Little spark in land of fire
Nico Rosberg eased to his fifth win of the season virtually unopposed at Azerbaijan’s inaugural GP
As promised by the billing – ‘the speed is higher in the land of re’ – F1’s rst visit to Azerbaijan yielded velocities previously unseen on any street circuit. Against all expectations, though, the European GP unfolded with no intervention from the Safety Car as Nico Rosberg stroked his Merc to his fth win of the season.
Track designer Hermann Tilke’s work received mixed reviews from the opinionati, but once problems with kerb xings were resolved earlier in the weekend, this distinctive new venue began to show its potential. A long main straight and a succession of 90°corners over the early part of the lap placed a premium on power and traction, so it was no surprise to see the two factory Mercedes entries setting the pace throughout.
Ferrari managed to nd some pace overnight on Saturday having been weak during the rst two practice sessions – timely, given the arrival of company president Sergio Marchionne – but were never a threat to Mercedes during the race itself. The most ferocious battles of all were for the remaining podium slots as Lewis Hamilton and Force India’s Sergio Pérez, both starting from positions that didn’t reect their speed, battled through.
Ahead of the weekend Hamilton said he had done no more than eight laps of the Baku circuit on the Mercedes simulator, reckoning that technology couldn’t adequately simulate the real thing. Going fastest in all three practice sessions seemed to vindicate his approach, but then in qualifying he committed a series of blunders, culminating in a shunt at Turn 11 in Q3 that broke his steering, brought out the red ag, and consigned him to tenth on the grid.