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22 May 2018
Missed Apex Podcast appearance 20/05/18

Here's the deets on my latest show with Missed Apex, if you're watching the video via Youtube I'll start by apologising for the out of sync audio/video, it appears my internet or Skype were lagging for no apparent reason.

If you haven't, for some reason, subscribed with your podcatcher of choice to the show already I do suggest doing so. But, for those that haven't here's the embed player...

Patron's also get access to the post show 'wafflecast', where me and Matt continue to shoot the breeze on everything Tech in F1 -
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13 May 2018
Trumpets race review - Spain

 Ambient 16° Track 36° Humidity 50% Wind 2.6 m/s


Overnight at Montmelo saw a hammering rain and as the track went green for installation laps there were massive grey clouds hanging over the circuit at the back of the pitlane, and an oculus of blue at the exit, the promised land, a paradise of dry tarmac. But the weather forecast promised otherwise and the likelihood of precipitation exceeded 50% as the start of the race approached.

Pirelli forecast a 2 stopper being fastest, Super, Soft, Soft with a first stop around lap 16, conveniently ignoring the fact that the top 8 cars all chose to qualify on and will start with the Softs. Why? Well, according to reports of a driver meeting with Pirelli, Vettel put it best in stating there simply weren't big enough gaps between the compounds. The evidence is hard to ignore when HAAS made Q3 with Softs and had he not been fueled for an extra lap, Danny Ricky would likely have been P5 instead of P6 on the Softs vs Max on the Supers. Of course, starting on Softs Pirelli do admit a one stopper could work, with a single stop around lap 35, and that would've been the plan for the top teams, but with a not merely green, but abundantly verdant track the fact of the matter is that no one was quite sure what the best way round would be.

Temps matter too, and if the teams get it wrong a radio full of complaints will absolutely be broadcast for our entertainment. AS to overtaking, the challenge at this circuit, according to an interview with Toto Wolff, is that the approaches to both straits are high speed, and the wash from the leading car make it somewhere between difficult and impossible to stay close enough for an overtake, even with DRS. So look for drivers taking a few strategic shots, which has become the norm in these days of advanced aero.

Of course, none of this will matter if the rain actually comes, and as I wander off for one more espresso the random fact that Hartley has a brand new engine, the Hulk is hopelessly out of position and apparently the Williams is suffering from a stalling condition that is "depriving the drivers of confidence" seem worth mentioning, as the anthems play and pageantry rocks into full swing....   


Lights Out!!!! The massive run down to T1 saw good start from Hamilton but it was Vettel into P2 by Bottas who was struggling a bit. Contact for Alonso, and BANG!!!! RoGro and Hulkenberg both were involved in a race ending incident.

RoGro spun the car after Magnussen understeered in front of him, taking air off his car. He then collided with Hulkenberg as the car didn't spin off the track, but rather back across the circuit at T3 in huge, billowing clouds of smoke as he had kept the throttle pinned. Gasly, too, looked to have been collected and in no surprise to anyone the Safety Car was straight out.

As they waited for the lengthy cleanup to begin, it was Hamilton, Vettel, Bottas, Raikkonen and Verstappen in the top 5. Alonso had tagged Sainz just prior to the Grosjean disaster and they were both full off the circuit then Grosjean, hung it around the outside chasing Magnussen and the rest you know.

Much argument on the telly about whether Rogro should've kept the throttle pinned, so have fun with that in the comments. Actually, not so much argument as bafflement but still... Palmer on 5 live was adamant that it was exactly the wrong thing to do, unless you were in a front wheel drive car...Lap 4 and the complaints about the slow Safety Car were led by Sainz and as lap 6 ticked over word came down that Safety Car was going to come in, with Hulk, Gasly and Grosjean all gone from the race.

Restart!!! Big slides as Hamilton got a good jump, Bottas looked racey for a moment but he, too couldn't hook it up and it was status quo ante. Alonso was the only one to get it done, nipping Ocon round the outside of T3 and up to P10. Danny Ricky went wide and that brought him into the  sights of Kmag, now within DRS of the Red Bull. At the end of lap 7 Alonso, too, was on the gearbox of Leclerc running in P9.

Lap 9 and the frontrunners were evenly spread at 2 second intervals as presumably they waited for DRS or the first pit window to open before making any moves. Vandoorne got rocked with a time penalty for not rejoining correctly after going off at T2, legacy of decision precipitated by Verstappen in practice, who wove his way round the speed bumps and argued himself out of a penalty by pointing out he didn't HIT them, as per the reg. Whiting clarified this for the race and Stoffel fell afoul of it.

