Azer­bai­jan Grand Prix

Thrills, spills and a few raised eye­brows as Baku City Cir­cuit lights up the For­mula One sea­son – and a re­mark­able third place for Lance Stroll.

The National - News - Sport - - LEADING OFF -

Stroll’s ma­ture drive

There may have been a de­gree of for­tune in his third place, but be­com­ing the first Cana­dian since 2001 to stand on the podium at a grand prix was an ex­cel­lent achieve­ment by Lance Stroll. The Wil­liams driver was one of the few driv­ers, de­spite be­ing the youngest on the grid at 18, not to make a mis­take or crash and he was re­warded with a ma­ture drive to take third spot. Af­ter a slow start to life in F1, Stroll has now scored points in two suc­ces­sive races. The teenager can now build on that and con­tinue to grow closer in per­for­mance to his more ex­pe­ri­enced team­mate Felipe Massa.

Missed op­por­tu­nity

There was ac­ri­mony at Force In­dia in Canada two weeks ago when they missed out on a pos­si­ble podium as Esteban Ocon felt he was held up by team­mate Ser­gio Perez. Fast for­ward to Sun­day and Force In­dia wasted an even big­ger op­por­tu­nity when they col­lided dur­ing the race, while run­ning third and fourth, the im­pact ru­in­ing Perez’s race and Ocon end­ing up a dis­tant sixth. Given both were run­ning ahead of race win­ner Daniel Ric­cia­rdo, and what un­folded in front with Lewis Hamil­ton and Se­bas­tian Vet­tel, the re­al­ity that their con­tact wrecked a chance to give the team their first win in F1 will not be lost in the post-race de­brief.

Never give up

Con­sid­er­ing he spent the first lap trundling around at a re­duced speed with a dam­aged front wing af­ter col­lid­ing with Kimi Raikko­nen, and be­gan his sec­ond lap one lap be­hind the rest of the field, the fact Valt­teri Bot­tas was sec­ond was a re­mark­able ef­fort. A safety car pe­riod al­lowed him to un­lap him­self, but the Finn made full use of the Mercedes-GP car’s raw pace, and the mis­takes of oth­ers, to fight his way back up to third be­fore pass­ing Stroll on the fi­nal straight. It may have been his mis­take in hit­ting Raikko­nen that put him at the back, but get­ting sec­ond and 18 points from there de­serves a lot of credit.

McLaren off the mark

Eric Boul­lier, the McLaren rac­ing direc­tor, had ear­lier de­scribed that it was his and McLaren’s “most painful week­end ever” as the team strug­gled with un­re­li­a­bil­ity and a lack of pace. The Honda en­gines con­tinue to ham­per any at­tempt to be com­pet­i­tive, and the fact that Fer­nando Alonso and Stof­fel Van­doorne had a com­bined to­tal of 70 places in grid penal­ties was bor­der­ing on far­ci­cal. Both cars fin­ished the race and while it will only be a small con­so­la­tion, con­sid­er­ing this is a team with 182 races in their past, the fact they fi­nally have points on the board due to Alonso’s ninth­place fin­ished will be a source of some en­cour­age­ment.

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