What. A. Race. Honestly, after the 2016 race at Baku, I certainly wasn’t expecting all that much on the weekend. Thankfully I was hopelessly disappointed; instead, Azerbaijan put on an unrivaled show that will go down as ‘the race to remember’ in years to come, of that I’m sure.
But, from Mercedes to Sauber – how did each driver perform? With three safety cars and a red flag – there’s drivers kicking themselves with the big question of ‘what if’ whilst others celebrate their on-track victories. Either way, here’s the Driver Rankings for the 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix…
Lewis Hamilton – 9/10
This was Lewis Hamilton’s race to win, there’s no denying that. In the end it was fundamentally one of the stupidest things ever that ruined it: a loose headrest. Hamilton’s driving was impeccable the whole race and plaudits must be given to him for the professional manner in which he handled the headrest and Vettel incidents.
Valtteri Bottas – 10/10
Hamilton was only a 9 and not a 10/10 simply because his flawless driving can’t match the unwavering attitude possessed by Valtteri Bottas. When Hamilton crossed the line for the start of lap 3, Bottas was just finishing his first lap… Yet, from that point onwards, the Finn left no time out on the track – and if he hadn’t, he wouldn’t have caught Lance Stroll’s tow with just one lap to go… Fantastic drive from Valtteri.
Sebastian Vettel – 5/10
Admittedly, I’m a Vettel fan and a Hamilton detractor. But, despite my best efforts, I cannot in any way defend the actions of Sebastian Vettel in Azerbaijan. His stupid response to Hamilton’s apparent brake check is what ultimately cost a race win which might have been enough to destabilize the Mercedes crew in the Championship. This race could come back to bite the Scuderia, rather hard too.
Kimi Raikkonen – 7/10
Most of the troubles felt by Kimi Raikkonen in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix weren’t actually his fault. The incident with Bottas is, in my mind, a natural racing incident. Unfortunately from this point onwards all the Finn could do was recover, as Raikkonen later admitted the crash gave him “massive damage.” His day wasn’t done, though as it got even worse when he was hit with a rear puncture mid way through the race due to debris from the Force India’s coming together. Some days the water runs hot, today it ran ice cold for Kimi.
Max Verstappen – No rating
Little old Max Verstappen is not a happy man. Reliability again robbed him of a potential podium, or even race win considering the way things eventually ended. Verstappen was again critical post-race, saying, “I was gutted to be let down once again by a technical problem.”
Daniel Ricciardo – 10/10
If you thought Bottas’ come back was impressive, try talking to Daniel Ricciardo. It looked as though this Grand Prix was going to be a nightmare for Red Bull when the Australian had to make a premature pitstop on lap 5 to dislodge debris from his brake duct. By this point he was effectively 17th – and tire rules meant he’d have to make at least one more stop too. Yet Ricciardo lifted the winners trophy just over an hour later. How? Because he kept his driving slick and clean. Best drive of his career.
Sergio Perez – 8/10
If the water was ice cold for Raikkonen today, well it was just god-damn nonexistent for Sergio Perez. It makes me cry every time I say it, but Force India, if they hadn’t collided, could’ve won in Baku. They could’ve had a one-two because when Ocon hit Perez on lap 20, they were in 3rd and 4th behind only Hamilton and Vettel…
Esteban Ocon – 4/10
I’m harsh. Simply because of the lasting ramifications Ocon’s small mistake is going to have. Even when he made the move, it was for an effective P3 – which in of itself, he should’ve been more cautious to protect the interest of the team. I’ve been impressed so far with Ocon, but his incident has severely dented my opinion of him.
Felipe Massa – 9/10
I honestly think Felipe Massa has some of the worst luck in Formula 1. The favorable Brazilian hasn’t stood on the podium since his absolutely awesome “I’m too old for that” moment in Italy, 2015, and that should’ve changed in Baku. Effectively, 2017, Azerbaijan should have been the last time Massa was on the podium, but an untimely suspension issue ultimately cost one of the most lovable drivers a certain podium and even a potential 12th race win.