Lap 11 and the clouds over the circuit were looking ever darker, and team radio were bouncing back and forth between plan A and B's as the early and relatively lengthy Safety Car changed fuel usage profiles considerably.

At the front, Hamilton had buried the throttle and opened the gap to nearly 6 seconds by lap 14 as the 2 stop beckoned. Bottas had closed up the gap and was well within undercut on Vettel and surprising no one, Danny Ricky radioed in he was faster than Max and could he please be allowed to overtake. Apparently the original plan to let them play unsupervised had undergone some revision.  

Lap 17 and it was Vandoorne chasing down Perez, the closest battle. Then Vettel and Ferrari pulled the trigger on a two stop the following lap, out on a Medium to prevent the undercut from Bottas. Mercedes responded by having Bottas push and he promptly set fast lap, whilst Vettel was out behind KMag, which, umm, OK that looked to be fun as it was just 2 seconds between them.

Lap 20 and Bottas was in, but with a problem on the back left costing him time, about 1.5 seconds, and on exit, he was out right by Kmag and Vettel split the difference, leaving Bottas behind Kmag and Vettel racing off into the distance.

Ricciardo was next up for the Ferrari driver, stuck behind his teammate but 12 seconds up the road. Bottas rocked by Kmag and lap 21 entered the history books as he continued his chase of P2 on the podium. At the front, Hamilton had managed to stretch his lead over Raikkonen to 15 seconds and continued to slowly stretch his lead, looking to clear the Ferrari from his pit window.  

Lap 22 and Alonso was in, out in P16 and chasing Leclerc once again. Lap 25 and suddenly Raikkonen slowed, with a loss of power. Frantic radio with the team yielded no immediate satisfaction and as they struggled, Hamilton took advantage to pit with no threat from Ferrari. Verstappen did manage to get by, but with a stop looming for them.

It was the end of the road for Kimi, though and he pulled over as Hamilton warmed up his Mediums and got to grips with his race. Sainz was in lap 26 and Perez followed him 2 laps later. AS the pit stop cycle continued, it was Ocon, Vandoorne, Ericsson and Sainz taking the last of the points paid positions, with Sainz the only one to have made a stop.
Lap 29 and it was a savage defense through T1 and T2 for Ericsson, fending off Sainz at least for the moment, but it was clear that it was just a matter of time for Carlos to have that spot as the Sauber had yet to stop. Hamilton caught a radio message that he did NOT need to manage his pace to make his tyres last, and he continued to run just a bit faster than Verstappen ahead, content to manage till the Red Bulls chose to pit. Looking backwards, it was clear that both Bottas and Vettel were running at a pace that meant neither would be cleared from the pit window so the strategy looked to be running as long as possible, then using fresh tyres to make up ground late in the race, and/or rain and Safety Car giving them essentially a free stop.

Lap 31 and disaster for Ocon, right rear refusing to go on and it cost him nearly half a minute as he made his first and only stop. Ericsson, Vandoorne, and Kmag continued to be the only runners without a stop. Lewis had gradually closed up to Verstappen and lap 33 he was on the edge of DRS as the lap kicked off. Down the back strait he went, just inside DRS and taking no chances. Ricciardo was in and out, P5 and Mercedes finally figured out what Hamilton knew as soon as he came out, that RBR were on a one stop with track position and were a threat if he couldn't make his tyres last.

Kmag was in and out, P6 on Lap 33 and then Verstappen was in 2 laps later, P4 and on the Mediums. Thus the die was set, lap 36 and Verstappen was chasing Hamilton's pit window while at the front Lewis matched his fastest lap. Ericsson was the last in, changing out his Mediums for Softs, and on the radio Mercedes asked for feedback on tyres if they were to convert to a one stop, with Verstappen 21 seconds behind and putting Bottas and Vettel both into serious jeopardy should they stop for a second time.  

The Alonso/Leclerc battle, which had been simmering and occasionally boiling over all race, hotted up again lap 40, but the enormous aero that Macca were running did Fernando no favours as he rocketed down the strait, unable to close the door all the way before he ran out of real estate.
Lap 41 and Ocon was out with a PU failure, bringing forth the Virtual Safety Car as the Force India was recovered. At the front, Hamilton had eked out another second but with the VSC Mercedes now had the option to lose less time for a stop.

