubles that had seen Bottas going airborne off a kerb earlier on Turn One in colliding with Raikkonen. This meant that 2 top teams that had 2 cars in the leadership positions were in the pits for repair. Advantage Red Bull? Sure.
By the time the red-flag was called off, it was halfway stage. Bottas had been back into contention for points, if not for a podium and Ricciardo brilliantly fought off from 17 to 6.
The quintessential master of overtaking, with a great feeler for brakes fought magnificently then, as he did in the Chinese Grand prix to emerge on top. But the last spark and definitely the final fury of Baku came at the best of Bottas, who had recovered well enough to be on third made a stellar pass on Williams’ Lance Stroll just one tenth of a second to the checkered flag.

What 2018 at Baku promises?

But that told, there was little irony to see the sparks flying. Land of fire they say and Azerbaijan proved to be exactly that. But in 2018, things couldn’t have been more drastic.
Unlike 2017, where Hamilton entered the racing fest at Baku, 12 points drift of Ferrari’s Vettel, but having bagged 3 race wins, finds himself 9 points shy of his leading rival. But that’s a mere statistic. Nothing could explain Hamilton’s woes better than being winless thus far in 2018 season, where Vettel has clinched 2 wins already.
Another winless race here could send Mercedes’ 2018 title chances into a tizzy and a Vettel finish inside top 3- having already secured his third pole- would mean advantage Ferrari.
The second-longest F1 track on the roaster will challenge drivers to make most of Straight Line speed. That’s not all. They’ll have to dabble with tricky slow pace corners with the ask of extracting most from their wheels that’ll run the risk of tyre-ware against excessive heat and soaring on track temperatures. This means there’ll be not only the challenge of struggling for grip but the necessity to battle early degradation.

Baku’s narrow streets offer a palpitating prospect of a contest

And this may not change even as little relief is provided in the relatively short run into Turn One. But that is where under heavy breaking one can expect pressure and a lot of action, particularly through the mid-field.  Moreover, the longest Straight at 2.1 km means that the 6 km race track could be expected to push drivers to the very limit as it did last year on a race sprinkled by heat of the moment clashes and excessive debris on track.
With Vettel sitting pretty at the top with Hamilton breathing on his tail, on P2, could this be Mercedes chance to emerge clear of their winless streak in 2018?
Lights out and away we go at Baku!

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Dev Tyagi
Dev Tyagi
Dravid believer, admirer of - the square drive, Drew Barrymore, Germany, Finland, Electric Mobility, simplicity and the power of the written word! Absolutely admire contributing to KyroSports

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