Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Baku City Circuit, 2018

Raikkonen’s error leaves Vettel fighting on his own

2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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It’s not often that the driver who set the combined three quickest sectors times in qualifying ends up sixth on the grid. It shows how costly that turn 16 slip-up by Kimi Raikkonen was.

He set the fastest times through the first and second sectors but his best run through the final part of the lap was only 10th-fastest. Even so, had he done all these sectors in the same lap, the resulting 1’41.413 would have put him on pole position, and beaten the theoretical best time of any of his rivals. No wonder the usually taciturn Raikkonen felt moved to describe this latest defeat as “painful”.

In a double blow for Raikkonen, he will also have to start the race on a set of ultra-soft tyres, having been forced to abandon his effort to get through Q2 on super-softs when he locked up. The five cars ahead of him will line up on super-softs. This should put them on the theoretically superior strategy of pitting just once, switching to softs around 20 laps into Sunday’s 51-lap race.

If the race stays green that long, Raikkonen could have to come in up to 10 laps earlier than his rivals, Pirelli predicts. It will be crucial for him to start well, avoid a repeat of the early clash which ruined his race last year, and get in among the Red Bulls and Mercedes. His grippier tyres and Ferrari grunt should aid him in this.

Following last year’s hectic race, which featured four Safety Car periods plus a red flag for debris, F1’s return to Baku has been widely hyped as being potentially another thrill-fest. It could be, but it should be remembered the 2016 event was soporific to say the least. And even Saturday’s F2 race had the makings of a procession until a late Safety Car period mixed things up.

As F1 demonstrated last year, restarts on the huge run to the start/finish line can be utterly hair-raising. Last year’s antagonists Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton share the front row, and they and their rivals will have studied last year’s contentious restarts closely.

The leader has to balance the twin difficulties of protecting their position and ensuring they don’t catch the Safety Car before it reaches the pits – the latter a particular challenge given the length of the run to the start/finish line. Hamilton almost fell foul of this at one point last year.

The big talking point as far as the weather is concerned this weekend has been the possibility of strong winds. The latest forecasts for tomorrow indicate wind strength should be dropping around the time the race starts, but strong guests of up to 35kph are still possible, which are more than enough to unsettle the finely-balanced handling of F1 cars. The stronger winds earlier in the day will make life even more challenging for the F2 drivers, and there is an outside chance their race could see a few spots of rain.

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, Baku City Circuit, 2018
Azerbaijan GP qualifying in pictures
As was the case in the first part of the Chinese Grand Prix, the battle at the front will be shaped by how early the likes of Red Bull believe they can bring their drivers in to put on soft tyres. The benefit of getting onto fresh rubber first – the undercut – is theoretically high because at six kilometres this is one of the longest laps on the calendar.

Will Red Bull try their aggressive double-stacked early pit stop again? Mercedes could also find an advantage here in the manner Valtteri Bottas used to great effect at Shanghai.

“It seemed like the middle of the stint pace-wise Ferrari was better in the first stint,” Bottas reflected on Thursday. “We were trying everything to keep up as close as possible.”

“But then I think for some reason they could extract a bit more of the tyres so they had also bigger drop-off. So I could get closer before the stop. I think second stint was strong for us with the soft tyre, as we’ve seen the trend this year.”

If that trend continues then Vettel could have a fight on his hands tomorrow. And that costly error by Raikkonen means he will begin the fight without his tail-gunner.

Qualifying times in full


Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Sebastian VettelFerrari1’42.7621’43.015 (+0.253)1’41.498 (-1.517)
2Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’42.6931’42.676 (-0.017)1’41.677 (-0.999)
3Valtteri BottasMercedes1’43.3551’42.679 (-0.676)1’41.837 (-0.842)
4Daniel RicciardoRed Bull1’42.8571’43.482 (+0.625)1’41.911 (-1.571)
5Max VerstappenRed Bull1’42.6421’42.901 (+0.259)1’41.994 (-0.907)
6Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’42.5381’42.510 (-0.028)1’42.490 (-0.020)
7Esteban OconForce India1’43.0211’42.967 (-0.054)1’42.523 (-0.444)
8Sergio PerezForce India1’43.9921’43.366 (-0.626)1’42.547 (-0.819)
9Nico HulkenbergRenault1’43.7461’43.232 (-0.514)1’43.066 (-0.166)
10Carlos Sainz JnrRenault1’43.4261’43.464 (+0.038)1’43.351 (-0.113)
11Lance StrollWilliams1’44.3591’43.585 (-0.774)
12Sergey SirotkinWilliams1’44.2611’43.886 (-0.375)
13Fernando AlonsoMcLaren1’44.0101’44.019 (+0.009)
14Charles LeclercSauber1’43.7521’44.074 (+0.322)
15Kevin MagnussenHaas1’43.6741’44.759 (+1.085)
16Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren1’44.489
17Pierre GaslyToro Rosso1’44.496
18Marcus EricssonSauber1’45.541
19Brendon HartleyToro Rosso1’57.354
20Romain GrosjeanHaas

