By Hong Lau
Baku was an entertaining weekend to say the least. Before we jump into the weekend itself, it was quite refreshing / nostalgic / euphoric whatever word you want to use to get back into an F1 weekend. This also marked the first Sprint race of the year. Starting from FP1 the whole weekend, it felt shortened or “rushed”.
It’s very interesting to understand that you have one practice session and then you enter Parc fermé (for those that don’t follow F1 religiously, you can’t make any adjustments to your car). Typically you get three sessions to learn your car (the aerodynamics, the suspension, and a lot more) so you can make adjustments.
First thoughts that come to mind, after FP1 was, wow Mercedes is SLOW on this track, Ferrari looks like they have some good pace on a qualy lap, and Oracle Red Bull racing is just a whole level ahead. Charles Leclerc looks like he’s in great form as per usual. I don’t think he gets the due credit on how great of a driver he really is. I think going toe to toe with Max Verstappen should really show people how talented of a driver he really is.
Moving onto Saturday of the race weekend. If you put up a poll in the F1 universe and 1000 people answered "who would start on pole position?" maybe 100 of them would have said Charles and they would all be loyal fans of the Scuderia. What a drive though, he really beat out both Red Bulls. Surprising drive from Mercedes. I did not expect George to miss out of Q3. If I was to bet on anyone I probably would have betted on Lewis missing Q3 before I bet on George due to the testing and etc.
The Sprint Shootout was an interesting concept. To keep it short I found the adjustment of qualifying for the Sprint on the Shootout very clever as well as separating the qualifying and the Sprint result from actual race day. It was nice to see Ferrari actually lead a “race” for once this year. Charles seemed to do the best he could do, but with Checo the street circuit genius, it just was never in the cards. I must say it was fun watching Max get a dose of his own medicine where he had nothing to lose and drove uber aggressive. Do I blame George Russell or do I blame Max? I really think it was a racing incident, tyres are obviously not where you want them temperature wise especially because Mercedes has typically struggled over the last couple of years of getting their tyres to temperature.
Now we get to race day, man I woke up early for this and it did not disappoint. I did call upon our last episode of "Lift & Coast" where I did say that Checo would win even if Max didn’t DNF. When I think of Sergio Perez, I really do think of him as one of the best drivers when it comes to a street circuit. Whether that has to do with his ability to manage his rear tires or he just really feels a lot more comfortable it is a real thing. He is now within a real striking range of the championship only trailing Max Verstappen by 6 points.
I think Charles had a pretty good race, along with both Mercedes drivers. I really don’t think Sainz is on Charles’ level and some serious changes need to be made if this is the gap that exists between the two Ferrari drivers.
Obviously we have to give some quick shoutouts to Lando Norris, I thought he had a stellar weekend all in all and capped it off with a wonderful race day. Alonso continues to impress (I don't know why we are impressed anymore) as the years continue to pass. I'm not a believer in Aston Martin in general but I am a Fernando Alonso fan.
WHAT IS GOING ON WITH ALFA ROMERO? I can't say I'm upset though as Bottas is struggling and everyone knows I'm not a Bottas fan.
I hope you guys enjoyed my long winded thoughts on Baku, as much as I enjoyed writing it and watching the race this weekend.
Next up; off to MIAMI!!!