Baku had it all. This week we head to Spain to see if it can be topped.
What happened at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix?
What didn’t happen! Team-mates crashing out, crashes under the safety car (though not between two drivers this time – between one driver and one wall) and a four lap sprint to the end. And that’s not even half of it…
The Azerbaijan Grand Prix started with something the world of Formula 1 had been clamouring for – a Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton front row. The first corners went without issue for the two championship contenders however, further back for Vettel’s team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, things weren’t as smooth. Jostling through the second corner saw Esteban Ocon make a move and, by the third corner, he was half a car in front. Operative word – half.
Turn three came and, with Raikkonen halfway along Ocon and on the inside, Ocon turned in – damaging Raikkonen’s car and putting himself in the wall. Slightly further back Nico Hülkenberg moved across and into Sergey Sirotkin, who was pushed into Fernando Alonso. Debris and cars everywhere, it was time for the first safety car.
Things after the safety car calmed down, however not enough for Hulkenberg – the German clipping the wall and breaking his car – not for the first time at the track – and ultimately leading to his retirement.
At this point the race became more typical Formula 1 – battles being fought in the pit lane rather than the track – and you’d have been fooled into thinking it would be another parade to the end. Thankfully, there’s nothing quite like a bull in a street circuit.
Aston Martin Red Bull Racing drivers Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo had been trading blows throughout the race, with Verstappen in front but Ricciardo clearly the quicker of the two. They’d been playing hard but fair for most of the race, though lap forty saw one bull charge into the other, with both failing to finish.
Ricciardo had been using the long start-finish straight and DRS to make overtaking attempts into the first corner, and on lap forty he tried again. Going to the outside of Verstappen, then switching back to the inside it looked to be a trademark Ricciardo late-breaking overtake, but this time it was different. This time, Verstappen moved to the outside, then back to the inside – and in front of Ricciardo. With no air to provide downforce on the Australian’s front wing he skated forwards, and straight into the back of Verstappen. Both of their races were ended, and yet another high-profile team-mate on team-mate collision went down in Red Bull history.
The safety car was released and gaps closed up. By this point it was Valtteri Bottas in first, Vettel in second, Hamilton in third and Raikkonen in fourth.
With the remains of the Red Bulls all but cleared up, the race was ready to restart. Romain Grosjean, however, was not. In perhaps one of the more embarrassing things to happen in F1 history, Grosjean binned his Haas car into the wall, then blamed Marcus Ericsson, who wasn’t even in the same postcode as Grosjean. (Apparently the Frenchman had knocked the brake balance switch towards the rear, meaning that when he braked and turned to heat his tyres, he instead locked the rears and went nose-first into the wall. Ericsson, who was a way behind Grosjean, remains innocent). This caused a few more laps from the safety car, and left a four lap sprint to the end.
During the safety car period, questions had been asked of Vettel. He had the championship lead, he was in front of Hamilton – would he want, or need, to go for the lead? Would he just take the additional points and live to fight another day? Was he a driver or a racer?
He answered these questions immediately after the restart. Vettel dived up the inside of Bottas, locked up, and ruined his tyres. He may have ruined his race, but a racer he proved himself to be – fighting for every last point.
Bottas remained in the lead and looked sure to take the win, though lady luck wasn’t with him. He ran over debris left from an earlier collision between Kevin Magnussen and Pierre Gasly, and suffered a devastating puncture at the first turn.
Hamilton inherited the lead, the win, and, with Vettel falling to fourth with a damaged tyre, the lead of the championship. The race was over, the dust had settled, and the world started looking forward to the 2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
What happened in the 2017 Spanish Grand Prix?
Last year’s Spanish Grand Prix was action from the start, with a three-way collision between Bottas, Raikkonen and Verstappen catching Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso for good measure. This caused the Ferrari and Red Bull drivers to retire, whilst Massa suffered a puncture and Bottas struggled on with damaged suspension. Further ahead, Vettel led the way with Hamilton in tow.
In a move that will surprise nobody, Ferrari went for the undercut. Hamilton stretched his stint seven laps longer, and came out seven seconds behind the leader.
All started to quieten down, then Stoffel Vandoorne made an outlandish move on Felipe Massa at the first corner, making considerable impact and irreparably damaging the Brazilian’s suspension. Massa’s race ended race at the same corner he’d had earlier contact at. This brought out the safety car and gave Hamilton the chance at an undercut.
Pitting towards the end of the VSC period the Brit lost less time than Vettel who pitted at the end of it, and when the German rejoined they were neck-and-neck. Diving into the first corner the two contenders made wheel-on-wheel contact, Hamilton having to give second-best and take to the run-off. Hard racing yes, but it wasn’t over…
On lap forty-four, and with faster tyres than Vettel, Hamilton made a decisive move for first, clinching the lead and the win.
What’s the schedule?
Friday 11th May
10:00 BST / 11:00 CEST – Practice One
14:00 BST / 15:00 CEST – Practice Two
Saturday 12th May
11:00 BST / 12:00 CEST – Practice Three
14:00 BST / 15:00 CEST – Qualifying
Sunday 13th May
14:10 BST / 15:10 CEST – Race
Where can I watch the Spanish Grand Prix?
Potentially good news for streaming fans! The race should be the first available on Formula 1’s streaming service F1 TV. No official word on whether it will actually be available yet, however keep an eye on The Checkered Flag for updates on its availability.
Outside of streaming it’s Sky Sports F1 if you want to watch it live, or Channel 4 at 6pm if you want race highlights on Sunday (5pm on Saturday for qualifying highlights).
How can I keep up with the action?
As ever we’ll be keeping you updated with news, quotes and timings from the entire weekend as they happen.
Where is the circuit?
Camino Mas Moreneta, 08160 Montmeló, Barcelona, Spain