Declan Quigley: Baku reminds us that ‘street races can be down and dirty thrillers’
Crikey. If you thought Monaco was a snoozefest, along comes Baku to remind you that street races can be down and dirty thrillers.
The first thought which springs to mind after that is (bear with me) the recent passing of Max Mosley.
It was the controversial former FIA President who most infamously prevented the 2005 Indianapolis GP organisers from installing a temporary chicane during the race weekend so that cars with compromised Michelin tyres could take part in the race.
The resulting six-car race for Bridgestone runners was a farce and perhaps the nadir of Mosley’s reign. All the sympathy back then was for Michelin and all the brickbats were aimed at the FIA, as I recall.
Sometimes tyre manufacturers get it wrong and if, following an investigation, Pirelli discovers that their tyres couldn’t hack the track conditions then I hope the social media experts go easier on them than Max did on Michelin back then.
Since the dawn of motorsport, tyres have been failing for myriad reasons and it’s the potential for component failure that makes F1 so fascinating.
Similarly, brakes have always had an irritating habit of stopping at the most inopportune moments. Heinz Harald Frentzen spent half of 1999 trying to disguise a limp after just such an occurrence in Montreal.
Frankly, the sporting series which Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone packaged and so expertly sold the world back in the 70s and 80s was founded on a bedrock of uncertainty caused by mechanical unreliability spiced with the potential for lethal consequences.
What happened in Baku was a Kodachrome snapshot of a bygone era, thankfully with no dark outcomes and, if it all ultimately amounted to a nil-all draw between the two title protagonists, then that’s more like a win for Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes.
Because for all that they missed a golden opportunity to snatch a healthy lead in the series from Max Verstappen after the latter’s late-race crash, the reigning champions know that they really ought to have taken a beating in Baku.
No points scored by either side as a result they’d have bitten your hand off for after Friday practice.
Another crazy qualifying and a typically inspired performance from Hamilton presented the Englishman with a front-row start his team’s weekend form hardly deserved. Much head-scratching at Brackley had helped them to cobble together something Hamilton and the dutiful towing partner Valtteri Bottas could work with.
Hamilton did the rest… And then it fell apart.
Not to worry. Mercedes will regroup and repair to Paul Ricard breathing a huge sigh of relief.
Hamilton has won the last two races at Paul Ricard from pole position. If it really is a ‘horses for courses’ kind of year then Red Bull will be mightily peeved at the outcome in Azerbaijan – even though they won the race…
Another win for Sergio Perez is always welcome, though. The second one came quicker than the first and they are certainly not frequent enough to have lost their novelty. His career is finally delivering the rewards it deserves.
The return to form for Sebastian Vettel is heartwarming and particularly as it comes at Baku where his failings at Ferrari were most publicly felt.
Mind you, he went to Aston as somewhat damaged goods so everyone will be wondering if that Aston is a potential world-beater masked by its drivers?