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Formula 1: Up Next, Azerbaijan

Baku was considered “Boring”, “One dimensional” among others on various fan forums up until last year that is.

To summarize, the 2017 grand prix was one for the ages, the ensuing chaos which famously involved Vettel running into Hamilton behind the safety car ( caused by the stricken Torro Rosso of Daniel “Torpedo” Kyvat). The Force India’s colliding on the restart, which lead to the effective lead being taken by Daniel Ricciardo with what can only be called as a legendary overtaking move. The leaders Vettel had a penalty and Hamilton suffered an issue with his headrest forcing him to pit.

All of this was capped off by Valtteri Bottas who was last  after colliding with Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari in the opening laps. However, he managed to pip Lance Stroll to take the Chequered flag for second by 0.101s on the main straight.

Valtteri Bottas- Mercedes AMG Petronas passing Lance Stroll- Williams Martini Racing by going 36kmph faster with his DRS activated(Drag Reduction system meant to aid in overtaking, refer to open rear wing in the right).

As a result of this grand Prix, Daniel Ricciardo established himself as one of the best in over-takers in Formula 1 and the most exciting star available on the market the following year. Lance Stroll answered his critics. This was very much a missed opportunity for pretty much the entire grid barring Sauber and McLaren( 10th with Pascal Wehrlein and 9th with Fernando Alonso).

Question is however, what does this years race promise to be? Considering that this season has started on a very high note illustrating the absolute competitive nature on F1. Here are some potential Questions.

Can Mercedes break their season duck and get back to winning ways?

Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas have started slow, none of the silver arrows made the top step of the podium and its already race four! However, they have made rostrum finishes in the past races and have been bogged down by bad luck/timing with respect to the safety cars. It remains to be seen if their dominant run since 2014 will come to an end. But it is certainly facing its closest challenge and they seem to relish it- at least according to the defending champion himself as he stated in Thursday’s press conference. Sebastian Vettel sits on the top chased by the two Mercedes, and Ricciardo with Kimi Raikkonen not far off and that brings us to the next question…

Kimi ‘Iceman’ Raikkonen is experiencing a resurgence in form. However, can he translate that into a much-needed win?

Kimi has long been a fan favourite; a competent communicator in terms of team radio and his straightforward answers during press conferences. And of course who can forget the ice cream situation. Its these combined with his driving style and the need for a responsive front end that really gets the man going. Since last year’s the final races, dating back to the United States Grand Prix, Raikkonen has finished on the podium in all but two races(Abu Dhabi-4th and Bahrain 2018 retired after a pitstop mishap). Noticeably, he has had the measure of his “number one option” teammate Sebastian Vettel from the get go at Australia even chasing Lewis Hamilton for the win. He has seemingly justified his pace by finishing 3rd in China just behind (under a second) the leading Mercedes and compatriot Bottas and in the process comprehensively outdrove Vettel considering Vettel’s issues . The big chunk of points from his teammates cushion and the momentum can always be seized by a set of consistent performances and victories (Kimi last stood on the top step at Australia 2013). That’s always going to be crucial, in addition to obviously capitalizing on opportunities.

Who will come out on top in F1’s tightest midfield in recent years…

The players are Renault, McLaren, Haas and Force India, who seemed to have found a temporary solution to the mechanical issue that saw their sidepod flow responsible for not sending enough air to the diffuser at the rear. Consequently, they were not able to generate downforce. Force India have had the measure so far and are desperately looking to get back up to speed having been quite off pace by their standards. Renault and the opportunistic Alonso with McLaren are within tenths of each other. Both of them are quite happy coming in to the weekend and seem to have understood track behaviour and their cars.

 Another wild race? Will we see another safety car?

Last year’s race cannot possibly be repeated, but the presence of street tracks and wider cars means anything is possible. One thing is for sure, a safety car seems likely considering we have witnessed a string of incidents and drivers struggling to keep their cars on track in qualifying.

 

by Rutvik Bhaskar Perepa
Rutvik Bhaskar Perepa is a student at The University of Manchester working towards a MEng in Mechanical Engineering hoping to be on a placement after Year 3. He has had the privilege to travel around his home country, India and discover the rich heritage and diversity. His personal interests include Food and travel, history, Sport among many others. Often found in discourse on various issues ranging Engineering to Religious Practices, he never shy’s away from being expressive. He believes in being open minded, empathetic and analytical is the key to problems posed on a daily basis.

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