2023 Azerbaijan Thoughts
THE BIG PICTURE: The new format sure made for a hectic weekend, even for fans. There was no rest for the weary. We liked it, but we admit the jury is still out.
EVENT: The marketing concept behind being awarded a sprint format is to reward the successful venues to help them attract even more fans on Saturday and Sunday and/or help a venue to build a crowd. Neither of which have ever been the case with Baku, with or without a sprint format.
TRACK: The Baku track used to produce some thrilling races, but as time has gone by, they have become more and more boring. Even with new rules to prevent just that.
QUALIFYING: Three Baku poles in a row for Leclerc, a solid effort by Tsunoda, Mercedes is disappointing magnified by inadvertently giving a competitor a Q2 slipstream, and Sargeant makes it to Q2, and Q1 takes nearly as long as the usual overall qualifying proceedings.
SPRINT SHOOTOUT: Once again, Lecerc grabs a pole despite crashing, Sargeant ends his day, and McLaren messes up which driver they should have concentrated on.
SPRINT: A preview of the main event in abbreviated format.
SPRINT START: Surprisingly clean, Leclerc sails away, and Russell muscles his way past Verstappen.
RACE: We've seen this street circuit script before. Ferrari gets pole, Red Bull easily passes them within two laps, Perez eventually gets the lead and holds on. Rinse, lather, repeat.
START: Extremely clean upfront as Leclerc maintains his spot, Stroll and Russell both jump two spots, Magnussen rear ends Bottas, and there's a bit of bumping in the second turn.
PEREZ: There is no truth to the rumor that Sergio, his family, and the entire country of Mexico are lobbying Liberty Media to create an all street circuit schedule. We think...
VERSTAPPEN: Max went from a petulant whining sore loser to a calm matter of fact "oh, well" loser in just 24 hours.
RED BULL: Thank goodness they will take the same tact as Mercedes did during their domination -- let their drivers race. Looking forward to some sort of championship battle this year.
LECLERC: At least Charles got a podium this time.
SAINZ: Once again, second amongst the Spaniards.
FERRARI: Same old, same old -- great qualifying speed with no race speed.
ALONSO: The Aston Martin wasn't supposed to be all that quick at Baku. Yet, Fernando was still able to get fourth place, beating a Ferrari and both Mercedes. He's going to win a race this year. Mark it down.
HAMILTON: Fairly sanguine after the race.
RUSSELL: It wasn't on purpose, but he sure got under Verstappen's skin. And George won't back down, so this could be fun to watch.
NORRIS: The topsy-turvy results of Lando in F1.
PIASTRI: A fine run, especially considering he was ill all weekend.
TSUNODA: Good weekend? Bad weekend? Tough call, but when it was right, Yuki had speed.
ALPINE: Arguably, they brought the most upgrades to Baku. Not arguably, they had the least number of opportunities to try it out. Just a wretched, wretched weekend.
GASLY: Is it possible for Pierre to have a worst weekend?
OCON: You know it's a terrible weekend when you have to try a Hail Mary strategy. And then nearly bowl over photographers in the pit lane.
SARGEANT: Rookies make mistakes. We get that. But his propensity to crash in the junior series is carrying over to the major series.
DE VRIES: Is Nyck's ride in danger?
FIA: Everyone is focusing on the fact that all should have known Ocon had to pit on the last lap. Forget that. Anyone could have to come into the pits on the last lap in any race for any reason. Allowing people on pit lane for that last lap has always been asinine. It doesn't take a near tragedy to have known that. Oh, wait, we're talking about the FIA...
F2: Seventeen-year-old Brit Oliver Bearman won the Sprint (after going from fifth to first in the last three laps on a restart, thanks to avoiding a massive pileup in front of him) and the Feature from pole.
WORD OF THE WEEKEND: Street King.
STAT OF THE WEEKEND: 5 -- A lot is being made of Perez only being six points behind Verstappen after four races. But last year after four races, Perez trailed his teammate by just five points. And look how well that turned out for Sergio...
TWEET OF THE WEEKEND: From @RobLMyers concerning the Stewards report on the last lap pit lane fiasco, "We’ve had a very stern word with ourselves and agreed that we need to do better in future."
QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND: Sergio Perez on his chances to win the championship this year, "With three kids at home I wouldn’t be travelling around the world if I didn’t think I could be world champion."
QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND RUNNERUP: Damon Hill ripping into Max Verstappen after the Sprint, "The default mindset of someone like Max is that they're always right. Same with Michael, same with Ayrton. It is basically they have to be the guys who don't make mistakes, other people make mistakes."
SCHEDULE: Now the races come rapid fire -- five in six weeks. Miami, with their fake (but real this year?) lagoon is up next.
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