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Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Sebastian Vettel35.305 (3)40.905 (4)25.288 (6)
Lewis Hamilton35.296 (2)41.158 (6)25.091 (2)
Valtteri Bottas35.477 (4)41.155 (5)25.183 (4)
Daniel Ricciardo35.629 (5)40.863 (3)25.213 (5)
Max Verstappen35.664 (6)40.820 (2)25.293 (7)
Kimi Raikkonen35.283 (1)40.704 (1)25.426 (10)
Esteban Ocon35.740 (8)41.441 (8)25.044 (1)
Sergio Perez35.708 (7)41.430 (7)25.304 (8)
Nico Hulkenberg35.861 (9)41.480 (10)25.586 (13)
Carlos Sainz Jnr36.218 (14)41.460 (9)25.170 (3)
Lance Stroll36.138 (11)41.571 (11)25.610 (14)
Sergey Sirotkin36.154 (12)41.797 (14)25.427 (11)
Fernando Alonso36.133 (10)41.749 (12)25.643 (15)
Charles Leclerc36.195 (13)41.754 (13)25.577 (12)
Kevin Magnussen36.439 (16)41.886 (15)25.328 (9)
Stoffel Vandoorne36.634 (17)42.079 (16)25.735 (16)
Pierre Gasly36.279 (15)42.229 (17)25.872 (17)
Marcus Ericsson36.679 (18)42.651 (18)25.948 (18)
Brendon Hartley36.741 (19)47.863 (19)27.892 (19)

Speed trap

PosDriverCarEngineSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Esteban OconForce IndiaMercedes329.0 (204.4)
2Sergey SirotkinWilliamsMercedes320.0 (198.8)-9.0
3Kevin MagnussenHaasFerrari319.8 (198.7)-9.2
4Carlos Sainz JnrRenaultRenault319.2 (198.3)-9.8
5Lance StrollWilliamsMercedes318.4 (197.8)-10.6
6Lewis HamiltonMercedesMercedes318.0 (197.6)-11.0
7Sergio PerezForce IndiaMercedes316.7 (196.8)-12.3
8Daniel RicciardoRed BullTAG Heuer316.6 (196.7)-12.4
9Valtteri BottasMercedesMercedes315.7 (196.2)-13.3
10Max VerstappenRed BullTAG Heuer315.4 (196.0)-13.6
11Charles LeclercSauberFerrari313.9 (195.0)-15.1
12Stoffel VandoorneMcLarenRenault312.5 (194.2)-16.5
13Nico HulkenbergRenaultRenault312.1 (193.9)-16.9
14Fernando AlonsoMcLarenRenault309.9 (192.6)-19.1
15Sebastian VettelFerrariFerrari309.4 (192.3)-19.6
16Kimi RaikkonenFerrariFerrari309.3 (192.2)-19.7
17Marcus EricssonSauberFerrari307.6 (191.1)-21.4
18Pierre GaslyToro RossoHonda304.3 (189.1)-24.7
19Brendon HartleyToro RossoHonda300.0 (186.4)-29.0
20Romain GrosjeanHaasFerrari299.0 (185.8)-30.0

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Drivers remaining tyres

Lewis HamiltonMercedes100113
Valtteri BottasMercedes100113
Sebastian VettelFerrari100113
Kimi RaikkonenFerrari100113
Daniel RicciardoRed Bull100113
Max VerstappenRed Bull100113
Sergio PerezForce India101004
Esteban OconForce India101004
Lance StrollWilliams101014
Sergey SirotkinWilliams101014
Carlos Sainz JnrRenault101004
Nico HulkenbergRenault101004
Pierre GaslyToro Rosso101032
Brendon HartleyToro Rosso101032
Romain GrosjeanHaas101041
Kevin MagnussenHaas101014
Fernando AlonsoMcLaren101014
Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren101032
Marcus EricssonSauber101041
Charles LeclercSauber101014

Over to you

Will Vettel keep the Mercedes and Red Bulls behind to take his third win of 2018? Will one of the silver cars take the team’s first win of the year?

Share your views on the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in the comments.

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Quotes: Dieter Rencken

2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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    Keith Collantine
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    7 comments on “Raikkonen’s error leaves Vettel fighting on his own”

    1. Ferrari’s speed (or lack thereof) through the traps suggests they should be vulnerable on that long straight, Kimi in particular could be further embarrassed on laps 1-3 by the FI’s. Might be an interesting race.

      1. @hohum
        My thoughts exactly, why Ferrari set up their cars to be so slow on the straights? Ok they got pole and should have had a 1-2 but still the only viable thing is to for Vettel to start well and then break out of DRS.

      2. @hohum The top speeds are really weird. It seems the speed trap is in the braking zone.

    2. Pirelli think some teams could they do a SS/US and get to the finish or, if there’s an early safety car, pit then onto the S and make it to the end. RB might have the tyre preservation to able to pull off the former, while an early stop to gain position might be tempting for a team with good defensive straight-line speed but little hope for points otherwise, such as Williams.

      Here’s hoping that a variety of strategies come into play and that they all converge towards the end of the race.

    3. I have a feeling the start will be very chaotic, with the two cars in positions 5 & 6 diving into the midst of the first 4.

      Expect wheel banging and at least one of them to suffer terminal damage on the first lap.

    4. Verstappen to take out Ric or Bottas in the first lap.

    5. The only solution for RAI is to keep his head down and the pedal down and do 2 pit stops us/ss/us with qual laps in all the race.

    Comments are closed.