2016 European Grand Prix Practice Review

FIA GT Series

Lewis Hamilton wins the Canadian Grand Prix ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas. Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Force India also managed to score points in the race as well.

The Baku City Circuit is a street circuit in Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan. It is scheduled to host the Formula 1 Baku European Grand Prix in June 2016. The race will be held shortly after Baku hosts the inaugural European Games multi-sports event. The city has hosted sports-car racing on a street circuit every year since 2012 but this will be Azerbaijan’s first Formula 1 race. Azerbaijan is the second ex-Soviet country to hold an F1 race after the Russian Grand Prix in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

The race will be held on a temporary street circuit around Baku and incorporate its medieval old city, modern skyline and a view across the Caspian Sea. The pits and start-finish straight will be at the Azadliq Square (Freedom Square). The driving direction is anti-clockwise. The city circuit is 6 kilometers long and features 20 turns, 8 turns to right and 12 to left. A 2.2 kilometers stretch along Neftchilar Avenue will be the longest straight on the F1 calendar. The track is expected to be very fast with an estimated average speed of 200 km/h and a top speed of 340 km/h.

Practices 1, 2 and 3

The main headline from the Practice sessions is that Mercedes and Ferrari look to have the driver-car package to beat this weekend as weather conditions and tyre management which will test the drivers, teams and the cars throughout Friday and Saturday practice sessions.

With many fans have been wondering what the Baku GP circuit would be like over the course of a lap; considering most of this week on social media many people had mixed opinions on Turns 7-8 of the track. My perspective is that the track is reasonable and of course Turns 7-8 are a worry if a driver goes in too deep or tries to overtake which I understand safety wise.

But it is also very unique and is a special characteristic of this Baku track and it does add charm (even if many don’t appear to like it for safety reasons) and will test the teams and the drivers over the course of the weekend.

Lewis Hamilton tops the timesheets in F1. All rights reserved to XPB.

Lewis Hamilton tops the timesheets in FP1, FP2 and FP3. All rights reserved to XPB.

Practice 1 saw Lewis Hamilton tops the timesheet with a time of 1.46.435 followed closely by Nico Rosberg with a gap of 0.377 seconds behind, Valtteri Bottas was in third with a gap of 0.661 seconds behind, Fernando Alonso in fourth with a gap of 1.554 seconds behind and Sebastian Vettel in fifth with a gap of 2.192 seconds behind Hamilton.

Sergio Perez is sixth with a gap of 2.487 seconds behind, Jenson Button is seventh with a gap of 2.584 seconds behind, Felipe Massa is eighth with a gap of 2.690 seconds behind, Carlos Sainz Jr is ninth with a gap of 2.832 seconds behind and Nico Hulkenberg is tenth with a gap of 2.866 seconds behind Hamilton.

During FP1, we saw Haas driver Esteban Gutierrez going off the track in Turn 15 after braking too deep. It took Gutierrez a while to get out of the run off area of the track but he was able to continue running on the circuit. We also saw Sebastian Vettel and Daniil Kvyat spinning off in the session after trying to put the power down but he was able to continue running in the session.

In the last twenty minutes of the session, Daniel Ricciardo explored the limits on the track at Turn 15 after hitting his Red Bull into the barrier. The damage Ricciardo sustained was to the back of the car and included the right rear tyre and suspension. This then brought out the red flag in order to recover the Red Bull car and also for Ricciardo to leave the car safely.

Practice 2 saw  Hamilton tops the timesheet with a time of 1.44.223 followed closely by Rosberg with a gap of 0.690 seconds behind, Perez was in third with a gap of 1.113 seconds behind, Bottas in fourth with a gap of 1.541 seconds behind and Hulkenberg in fifth with a gap of 1.697 seconds behind Hamilton.

Sainz Jr is sixth with a gap of 1.804 seconds behind, Verstappen is seventh with a gap of 1.845 seconds behind, Vettel is eighth with a gap of 1.996 seconds behind, Button is ninth with a gap of 2.011 seconds behind and Ricciardo is tenth with a gap of 2.070 seconds behind Hamilton.

Just after FP1 and Daniel Ricciardo’s crash at Turn 15, there were rumours circulating along social media that FP2 could be delayed or even cancelled due to a track inspection during Qualifying for the GP2 Series that saw the session being postponed. But it was announced by Race Director Race Whiting that the session would go ahead as planned.

In the first ten minutes of FP2, we saw Haas driver Esteban Gutierrez going off the track in Turns 5 and 6 after braking too deep. It took Gutierrez a while to get out of the run off area of the track but he was able to continue running on the circuit. We also saw Sebastian Vettel going off the track at Turn 3 but was able to continue onto the circuit.

Max Verstappen then went off the track at Turn 15 and went into the run off area with his brakes underneath his left front tyre smoking. Verstappen was able to get back onto the track and continue running in the session.

With 45 minutes left of the session, Renault driver Kevin Magnussen goes off the track at Turn 15 but is able to continue on running in the session; joining the list of many drivers who have gone off at that point of the circuit. Ten minutes later, Nico Hulkenberg joins the list of drivers to go off at Turn 15. He spins the car back around and is able to rejoin the track.

Five minutes later, Nico Rosberg pulls over on the circuit with engine trouble and is stuck in fourth gear. The Virtual Safety Car was then deployed in order to recover the Mercedes safely from the track; even though this meant Rosberg was out of the session.

In the last ten minutes of the session, Carlos Sainz Jr spinning into the first corner after experiencing a lack of grip from the Pirelli tyres but he was able to get back onto the circuit and continue running. We also saw Kimi Raikkonen going up the escape road after Turn 5 after a very big lock up after an engine failure and had to vacate the car which saw the Virtual Safety Car being deployed.

With 25 minutes of the session left, Manor Racing driver Pascal Wehrlein on the escape road after going off the circuit and Esteban Gutierrez going off the circuit at Turn 1.

Practice 3 saw Hamilton tops the timesheet with a time of 1.44.352 followed closely by Rosberg with a gap of 0.258 seconds behind, Hulkenberg was in third with a gap of 1.188 seconds behind, Ricciardo in fourth with a gap of 1.268 seconds behind and Vettel in fifth with a gap of 1.278 seconds behind Hamilton.

Perez is sixth with a gap of 1.383 seconds behind, Verstappen is seventh with a gap of 1.549 seconds behind, Button is eighth with a gap of 1.602 seconds behind, Kvyat is ninth with a gap of 1.629 seconds behind and Raikkonen is tenth with a gap of 1.672 seconds behind Hamilton.

You would be stupid not to bet against the Mercedes drivers of Hamilton and Rosberg to gain pole position again this weekend. As the Mercedes drivers seem to be performing brilliantly at the moment and the momentum is with them from all the track mileage and their strong form from the last race. Vettel, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Verstappen, Perez, Hulkenberg or Sainz Jr also cannot be discounted for the pole also as they are consistently within the top ten places at the moment.

However, I think that Toro Rosso, McLaren and Force India have shown that they could throw themselves into the mix and could qualify well here to be in the hunt for some decent points this weekend. We all look forward to the qualifying session of the Grand Prix with excitement…

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