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.
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.
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.