While Mercedes dithered, Ferrari jumped, with Vettel in for new Mediums, but at the cost of being out P5 and Verstappen and Bottas to chase down. And again the kaleidoscope shifted and lap 43 saw the VSC off. Alonso, the wily veteran, got the jump on Leclerc and vitally, Verstappen ran dead into the back of Stroll on the restart, taking a big chunk of his front left endplate. Williams' woes continued as Sirotkin had an odd moment where he lost it all by himself. Perez took P10 away from Stroll with little effort while much to the consternation of the aerodynamicists, Verstappen carried on at the same pace.

Unfortunately for Max, that pace was about half a second a lap slower than Vettel and as lap 47 ticked over the Ferrari driver was just about in DRS. Vandoorne was then out with a loss of power, pulling over at pit exit as the strict PU regulations continued to bite....

Fast lap for Hamilton, into the 1:19's as Vettel worked his way free of traffic to continue the pursuit of the Red Bull, who was now nearly 2 seconds up the road. Sadly for the entertainment value, Kmag was demonstrating the superiority of the HAAS by running significantly faster than the rest of the midfield, while not quite being on the pace of the sharp end, putting him in a bubble with a  half minute or so either side of him in a lonely P6. Which, perhaps, was a comfort to the HAAS pitwall as the likelihood of him losing bodywork in a battle was virtually nil.

Lewis' fast lap didn't last long, as Danny Rick, sensing a shot at Vettel, turned up the wick and began chasing, taking nearly a second out of the Ferrari.  Sebastian, meanwhile, was keeping up the pressure on Verstappen, within 2 seconds and looking to take the podium away from the Red Bull and the long slow slog to the end of the race commenced.

10 laps to go and the threat of rain hung in the air, but was far enough away that the teams were being dismissive of the issue. With things having set, telly managed to ID some damage to Perez, the result of the Force India driver destroying Verstappen's endplate, which had flown off down the front strait. Still, that didn't stop him from banging past Leclerc on lap 60, as the Sauber ran itself dry of energy and was essentially defenseless down the front strait. Lap 61 and Sirotkin again had some kind of an off, which didn't make primetime. In completely unrelated news, F1 TV, having turned out to be in no way ready for primetime (reddit comments were savage, and apparently it was a huge amateur hour effort) is indeed offering refunds to all those who signed up. That said, the bones of it are promising indeed, and if nothing else the replays and archives are a tremendous resource.

Sainz had a fuel dropout issue, and was told to be careful round T3 but with 4 laps left, and Alonso 6 seconds back, it was more a management issue than a serious threat. Bottas complained of losing tyre temperature as he underwent fuel saving, lift and coast keeping his brake temps down, which sounds good until you realise that brake temps help keep tyre temps up, and the older the tyres the more likely they are to lose temps and drop out of the window.

Still, a minor diversion, and as Hamilton crossed the line for the win, something had gone south for Verstappen in the final lap, and he just barely crossed the line ahead of Vettel. Hartley, too, ran into issues on the final lap and looked to be coasting down toward the checquers, pulling off the track and parking it by the pit exit.

A fairly faultless weekend for Mercedes, and perhaps some regret on the Ferrari pitwall, as they paid the price not only for an aggressive pit strategy for Vettel, but possibly for how hard they have pushed their PU, the loss of Raikkonen having severely complicated their strategic day. The fact of the matter is, though,they were never really on it this weekend, and the new surface and slightly thinner tyres did them no favours whatsoever.Excellent result for Red Bull, but a brutally unhappy day for Ricciardo, not allowed to challenge Max (?) and regretting savagely taking on fuel for 2 runs for his last shot at Q3. Hindsight being 20/20, Hamilton in the cooldown room told Bottas that he should've pulled over on the run down to T1 at the start to give Valterri the benefit of a tow. Instead, he wound up helping Vettel by trying to cut him off. Meaningless in the end, it was still a nice insight, and clearly Hamilton sees this as his first proper victory of the year, regardless of the WDC standings.

Smashing race for Magnussen, and also for Grosjean, just for completely different reasons. Still, HAAS' package looks to be maintaining its advantage over the midfield, the only question being when they will be able to pull off the high double points finish that is clearly within their grasp at the moment. That in turn leads to questions about RoGro, who once again seems to be struggling with decision making at key moments. He was brought in to lead the team, but under pressure of struggling with the car, seems to be spiraling and it will be interesting to see what the rumour mill chunks up in the lead up to Monaco.

The other entertainment was Verstappen's times with the damaged (entirely removed) endplate. With the new front wings coming in next year, and despite the pleas of the aero boffins, one wonders exactly why the complaining from RBR. Maybe it won't be the utter disaster they are currently predicting...