Lance Stroll – 10/10
Oh yes, Lance Stroll is actually pretty awesome. I’ve been a big detractor of his so far, but his maturity to drive the car home with consistent green sectors every lap was an effort that far defied his less-than-ripe age of 18. Oh, and did I mention the people catching him included the likes of Bottas, Vettel and Hamilton… Tops to Lance, even though he lost the P2 on the final straight 🙁 sad face indeed.
Carlos Sainz – 8/10
Sainz certainly lit the start up with his uncharacteristic spin while focusing on Dany Kvyat rejoining the track. From this point onwards, though, Sainz was quiet – which in the context of this race was a good place to be. He was “satisfied” with his eventual and well-deserved P8.
Daniil Kvyat – No rating
Poor old Daniil Kvyat. Like Perez and Raikkonen, he just didn’t have the luck today as his race ended with retirement due to unconfirmed electrics issues. Arguably, though, Kvyat was the most important cog in the cycle because he ultimately caused the safety cars and subsequent red flag… Without him, this race might have been a 2016 repeat.
Stoffel Vandoorne – 7/10
It was almost a double points finish for McLaren as Vandoorne was rapidly catching both Sauber drivers toward the end of the race. Sadly for him, his Honda just didn’t have the grunt to get by on the start/finish straight… He’d settle for 12th. Considering all the mayhem in the race, you would’ve thought McLaren-Honda could’ve been higher, but c’mon, this is McLaren-Honda we’re talking about…
Fernando Alonso – 9/10
I never actually believed Alonso would score points this season, not the least at Baku for gods sake… But, points here means points anywhere except Monza I guess. Anyway, Alonso’s performance in Baku was pretty crazy. In the end he finished 9th and crucially ahead of both Sauber’s. McLaren-Honda’s day would’ve undeniably been better if Vandoorne could match Alonso’s phenomenal pace.
Nico Hulkenberg – 6/10
Poor old Nico Hulkenberg will be asking himself ‘what if?’ after the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. The Renault driver was in a strong position of P5 on lap 25, just before his ‘wee incident’. In perspective, when Hulkenberg clipped the inside wall of Turn 7, breaking his suspension and instantly retiring him, he was effectively sitting directly behind Ricciardo and Stroll. Unfortunately a sloppy, unforced mistake ruined his day and the potential chance of a podium.
Jolyon Palmer – No rating
This guy just can’t catch a break for goodness sake (that’s a nice rhyme actually). Anyway, Palmer’s race was gone before it even started; the Brit reported misfire issues on his lap to the grid. Just seven laps into the race, the problem got progressively worse and Palmer had no option but to retire. He’ll be hoping for a trouble free weekend in Austria as he sure as heck needs it now!
Romain Grosjean – 10/10
I’m giving Romain Grosjean a 10/10 purely because he brought home a car that (in his various allusions) sounded undriveable. It’s crazy to think he was asking his engineer to pull him out of the race because he felt his brakes were close to becoming ‘dangerous’. Considering corners such as the extra tight Turn 8, where you brake and turn in with one motion. If they go there, you’re heading for a trip into the wall…
Kevin Magnussen – 9/10
What a drive from the Dane! Kevin Magnussen was brilliant in Baku. He drove a conservative race and kept out of trouble. Considering the multiple failures earlier in the season, scoring some decent points with his P7 finish is exactly what both himself and the team would’ve needed to boost morale. Heck, he was on for podium during some of those laps!
Marcus Ericsson – 8/10
With internal debacle currently surrounding Sauber, it would’ve been more than comical to see Marcus Ericsson refuse to let his team mate through to protect the solitary point Sauber gained in the race. Either way, tops to him for realizing the damage he had was affecting his pace and handing the point to his team mate in the interests of the team. Kept out of trouble too!
Pascal Wehrlein – 9/10
Another points finish for the very fast Wehrlein! Stunning for Sauber as they look to extend an advantage on McLaren-Honda. For him, like so many other winners from this race, staying out of trouble was absolutely key, and Sauber were awarded with 1 unexpected point for the weekend.
Be sure to tell us in the comments whether or not you agree with our ratings!
By – Steven Walton