#F1 – Baku Grand Prix Qualifying

Image Courtesy: sbnation.com

The famous American artist once remarked – “The idea of waiting for something makes it more exciting.”

For Formula One, the brand Baku street track was eagerly awaited after the video promotion was out that showcased the track outline. Lewis Hamilton didn’t like it, while Fernando Alonso stressed the importance to be open-minded when it comes to any new circuit.

Comparing the virgin Baku circuit with Monaco, Singapore or AbuDhabi is a pointless exercise. If Formula One has to reach new places, street circuits are the cost-effective method. And, different the circuits are, it offers a great amount of challenges, which the F1 teams are well equipped to deal with. This is Formula One, not a video game.

Lewis Hamilton made headlines on Saturday, and no he won’t be starting from the pole position or even in the top five. He is slated to start tenth on the grid.

The fastest driver on all the three practice sessions on Friday, Lewis Hamilton made repeated errors in each of the qualifying rounds. Lewis Hamilton missed braking points repeatedly and those driver mistakes compounded before he hit the wall that put him out of the qualifying session.

“Not much has changed from yesterday,” said Hamilton, who looked set to claim another pole position before those errors forced him to not set a time in the final qualifying run.

The red flags were waved with two minutes left. Looking at the replays, one got the impression, the hit could have been from a moment of blindness causing from the blazing sun.

Hamilton was quick to dismiss that theory, “No, it was not the sun.”

The body language of the three-time world champion was pale as it seemed he needed the time to introspect and understand what had just transpired in those sixty minutes of qualifying.

“It is a fine line between being right and not right. I don’t have an answer at the moment for what just happened. I hope to make it up tomorrow,” was how Hamilton summed up when asked about his views on those errors.

While it was disappointing on one side of Mercedes camp, it was a joy on the other as Nico Rosberg stormed his way to his third pole of the season.

The Mercedes team has demonstrated its might as both cars have been ahead of the rest of the pack by a comfortable margin of 0.7s. Ferrari struggled to find the right formula for the straight line speed while the Red Bulls looked good overall.

If Rosberg were to have a clean start, and then drive a clean race, there is little doubt anyone could challenge for the victory. With Hamilton placed at tenth, there is an opportunity for the German driver to open the gap in the driver’s championships.

As for the rest of the drivers, Force India’s Sergio Perez was second fastest in the qualifying, but he will have to concede that position as he has to serve the five-place grid penalty for gearbox changes. This puts Daniel Ricciardo in second place and Sebastian Vettel on the third.

The main talking point thus far has been the many errors committed by the drivers on this new circuit. Unlike Monaco, the Baku circuit is a lot newer and it takes time to get used to the conditions on a temporary race track. Different is good.

Going by the events of the qualifying session, I am excited for what is in store at the race. It will be a surprise if the race pans out a clean one sans incidents. The uncertainty ahead is one of the chief reasons, why tomorrow’s race could be won by any team. And what Hamilton has shown, even a champion driver can make errors and in Formula One, one tiny error is enough to put you out of the race.

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 6 Nico Rosberg MERCEDES 1:43.685 1:42.520 1:42.758 16
2 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:44.462 1:43.939 1:43.515 20
3 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:44.570 1:44.141 1:43.966 20
4 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:45.062 1:44.461 1:43.966 19
5 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:44.936 1:44.533 1:44.269 19
6 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:45.494 1:44.696 1:44.483 15
7 26 Daniil Kvyat TORO ROSSO FERRARI 1:44.694 1:44.687 1:44.717 25
8 77 Valtteri Bottas WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:44.706 1:44.477 1:45.246 18
9 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:44.939 1:44.387 1:45.570 20
10 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:44.259 1:43.526 2:01.954 17
11 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI 1:45.507 1:44.755 15
12 27 Nico Hulkenberg FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:44.860 1:44.824 14
13 55 Carlos Sainz TORO ROSSO FERRARI 1:44.827 1:45.000 17
14 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN HONDA 1:45.525 1:45.270 15
15 21 Esteban Gutierrez HAAS FERRARI 1:45.300 1:45.349 16
16 12 Felipe Nasr SAUBER FERRARI 1:45.549 1:46.048 13
17 88 Rio Haryanto MRT MERCEDES 1:45.665 8
18 94 Pascal Wehrlein MRT MERCEDES 1:45.750 9
19 22 Jenson Button MCLAREN HONDA 1:45.804 7
20 9 Marcus Ericsson SAUBER FERRARI 1:46.231 10
21 20 Kevin Magnussen RENAULT 1:46.348 9
22 30 Jolyon Palmer RENAULT 1:46.394 9

Factoring in the Perez’ penalty, the provisional line-up for tomorrow’s race looks this way:

Rosberg, Ricciardo; Vettel, Raikkonen; Massa, Kvyat; Perez, Bottas; Verstappen, Hamilton; Grosjean, Hulkenberg; Sainz, Alonso; Gutierrez, Nasr; Haryanto, Wehrlein; Button, Ericsson; Magnussen, Palmer.

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