Despite the seeming dominance of Mercedes at this track, the season is far from over and Monaco offers a serious shot for the fizzy drinks team as well as the Scuderia. Horner offered post race that Ricciardo had a spin under the VSC that cost him 12 seconds, explaining the end of his challenge to Vettel.

And remember to play nice in the comments!!
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Trumpets qualifying notebook - Spain

Ambient 18° Track 27° Humidity 77% Wind 2.4 m/s


IT was a dark and stormy night... wait a minute..... random, unpredictable winds lashed the paddock as ominous clouds scudded overhead in the run up to qualifying. The possibility of rain was added to a long list of uncertainties gathered throughout the weekend (new surface, new tyres, many updates) as the teams worked desperately to find that last hundredth before sending cars and drivers out to do battle in qualifying. 

At Red Bull, the pace was frenetic as Max Verstappen suffered a failure in practice when he used the overtake button at launch and the electrics on his car melted down and threw a proper teenage sulk. The floor was off and they were in full on find it and replace it mode with most of FP3 left. At Toro Rosso it was even worse as Brendan Hartley managed to find the grass trying to widen the entry to the high speed T9 and put his car full on into the wall with such force that the rear end simpy fell off as the marshals attempted recovery of the vehicle. IT was a savage incident and after having had a very good session working through his issues on the car it looked likely that he would not make it out for quali, such was the damage done. 

For Mercedes, the Super Softs looked suspect, barely hanging on for a single lap, but even at that they were fastest by some margin for the team from Brackley. The practical implication is, if they make a mistake on their first run, the second will be slower so it's either pit or live with it. Thus, the Soft would likely be the tyre they prefer to start with, as in Friday's practice they had some issues with pace on a longer stint, especially relative to Red Bull. RBR, on the other hand, was so dedicated to the Supers that they actually ran Mediums for most of FP3 so as to save a fresh set for quali/race, with Danny Ricky able to take P5 on the hardest of compounds available for the weekend.

Ferrari, too, were quick on the Supers, not as fast as Merc but much closer than yesterday. This seems to be a Friday tradition, and one that extends for more than just this season. Of course, with the 3 PU limit in effect, management over the weekend matters more than ever, so it's not necessarily a surprise to see teams looking like they're sandbagging, especially in Friday practice. 

HAAS look strong again, no surprise as they went exceedingly well here in testing, the only question for them being can they get their operational act together enough to get both drivers into the points, a result they desperately need to move up the midfield pecking order. Alonso and Gasly both had good laps and Renault look strong, although Sainz (quite possibly inadvertently) ruined Hulkenbergs best shot at a representative quali lap. To be fair, Vettel did the same to Sainz, and after berating his team for not warning him (he was exiting the pits) he asked them to apologise to Renault on his behalf. 


Green Light!!  Stroll, Sirotkin led the way followed by Raikkonen and Vettel, as with the threat of rain, there was not to be the usual interval of lolligagging about in the pits and the track filled rapidly. Directly into the 17's for both the Ferrari drivers, with Vettel leading the way in 1:17.806 as Mercedes got busy with Lewis rocking out of the garage with just over 13 minutes left in the session. 

HAAS continued to look strong, with Magnussen and Grosjean looking significantly faster than the rest of the early midfield runners. Perez for Force India was nearly 0.2s off as Renault was just getting itself underway. Hamilton's early effort put him faster than Vettel, but he was rapidly overruled by Raikkonen, up to a 1:17.483 

But Alonso was the real surprise, pulling P5 on a set of MEDIUMS!! Which, wow... Vettel then put in his best effort, going just about 1:17 dead, as Bottas backed out of an effort, and headed for the pits. As it stood with just under 7 minutes left, Vettel, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Hamilton and Bottas were at the top of the charts while Ericsson, Stroll, Sirotkin and Hulkenberg had it all to do. Vandoorne was in the hot seat as the finale of Q1 approached.

Verstappen stuffed one in with about 5 minutes left, going P2, as Hulkenberg had issues with what sounded like his gearbox, to the great consternation of Renault. 3 minutes to go and things were hotting up for those on the outside looking in... Renault had managed to get Hulkenberg sorted and he was out of the garage with enough time to get a run in.

Under a minute and it was Ocon on the bubble as the last, desperate efforts were underway. Hulkenberg rocked in with a P14 but the other drivers were on it and to P15 he went and then Vandoorne went P15 and that was that for that. Stroll, overdriving as usual, managed to go backwards off the track and out of qualifying. Into the gravel around T13 it was, killing Sector 3 for all the drivers behind him. And thus it was that Hulkenberg, Ericsson, Sirotkin, Stroll and Hartley were off in search of tapas while the rest turned it round for Q2.

