|Photo Credit: Mercedes AMG|
Starting the 2016 Formula 1 season off in dominant fashion with four wins and a sizeable lead in the drivers' championship, the last three grand prix events have been a source of frustration for Nico Rosberg. Following the high-profile lap 1 wreck with Mercedes AMG teammate Lewis Hamilton, Rosberg's lead in the championship points has fallen to 9 markers heading into the inaugural Formula 1 race in Baku, Azerbaijan. A slump for the German occurring at the same time as Hamilton won the Monaco Grand Prix and Canadian Grand Prix has resulted in a tightening points battle.
Arriving for the first-ever European Grand Prix being held on the 6.001-kilometer Baku City Circuit, the 22-car Formula 1 field was once-again led by Nico Rosberg after scoring pole position in qualifying. Rosberg was joined on the front row by a Red Bull Racing car piloted by Daniel Ricciardo and a second starting row consisting of Ferrari race cars. Due to a mishap in qualifying, the second Mercedes AMG driver Lewis Hamilton would start 10th making the European Grand Prix the most recent occasion where the three-time world champion suffered a poor starting position due to an error.
Prepared for 51 laps, the inaugural Formula 1 event in Baku opened in a dominant fashion for Nico Rosberg's Mercedes AMG machine. Before his first pit stop on lap 21, Rosberg had built up on a 20-second lead on the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel. Second place starting Ricciardo dropped to third in the running order in the early laps.
An optimistic day for Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat was ended early. Starting the European Grand Prix sixth, the Russian parked his Ferrari-powered race machine in the team's garage after just 8 laps due to a suspension failure. Later in the race, Kvyat's teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. would also suffer the same issue leading to a double retirement by the Toro Rosso team. Suffering two suspension failures, the team has proceeded to investigate the cause of the problem.
|Photo Credit: FOTO STUDIO COLOMBO PER PIRELLI MEDIA|
Fighting up from 10th place, Lewis Hamilton climbed to 4th place by the 12th lap of the event. Positioned in third place early, Kimi Raikkonen's European Grand Prix quickly went south. Contending with the debris of a plastic bag within one-quarter distance of the race, Raikkonen was handed a pit road procedure violation penalty following his lap 8 stop. A five-second time penalty was added to the Ferrari's position at the end of the event.
With each lap, the European Grand Prix fell deeper in to the grasp of Nico Rosberg. At the finish line, the German won his 5th Formula 1 event of 2016 by a healthy 16.696-second margin over runner-up Sebastian Vettel. Describing the race as a straightforward afternoon, Rosberg commented in post-race "I am so happy to win here in Baku. I really felt at one with the car in a way I’ve never felt before. I didn’t have the feeling that something would go wrong at any point today. The car was awesome this weekend, so thank you so much to the team for this."
With a second and fourth place finish, Ferrari's result after the 51 laps on the Baku City Circuit was impressive considering the manner Mercedes-Benz powered race cars of factory and customer teams tended to dominant practice sessions. For Sebastian Vettel, the European Grand Prix is the third time in 2016 the Ferrari driver finished in the runner-up position and fifth podium. Still searching for a first win of the season, Vettel's consistency near the front of 2016 Formula 1 races has the four-time world champion close to second place Lewis Hamilton in the overall season points. Kimi Raikkonen missed the podium but has so far collected points on five of the seven grand prix events this season.
Splitting the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel Despite achieving a runner-up spot in qualifying on Saturday in his Mercedes-Benz powered Force India race car, Sergio Perez started the European Grand Prix in seventh place due to an accident in final practice. A car proven to be very fast on the streets of Baku, the Force India emerged strong over the course of the race. Running fourth in the late laps, Perez closed tightly to Kimi Raikkonen. While Perez needed only to stay within five seconds of Raikkonen Ferrari to inherit the podium spot but the Mexican decided to take the position on-track. At the first turn on the final lap, the Force India slipped by the red race car to take third place. Sergio Perez's finish is the second podium in three events. He has also claimed points in the last five races largely contributing to Force India building up s firm hold of fifth place in the constructors' points standings.
|Photo Credit: Force India F1 Team|
As predicted by Pirelli, many of the front runners elected for a single pit stop strategy. In the final running order, the top-six finishers elected for the one stop for soft compound tires. Red Bull Racing decided on a two-stop plan in the European Grand Prix that ultimately resulted in a grid spot gain for Max Verstappen but a loss of ground by Daniel Ricciardo. Ricciardo started on the front row but came across the line 7th at Baku followed by Verstappen in 8th place.
The victory for Nico Rosberg reverse a trend that was occurring in the hunt for his first Formula 1 World Drivers' Championship. With Mercedes AMG teammate and defending 2015 champion Lewis Hamilton providing the main competition for Rosberg, 51 laps at the Baku City Circuit gave the German some extra breathing room. With Hamilton finishing in fifth place, the points gap between first and second place drivers in the overall 2016 title fight is now 24 points (Rosberg added 15 points on Hamilton in the final results).
The next race for the 2016 Formula 1 tour is a trip to Austria competing at the Red Bull Ring. The Austrian Grand Prix is set for July 3rd.
2016 Formula 1
European Grand Prix
Pos #/ Car #/ Driver/ Team/ Engine
1 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
2 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Ferrari
3 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes-Benz
4 7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari
5 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
6 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams F1 Mercedes-Benz
7 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull TAG Heuer
8 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull TAG Heuer
9 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes-Benz
10 19 Felipe Massa Williams F1 Mercedes-Benz
11 22 Jenson Button McLaren Honda
12 12 Felipe Nasr Sauber Ferrari
13 8 Romain Grosjean Haas F1 Team Ferrari
14 20 Kevin Magnussen Renault Renault
15 30 Jolyon Palmer Renault Renault
16 9 Esteban Gutierrez Haas F1 Team Ferrari
17 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari
18 98 Rio Haryanto Manor Mercedes-Benz
19 14 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda
20 28 Pascal Wehrlein Manor Mercedes-Benz
21 55 Carlos Sainz Jr Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari
22 26 Daniil Kvyat Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari