On Saturday, we saw Nico Rosberg taking Pole Position for the European Grand Prix ahead of Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo.
Before the start of the race, it was announced that Carlos Sainz Jr and Kevin Magnussen would both have to take a five place grid penalties due to changing their gearboxs after qualifying.
The European Grand Prix is underway! Nico Rosberg gets a good start and leaves the field into the first corner of the circuit. Behind Rosberg however Daniel Ricciardo also gets a good start and is still second. Felipe Massa locks up into Turn 1 but is able to continue running. But it would seem that Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez have damage to their cars; especially the latter who has damaged his front wing.
At the end of the first lap, Rio Haryanto pits after colliding with a Sauber. Lap 2 sees Rosberg leading Ricciardo by 1 second. Meanwhile the battle for eighth place between Daniil Kvyat, Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton was building up on the track nicely. The next lap Bottas is finally able to pass Kvyat for position with a great move into Turns 2 and 3. Lap 4 sees Kvyat being passed by Grosjean for position as Hamilton passes Kvyat on the back straight quite easily for position.
Lap 5 sees Bottas passing Max Verstappen for position after the latter went wide and Hamilton is then able to pass Verstappen with a bold and great move which saw three drivers battling each other. The following lap sees Ricciardo struggling even more with tyre wear as Sebastian Vettel passes him on the track for second place.
At the end of Lap 6, Ricciardo pits for new tyres. Lap 7 sees the battle for third between Kimi Raikkonen and Sergio Perez hot up on the track; with Perez gaining on him all the time. There is a battle for fifth between Bottas and Hamilton for fifth place building up; with Hamilton starting to gain quickly on the Williams driver. Daniil Kvyat officially retires from the race.
Three laps later, we see Ricciardo,Grosjean and Wehrlein battling for seventh place on the track as Rosberg leads the race ahead of Vettel by 13.3 seconds. Lap 11 sees Hamilton passing Bottas for position as Wehrlein manages to keep Raikkonen from passing him into Turn 1 beautifully but is able to pass into Turn 2.
Lap 12 sees Massa passing Wehrlein for ninth place on the home straight. The stewards announce that Raikkonen is under investigation after they believe he has crossed the white line at the pit entry. Two laps later sees the stewards issue a five place grid penalty to Raikkonen for the offence they believed he had committed.
A battle for seventh between Hulkenberg and Massa is ongoing on the track as Raikkonen passes Hulkenberg at Turn 1 for track position as the battle for twelfth between Alonso, Wehrlein and Button heats up. Lap 20 sees Rosberg still leading the race as Massa, Perez and Hamilton battle for seventh place. At the end of Lap 21, Vettel pits.
By Lap 23, Sainz Jr, Alonso, Button, Nasr and Hulkenberg are battling for ninth place as Rosberg leads Raikkonen by 18.6 seconds. The first radio message relating to Hamilton’s issue was broadcast on Lap 27. He explained that his power unit was “de-rating everywhere”, meaning the Energy Recovery System was harvesting too much energy while failing to deploy maximum power when he needed it most.
Five laps later, Raikkonen is ahead of Vettel but Vettel is being held up by his team mate and manages to get past very quickly indeed. Carlos Sainz Jr officially retires from the race on Lap 33 after locking up into Turn 1 with damper issues. But Perez is catching Raikkonen for third place as Rosberg leads Vettel by 14.5 seconds.
Rosberg had a similar issue but was able to make changes on his steering wheel rectify the problem, while Hamilton was left making a series of increasingly desperate radio calls to the pit wall that, by regulation, had to go unanswered. On Lap 34 Hamilton said he would try “changing everything” in the hope of lucking into the right mode, to which his engineer Peter Bonnington replied: “We don’t advise that, Lewis”.
By Lap 40, Hulkenberg and Ricciardo are battling each other for seventh place; with the Red Bull driver trying to catch the Force India driver. At this point of the race, Rosberg still leads Vettel on Lap 41 by 18.6 seconds.
Hamilton briefly found a setting on Lap 42 that allowed him to set the fastest lap at that point of the race, but it was ultimately beaten by Rosberg on lower fuel in the final eight laps. One team member later said to the media that it was like expecting Hamilton to do a crossword without any clues. Under new regulations this season, the pit wall was unable to tell him how to rectify the issue and despite briefly finding a setting on Lap 42 that allowed him to up his pace by over a second, his lap times soon dropped off again as Fernando Alonso officially retired from the race.
The last laps of the race saw Perez putting more pressure on Raikkonen for third place; with Perez trying everything that he can to get the podium place.
But Rosberg leads Vettel on the final lap of the race as Perez passes Raikkonen for third by 16.6 seconds and wins the European Grand Prix which is his fifth win of the 2016 season, Vettel is a credible second 16.6 seconds behind Rosberg, Perez finished in third place 25.2 seconds behind Rosberg, Raikkonen was a credible fourth 33.1 seconds behind Rosberg and Hamilton finished fifth 1.00.8 seconds behind Rosberg.