Grosjean and Magnussen led the way for Q2 shod with Softs, as were both Ferraris and Mercedes. Red Bull followed suit and it was clear that Softs were the place to be for the start of the race. Interestingly, with an increase in this tactic, it could be argued that it was time to revisit the tyre rules for qualifying. 

Vettel, Raikkonen Bottas, Hamilton, all in that order, followed suit. Vettel crushed it with a 1:16.802 and the rest were within 0.2s of each other, just the wrong side of 1:17. Verstappen then Ricciardo and the early starting HAAS were best of the rest, Magnussen marginally ahead of Grosjean. Hamilton complained that the track had not been properly cleaned following Stroll's shunt, perhaps explaining his P4 as he grabbed a giant handful of oversteer right where the Willams spewed gravel all over the circuit in Q1.

KMag was the standout of the session, however as he was just 0.001s off Danny Ricky's time, on the same compound. Vandoorne, Ocon, Leclerc, Perez, and Gasly were all on the outside looking in, and with 5 minutes left they were getting ready for their last tilt at the glory of Q3. Sainz was in the hot seat and as they headed back out it was Hamilton, out on the Super, surprisingly enough. Fuel pressure issue for the Hulk is what put him out in Q1 and as the last seconds ticked off the clock, RoGro had an off. Checquers, then Gasly P12, Vandoorne P11. Sainz P9 leaving Alonso P10 as Q2 came to an end. Off for sangria went Vandoorne, Gasly, Ocon, Leclerc, and Perez as the rest turned it around to battle for the ultimate palmares. Magnussen managed to split the Red Bulls and it was a fairly impressive display, with HAAS basically 0.4s off the pace of the back of the sharp end. 

Q3 was kicked off by Sainz, followed by the HAAS, with Grosjean leading the way. Red Bull were next, then Hamilton followed by the Ferraris and Bottas the lanterne rouge. BANG!! 1:16.858 for Danny Ricky and then a squeenze faster for Verstappen. Hamilton was on a tear and he went provisional pole with a 1:16.491. Bottas could only manage P4 with Vettel P5. A second effort for Vettel saw him by Bottas and Raikkonen spoiled his first effort with a mistake in S2, leaving him dangling in P7 as they reset for the last run at glory. Alonso had a good run, into P6 and something went terribly wrong for Magnussen, as he was nearly 20 seconds off the pace. Magnussen was out first, followed by Ricciardo, who was running the Softs. Magnussen to P6 and into the 17s and Danny Ricky stayed P3 as the Softs offered no succor to the Red Bull runner. Ferrari decided to follow suit and were onto their warm up lap running the Softs, before Ricciardo put his time up onto the board. 3 minutes to go and the rest of the front runners cranked it up as they cracked timing and scoring to kick off their hot laps. 

Hamilton, again on it, was purpling the board as Raikkonen managed a P2 and ZOMG it was Lewis with a 1:16.173!! Bottas nearly upset the applecart, going just a tenth slow of Lewis' effort, leaving just Vettel as the final threat to Mercedes dominance. It was a neat effort, with Sebastian thereabouts through the first 2 sectors, bit of a wiggle out of the final chicane and P3 was the best he could manage, 0.2s off Hamilton's time.  Verstappen was P5 and just like Noah, it was 2x2 at the sharp end of the grid. 

Magnussen managed to hang onto P6, with Alonso just a tenth behind on the Soft tyre, so Macca looking to favour the harder compound in the race, but will be starting on the Softest. Sainz then Grosjean rounded out the top 10. 

With a hard rain predicted for tonight, tomorrow's race looks potentially promising indeed. With the weather being different to Friday, teams that get the cooling right will have the advantage. Barcelona is front limited, with the front left taking the most damage. Race pace on the Softs looked quite similar amongst the top teams and given the new surface, it's quite likely that the front runners will be looking to one stop, which would be a loss for Pirelli. If Mercedes make it to T1 unscathed, look for trailing teams to run split strategy, with one driver rocking the undercut and the other going long. Red Bull were absolutely able to run longer stint with the Super so that may offer them a strategic option in the event of a later Safety Car. At a toss, the long run to T1 also offers more than a few opportunities for fun and entertainment, along with the odd piece of loose bodywork.


Remember, Play Nice in the Comments!

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29 Apr 2018
Trumpets race report - Azerbaijan

Ambient 16° Track 25° Humidity 23% Wind 3.5 m/s


There's wind and there's wind and then there's today in the paddock. The winner of the F2 race, George Russell described the wind as "scary" and that's with an F2 car. F1 cars have infinitely tricksier aero and the impact on them will be exponentially more entertaining, unless, of course, one is actually having to pilot them. 

The abject woes of RoGro continued with a 5 spot penalty for the luckless Frenchman due to a changed gearbox after yesterday's qualifying debacle, blunted by the fact that already being at the back of the grid it was a paper penalty only. Also experiencing woe is unfortunate Toro Rosso driver Hartley, with rumours on Dutch TV that management are having quiet conversations with a certain Pascal Wehrlein.

Continuing the theme of misery, it turns out that the large piece of bodywork that came off the HAAS yesterday was the bargeboard from KMag's car. The team, unable to repair it between Q1 and Q2, sent him out anyway and not surprisingly, the balance of the car was, ummm, somewhat altered. Though the bright side for the viewers is once again, entertainment from out of position drivers...

Proof of the aero pudding as it were, both Ericsson and Leclerc had off track adventures on their way round to the grid. But with the sun out, the track was not too far off qualifying temps, unlike the ambient, which saw the majority of fans with jackets and hats. 


Lights Out!!!! The chaotic run down to T1 saw Vettel with a kicking start. Disaster for Ocon, into the wall and out of the race. Having mometarily taken 6th from Raikkonen, after Kimi lost out to Ricciardo, Ocon tried to shut the door on the Ferrari and instead collected the Finn's front wing and collected a get out of racing free card.

Safety Car out, slow stop for Raikkonen, with many bits having to be replaced. Sirotkin also lost a race ending battle with Alonso and wound up parked right behind Ocon, the marshals getting an early test. Kmag into the pits as well with a double puncture and early days it's Gasly P10 and Hulk P9 making the most of the carnage. 

Perez lost his wing after getting wailed on from behind by Sirotkin and shoved into the car ahead of him before the Russian went backward to subsequently tangle with Fernando. Apparently the Ericsson also played a bit of footsie with Magnusson, resulting in a double puncture for the HAAS and as the SC continued on lap 4, Alonso was told of floor damage from his melee with the Williams. 

Of course, the long run down to T1 weighed heavily on the drivers, after several laps at a slow pace, cold tyres and brakes were poised to make the braking point a bit of informed speculation at 300+ kph. Again, entertainment for all but those behind the wheel...

Lap 5 and the SC was in, bit of chicken from Vettel as he almost got Hamilton to rear end him, good start from the top 3 and it was Lewis defending. Verstappen attacked Ricciardo and shoved his way past and Sainz just about got the both of them. Gasly was up the inside and by Stroll into P8 and Leclerc in the points with a P10. 

Verstappen missed T15 and Sainz subsequently got by him for P4 but Max fought back and managed to retake the position. Sainz was on the Ultras compared to Verstappen on the Supers and the faster tyre was working well for the Spaniard. During that battle Vettel had been putting in fast laps and had pulled out a 3 second gap on Hamilton, with Bottas another 2 seconds back. 

Lap 8 and Verstappen was complaining that his ERS wasn't properly recharging, the defense against Sainz. And it was an easy pass for Carlos with the battery run down while behind, Hulkenberg took advantage of a Ricciardo mistake to go P6 as Sainz disappeared into the distance. Continual complaints from Verstappen about his pace on the straights as Hulkenberg got the job done under DRS for P5. The team implacably telling him to maintain Mode 7 despite the loss of position. 

T11 and it all went sideways for the Hulk though as he locked the rears, spun it into T4 and into the wall and out of the race went the Renault driver. Baku continued to be a bogey track for the German with another unforced error ending his day early. 

Max continued to wail about clipping on the radio, but still got his elbows all the way out to block his teammate rolling by, going quite wide and initiating a bit of contact that was beyond what might be described as a friendly nudge. Fortunate that both their days didn't end right there. The initiator of the chaos? One Charles Leclerc in P7 rapidly rocking up to the gearbox of Danny Ricky, who was also told to initiate the dreaded Mode 7 to refill the battery. 

A similar complaint from Ricciardo echoed that from Verstappen, that Mode 7 wasn't getting the job done. The team told him the battery was recharging, but apparently it was still draining on the straight. At a guess, the usage map wasn't playing well with the charging map. 

Lap 15 and it was Verstappen, finally having sorted his ERS and back onto the sort of pace that one normally expected from a Red Bull. Raikkonen continued his drive of redemption, P8 and past Stroll. Sainz was in for a new set of tyres as his pace had been dropping. Back out P12 with a set of Supers. 

