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F1 2018 AZERBAIJAN GRAND PRIX

 

HAS MAX STACKED TODAY?

 

  Yes he has…….

 

  Back in 2015 there was a funny (but harsh) little site, Has Pastor Crashed Today, taking the piss at the frequency of accidents involving the rapid Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado. It would seem that after the first four races of 2018 a new site may need to be created for Max Verstappen. Consider his record in 2018 so far; Australia – spun and damaged the car in the race, Bahrain – crashed in first practice and collided with Hamilton in the race, China – Spun trying to pass Hamilton and collided with Vettel in the race and finally Baku – crashed in first practice and collided with Ricciardo on no less than three occasions during the race. As all of these incidents have been his fault methinks it is time for Mr Horner to take Max into his office, bend him over the table and give his botty a taste of the birch.Has Max stacked today?

 

  Unfortunately history tells us that no such damned fine thrashing will take place. For those of a certain age, imagine the “froth job” that Max would have gotten from Ken Tyrrell. Or the bollocking from Messrs Williams and Head. Christian Horner appears to have been unwilling, or unable, to chastise his recalcitrant stars in the past, think Vettel crashing into Webber in Turkey or ignoring team orders in Malaysia. A pity really, because a slightly chastened and wiser Max would end up being a far better race driver (not that he is too bad at present) and that could bring on an exciting new era in the sport. 

 

  Allow me to fantasize for a moment. Just say the new regs in 2021 work as planned and not only are the cars more passable, but the engines are more evenly matched. Then put Max and Gasly in a Red Bull Honda/VW/Aston Martin, Ricciardo and Leclerc in the Ferraris, Ocon and Bottas or perhaps George Russell in the Mercs, Vandoorne and Lando Norris in the McLaren, Sainz and an aging but still rapid Hulkenberg at Renault and oooohh I’m getting a woody. Then toss in a hopefully re-invigorated Williams with someone quick, a Sauber making the most of its Alfa Romeo connections, and Force India, Toro Rosso and Haas still punching well above their weight and what fun we could have. Then again, a works Trabant may enter Maldonado and totally dominate the decade. But….

 

  One has to feel for Valtteri after this race. For the first time this year the Silver Slings got their strategy spot on and Bottas dominated the second half of the race. Even the Ricciardo/Verstappen safety car worked in his favour. Everything was finally going right. Valtteri made an excellent restart which forced Vettel to lock up and head down the turn 1 escape road so with just three laps to go he was leading from his team-mate who was not a threat and the recovering Raikkonen. Perez had even gotten past Vettel. Fastest lap had been set. Then a small piece of debris left on the main straight tore through his right rear tyre and his dream run limped on for two more corners. 14th and last place was a cruel result.

 

  Third place for Perez however was an excellent result, especially considering he was down in 15th place early in the race. This was the first podium for Force India since 2016 when, oddly enough Perez came third in Baku. It was the first podium for any team apart from Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull since Stroll’s Williams took third at Baku last year. See a pattern here anyone? Fifth was probably disappointing for Sainz in the Renault who was right on the early pace and able to pass both Red Bulls. Then Renault bollocks their strategy and left him out too long on the ultra-soft tyres and he lost nine places in the two laps around his pit-stop. Although that would have only been seventh had not the Red Bulls mangled each other. Also benefiting from that mangle was Charles Leclerc in the Sauber who pulled off an unlikely, but well deserved, sixth place to score his first championship points. He was outperforming the car all weekend, qualifying 14th and running comfortably in the points all day.A blow-out buggered Bottas

 

  King Fernando seems to have also been setting a pattern. Qualify 13th and finish 7th. Only in Australia this year has this not been his lot in the McLaren. Still, a vast improvement from last year, long way to go though. Giving Williams some hope in what has been a bad year so far, Stroll finally scored some points in eighth after both cars qualified well in 11th and 12th. Despite the “pay-driver” derision that has been heaped upon Sergey Sirotkin, his qualifying performances in the Williams have been well on the pace of his team-mate so far this year. Whether this is because he is much better than many had given him credit for or Stroll is just no better than a “pay-driver” I guess only time will tell. I’m leaning towards the former. Also scoring his first championship points was Brendon Hartley who nicked the final point for 10th place after starting on the last row of the grid. He suffered a disastrous qualifying which saw him not set a time and almost kill his team-mate, Pierre Gasly. In what was frighteningly similar to the fatal accident that befell Gilles Villeneuve on that horrible day in 1982, Brendon was travelling slowly, having picked up a puncture while Gasly was closing at a vast rate on his final qualifying lap. Just as Hartley started to pull to the left Gasly jinked that way thinking that was where the gap was. Seeing that, Hartley abruptly pulled to the right, just as Gasly did exactly the same thing. Fortunately there was enough room and Gasly managed to just miss Brendon, by inches if that, and avoid what would have been an enormous accident. Both boys and millions of viewers can thank their lucky stars that the only result was a trip down the escape road for Gasly.

 

Sam Snape

 

30/4/2018

 

For full results go to; http://www.mmmsport.com.au/index.php/the-database/formula-1-races/2010-2019/2018-formula-1