Bottas was sixth 1.09.2 seconds behind Rosberg, Ricciardo was seventh 1.09.2 seconds behind Rosberg, Verstappen was eighth 1.10.6 seconds behind Rosberg, Hulkenberg was ninth 1.17.7 seconds behind Rosberg and Massa was tenth 1.17.7 seconds behind Rosberg.
Nico Rosberg still leads the Driver’s Championship with 141 points, Lewis Hamilton is in second place with 117 points, Sebastian Vettel is in third place with 96 points, Kimi Raikkonen is in fourth place with 81 points, Daniel Ricciardo is in fifth place with 78 points, Max Verstappen is in sixth place with 54 points, Valtteri Bottas is in seventh place with 52 points, Sergio Perez is in eighth place with 39 points, Felipe Massa is in ninth place with 38 points and Daniil Kvyat is in tenth place with 22 points.
Mercedes still lead the Constructors Championship with 258 points, Ferrari is in second place with 177 points, Red Bull is in third place with 140 points, Williams is in fourth place with 90 points, Force India is in fifth place with 59 points, Toro Rosso is in sixth place with 32 points, McLaren is in seventh place with 24 points, Haas is in eighth place with 22 points and Renault is in ninth place with 6 points.
I feel that McLaren have had an disappointing weekend and have shown that they can still race near the front when they have the opportunity to do so. With Alonso officially retiring from the race with a water leak and Button finishing out of the points this weekend, it is a shame for the team who managed to get into Q3 for the second time this season with Alonso and just missed out with Button.
Both drivers have shown that they can be on the pace this weekend which is a shame for them but this also just shows despite this that even though it is still clear that the McLaren team have a lot of work to do in order to try and extract performance from their car, they are making small gains that are paying off for them in the last few races.
Massa did an okay job to get tenth place and had a great battle to get there after battling with Hulkenberg, Verstappen and Button for most of the race. This point for himself and Williams are vital and only shows just how much promise he has as a driver if he has the car underneath him to do so and that he is a talented and promising racing driver.
Hulkenberg battled his way through to get ninth place yesterday. He battled his way through the field and created some great overtaking moves to get there. Hulkenberg may not have had the weekend that he wanted with Force India this weekend but he did the best that he could do and picked up some more points for the team and also started his season well.
Ricciardo had a credible race to finish in eighth yesterday. It is a result that Ricciardo needed after a tough few races and he should be happy; especially gaining the position during the race. But in a race where many expected him to finish and to maintain the momentum he has so far, he has managed to gain some points for the team and put himself in good stead for the rest of the 2016 season.
Ricciardo had a bit of an average race to finish in seventh place yesterday. But it was the best that Ricciard could do with the strategy he was on even though he would have wanted more from the weekend after the last two races haven’t been too kind for him.
Bottas had a solid run to sixth place yesterday. Even though he couldn’t challenge at the front, he drove his own race and brought home some much needed points for himself and the Williams team as we head to the Austria GP in two weeks time.
Hamilton had a bit of an action packed yet defensive race to finish fifth, scoring more points for the Mercedes team who seem to have having some problems extracting pace and performance out of their package. But there is still a lot of work to be done but the fact that Hamilton scored points on a tough day.
Raikkonen did a good job to get fourth place today and deserves a mention. He drove a solid race despite not winning the battle with Perez and he did a great job to secure some much needed points for his team after a good performance this weekend and it is clear that the car was working well for them as a result. This will only help him prepare for the rest of the 2016 season.
Perez deserves a mention and has to be my biggest surprise of the day. He drove a solid race to third place and battled his way through to get these points which just solidify Force India’s status in the Constructors Championship and gaining the team’s second podium in Baku. But he needs to keep the momentum going and see if he can get back to the front in Austria.
Vettel drove a solid race to finish second today. He may not have had the race he wanted; and didn’t have a chance to try and get past but he did a great job to secure a podium today. And it was a shame that once again, some mistakes by him let him down but what a fantastic job from him all weekend and this will only give him a slight satisfaction heading into the next race in Austria.
All that is left to say about this race is that Rosberg deserved to win at Baku and he needed to in order to show that he cannot be discounted as a driver. His driving was brilliant and controlled throughout the race. Mercedes has built on the results that they have gained so far since pre-season testing and have shown that they are still the best team on the grid at the moment. All credit to Nico for doing a superb job this weekend and winning his second race of the season.
With the Austrian GP, many will wondering if this season will be Rosberg’s at last or can Hamilton, Ricciardo or Vettel challenge him for wins along the way. But what is for certain is that Formula One is building up rather nicely.