Moment of the race, F1 telling us "first lap incidents turn 2 and 3 ALL noted". Gonna be days for them to sort that mess. Lewis had a moment, over the kerb and wide as Vettel continued to pull away at tenths per lap. 4.5 seconds and degradation of the rears now on the minds of the Mercedes pitwall. As the pit stop loomed for Mercedes, Lewis radioed in that the Supers suffered from a poor warm up at the start of the race. 

Lap 19 and Ericsson had an off. Raikkonen, who had earlier complained of DRS issue, was given permission for manual activation. Ericsson's off allowed Hartley up to P13. The Sauber driver complained of vibration, but it wasn't apparent to the team. 

Lap 21 and Perez was by Stroll, who helpfully then locked up and created a nice gap for the Force India driver. Lewis was now on it and chunking tenths back out of Vettel, but the Ferrari was safely out of the undercut. And Lewis was off with a giant lockup just after a call to change a chassis setting. 

Lap 22 and in went Hamilton, with the call that the tyres were done, but not until he lost another 5 seconds to Vettel, crushing Mercedes' strategy. P3 on the way out with a set of Softs, just ahead of Verstappen. Meanwhile, Perez had closed to DRS on Leclerc as he began to finally make up for his early stop.

Lap 25 and Perez investigated for overtaking before the Safety Car line, docked +5 seconds by the stewards. Leclerc in and out with a set of Softs. Hamilton's pace continued to plague Verstappen, who was quicker over the lap, but lacked the punch to get round him. This brought Ricciardo back up to Max and was about to leave him vulnerable as Lewis finally got the tyres up to temp and rocked off into the distance. 

Leclerc, back out behind Alonso, easily swapped places. And then Ricciardo had a go into T1 on lap 27, nosed ahead but Max kept his foot in and took the place back on the inside of the next turn. The battle was spectacular but in the long game it was costing them both. Stroll took a place from Alonso after a lockup by the Spaniard, P11 for the Williams as the McLaren continued to struggle with the loss of downforce from his early incident. 

Rogro complained of insanity over is team radio, possibly the result of Perez and Vettel looked to be readying his only stop on lap 31. Softs the choice of the day, and he was out well in front of Hamilton, round about 10 seconds. This left Bottas in the lead, and the option for Mercedes had now shifted to running Bottas long and then tossing him onto the Ultras for a late charge. 

Sainz became the second driver to complain of cold front tyres, after Raikkonen previously brought up the exact same issue with his team. This was after just 15 laps for Carlos, versus 30 laps for Kimi on the Softs. Lewis was making time on Vettel as the Ferrari adjusted to its new set of tyres, closing the gap to 7.5 seconds. But it was Bottas he was racing, 19 seconds up the road and working hard to clear Lewis from his pit window. 

Lap 34 and it was north of 20 seconds between the Mercedes, Vettel almost a bystander at this point to the real drama on the track. Red Bull had gone with a long run in a desperate attempt to clear Raikkonen, but all it really did was bring Ricciardo into range and Ricciardo just didn't bother to brake into T1 and breezed by Verstappen for P4, returning all the previous favors with a bit of interest. 

Bottas meanwhile had seen the pendulum swing the other way, with Hamilton now just 18 seconds back of the Finn, and 6.5 seconds back of Vettel. Mercedes also hanging out, waiting for a potential Safety Car, though with Ricciardo safely by Verstappen, the odds on that had to have dropped considerably. 

Lap 37 and the traffic that had slowed Bottas earlier, had now impacted Hamilton, and he was back to 20 seconds back of his teammate. From a WDC point of view, of course, the points loss from P2 to P3 is less than P2 to P1, so in a sense it was in his interests to see Bottas take the win. 

Lap 38 and Verstappen followed Ricciardo in, and managed to get the place back in the pits, due to the slow tyre warm up. Lap 40 and still Bottas stayed out, strategy boffins calculating overtime, under the watchful eye of James Vowles. 

Lap 40 and the fratricidal feeling between the Red Bulls exploded with Ricciardo dead into the back of his teammate and both out of the race, after Verstappen once again weaved about in the braking zone and caught Danny Ricky out. Max's late move in front of his teammate having taken a large quantity of downforce of the front wing of Ricciardo and (certainly inadvertently) doomed them both. Safety Car out and both Mercedes onto the Ultras with Valterri maintaining his lead. Vettel, too, was off with a fresh set of Ultras and it was a sprint to the finish between the top 3 as all the gaps collapsed. 

