In Azerbaijan two GPs were held, one of 49 laps and a sprint of just 2, after the restart (from standstill and from the grid: this is what the FIA decided) for the resounding crash of the leader Max Verstappen due to a tire failure. The report cards will therefore take into account these two scenarios, having said that the moral winner remains Max (to whom, as we will see, in the end it still went well) and that the podium was Perez-Vettel-Gasly in the sign of the first times: first victory of the Mexican with Red Bull; first top three of the former Ferrari driver with Aston Martin; first top result of the French from Milan of the Alpha Tauri after the success in Monza in 2020, still his unmatched pearl.
Sebastian Vettel: 10 with lode
He has definitively put in the drawer the practice of early retirement, which many of his former fans, who have become first-tier detractors as often happens in sport, wanted to sign and deliver. Second behind Perez, he also benefited from the Hamilton error to advance one place. But on the podium, the number 122 of his career and the fourth with a different team, he would have finished there anyway. In his GP-2, in the spirit of an old style Vettel, there is also the beautiful overtaking at Leclerc: let’s imagine he did it perhaps without rancor, but with great enjoyment. Sebastian, mvp of Baku 2021.
Sergio Perez: 10
Baku also exalted its characteristic as a racing fighter, while in qualifying it still has room for progress. Not perfect at the restart, however, he had the coldness not to react instinctively to the overtaking of Hamilton and to go his own way, avoiding, among other things, a more than likely torpedo of the Mercedes of the seven-time world champion. Sergio saved the day at Red Bull and helped them stretch in the constructors’ championship, given the zero of the title holders. Of course, if it had been a double with SuperMax it would have been much better, but sometimes the secret is to be satisfied.
Max Verstappen: 9
Maybe he kept the true potential of Red Bull hidden in the cellar, but at the right moment he brought it out. The drinkers didn’t have the fastest car, but they did have the one with the best traction: on a city track, which combines various situations, it wasn’t a bad situation at all. He was heading for the triumph and the decided extension in the World Cup, but bad luck this time gave up Bottas (there was no need for him to take care of him, the Finn was committing suicide by himself) and he hijacked the Dutchman. However, St. John must have intervened who, as is well known, does not deceive: so, thanks to the long Hamilton, the church was somehow put back in the center of the village.
Pierre Gasly: 9
Here he is again on the podium: the triumph of Monza 2020 has a following, albeit of a lesser level. But the Frenchman who loves Italy and also lives there a driver who already in some of the previous races would have deserved more. Now he and the Alpha Tauri from Faenza, deep Romagna, will have to find continuity at this level.
International Federation: 8
We confess: when we heard that Michael Masi’s decision was to have the last two laps start from the grid, the vote we had thought was a solemn 2. Always chasing the desire of the show, whatever the cost … With hindsight instead it must be said that the decision gave adrenaline pure to a race that had hitherto been more soporific than captivating. But above all, it allowed Verstappen to give back what was his (the first in the World Championship), preventing Hamilton from having another gift of good luck.
Aston Martin: 7/8
Not only Vettel but also Stroll – before crashing due to the failure of the rear left tire – had shown signs of awakening from a much awaited but so far very disappointing team. Perhaps Baku makes history as the former Racing Point (formerly Force India) remains well above par, but some glimpses of quality are beginning to appear.
Lando Norris: 7.5
He got a penalty of three positions on the grid for not respecting the red flag procedures in qualifying. And at the beginning of the first GP, the long one, he was in trouble. But a kind of Harry Potter of F1 and here is another magic: we find him fifth, well ahead of the noble teammate Daniel Ricciardo on an unfortunately sad day for McLaren, which he lost to Mansour Ojjeh – who passed away at the age of 68 -, one of the architects of his successes as well as one of those who contributed, by previously supporting Williams too, to make F1 great.
Fernando Alonso: 7
He had to travel to the point of contact between Europe and Asia to find his way back to the podium after a few disappointing races, starting with the recent Monaco GP. The seventh place still does not satisfy the hunger of Fernando, who returned to F1 to stay high and not to comb the dolls, but not everything can come suddenly, especially if your car is not yet at the level you would like.
Charles Leclerc: 7-
The beautiful pole on Saturday, the second consecutive one after that of Monaco (later thwarted by the mechanical trouble that prevented him from starting), cannot be canceled by a race that became a bit opaque already in the first laps of the GP-1, when he could do nothing against the attacks of Hamilton, Verstappen and Perez. In Gp-2, that sprint, was surprised by both Gasly and Vettel, but the Rossa had already shown that it didn’t have a great pace before. He was reproached for not having had patience at the restart. It may be, but we know that Charles did this: do you by any chance want a Bottas?
The pole position did not deceive anyone, this must be clear. But the Azerbaijani turnover is somewhat deficient and dictates a clear situation: the Red is now fast on the flying lap (a limit therefore removed), but still has to row on the race pace. On the other hand, there is the overtaking on the McLaren in third place in the Constructors ‘World Championship, one of the declared objectives of the Reds’ season.
Lewis Hamilton: 5
Greedy at the restart, he wants everything immediately: he remedies a sensational cue and remains dry-mouthed. After a troubled phase in testing, he had achieved a second place in qualifying with which he had once again demonstrated his talent and ability to capture the soul of Mercedes. Let’s face it: this time he would not have deserved the kiss of fate and thank goodness that St. John (see above) intervened. Lewis told the engineers via radio that he was unable to deactivate a certain procedure at the restart. What the hell will it be?
Pirelli, 5, under the judge
We are not at the famous boom boom boom of a few years ago at Silverstone, but the double burst of the same tire on the cars of Stroll and Verstappen gives a hot Sunday. In the first case, however, the team blamed a piece of debris, while Red Bull made its conclusions known. Pirelli is also investigating and has already ruled out construction defects: but waiting to be cleared, the tire dealer from insufficient sub judice.
Valtteri Bottas: zero
Starting a petition on one of the many platforms dedicated to foot a driver who does not deserve to drive a Mercedes. The Azerbaijani weekend started with travel problems (real or diplomatic, given that the team would have communicated to Bottas that it will not be confirmed at the end of the season?) And then continued with indecent performances on the track. Not even useful to the cause of the team in the fight for the constructors’ title: Red Bull thanks.