Lap 43 and the Safety Car still circled the track, bringing the cars through the pitlane as the mess at T1 was cleared as furious messages between drivers and pitwalls cluttered the ether. Bit of confusion between Hamilton and his race engineer, over some minor brake glazing, with the best procedure for dealing with it taking up some time. 

AND THEN, oh my, RoGro, weaving behind the Safety Car lost the car and put it heavily into the wall from P7, putting him out of the race. Bit of confusion, but Grosjean maintaining that there was contact with the Sauber behind him. The replay showed decisively otherwise. Oddly, this put Magnussen into P10 on brand new Ultras, with Alonso in a wounded McLaren directly ahead of him. Perez P5, Sainz, P6 Leclerc in the recently vacated P7 and once again, by dint of not crashing, Stroll in P8 and in the points at one of his favorite tracks. 

Lap 45 and the Safety Car continued, a magnificently emotional display from Grosjean as he returned to his garage, comforted by a mechanic, a reciprocation of his magnanimous gesture in Australia. Hamilton, on the radio,  complained of the truck parked on track at a very narrow spot, saying Whiting should have red flagged the race. 

Lap 47 and the Safety Car was in, cold tyres and brakes with the track down to 23°C and 2 km to T1 and a 4 lap sprint to the finish. Bottas went early, good restart from Lewis and Hamilton went side by side with Vettel down the long strait to T1. Vettel went for a late move up the inside on Bottas into T1, massive lock up for the Ferrari and as he went wide crossing the track in front of Bottas it was Lewis was by for P2 and the top 2 spots for Mercedes. Raikkonen to P3 (holy hopping redemption, Kimi) as the damage was done for Sebastian's chances. 

Lap 48 and suddenly a puncture for Bottas, and Perez got by Vettel to make things even worse, or better, depending on your perspective. Bottas reported that the tyre just blew up, so yeah, there's that, too. The WDC now flipped on its head, and with 2 laps free of drama Hamilton was in position to take the lead in the championship. Raikkonen now P2 with Perez P3, Vettel P4 and Sainz rounding out the top 5. On replay, it looked to be debris on the track that took out the frontrunner. One can only imagine the size of Hamilton's eyes as he saw his teammate flailing about with a trashed rear tyre. 

Last lap and Vettel with DRS chasing Perez and Stroll in P7 desperately trying to dislodge Leclerc ahead of him. T16 for Lewis, down the strait and he tooks the chequers, no doubt thanking the appropriate deities, winning the race he should've had in Australia as well as taking the championship lead. Perez maintained for a Force India podium, putting Vettel back and it was nothing doing from Stroll, as Leclerc took P6 ahead of him. Sainz with a miraculous P5, putting a little shine back on his reputation, and somehow McLaren emerged with 2 points positions, Alonso P7 and Vandoorne P9. And of course it was Hartley in P10, because why not at this point. Kmag and Gasly had an incident on the restart that very much explains things, and as with much else, the full story yet to be told by the stewards, so take these positions with a very large grain of post race salt....

Well, well, well F1 has once again managed to make some lemonade in Baku. Thanks very much to the astonishing display of internecine warfare from Red Bull and the late Safety Car. Brilliant drive from the rookie Leclerc at a difficult to manage circuit. Epically catastrophic for Grosjean, rapidly becoming the Pagliacci of F1 with his emotive displays and keen grasp of tragic narrative. And a miracle finish for Hamilton, taking the win after the race had clearly taken him well out of contention and not inconsequentially the lead in the WDC. But it was Vettel who looked dominant, until the win it or bin it attitude took him out of P2 and handed the race to his nearest competitor in the WDC. Fortunately for the WCC, Raikkonen was there to sweep up the second spot on the podium and with the retirement of Bottas, Ferrari is still well in the hunt for the only prize that pays....

I used to have a coach, football for the rest of the world, soccer on my side of the pond, who said he would always choose a lucky player over a good player and perhaps this race exemplifies that attitude. However, those enamored of numbers will also look to Australia and simply see it as the law of large numbers playing out over the course of a season. Or, my fave, that the racing gods are both cruel and capricious, and one ignores them at their peril.... Bottas' retirement was the nastiest strike imaginable unless of course you're a fan of Red Bull, in which case better make that Bloody Mary a double, because it's going to be a long, long interval until the next race.

Excellent strategy from Mercedes to put Bottas into the window to win, acknowledging post race that going long was another way to play the probabilities of a very likely late Safety Car. Vicious luck to put Bottas out and perhaps some self reflection from Vettel about who exactly he's racing for what. Heading to Barcelona where Mercedes was dominant in testing but with Ferrari now looking to have the best car, it's all to play for...  


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