Martin Brundle on the Azerbaijan GP and why Sebastian Vettel's in-race penalty was enough punishment
Sky F1's Martin Brundle reviews the chaos and controversy in Baku and explains why he believes the race penalty against title leader Sebastian Vettel was sufficient punishment
Last Updated: 03/08/17 1:57pm
Where to start when considering that crazy race in Baku? If it were a movie you'd probably think it was a bit far fetched.
From the first corner when the two Ferraris so nearly connected and the two Toro Rossos likewise, to the second corner where the two Finns Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen did manage to mesh their Mercedes and Ferrari, the very same corner where on lap 20 the two Force Indias would have a clumsy accident which cost them big points and probably even a chance of outright victory.
The two championship contenders in Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton managed to make contact twice, one of which was bizarrely intentional, and both of which were under the Safety Car.
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There is no science in how far you have to let the Safety Car go in preparation for a restart before unleashing over 900 horsepower, it's a total judgment call as to how much leeway you give a tuned up road car when it's totally out of sight for several hundred metres.
Hamilton was starting to back the pack up and didn't accelerate out of a corner and Vettel simply ran into the back of him and damaged his front wing and lightly crunched Hamilton's rear diffuser.
What on earth was Vettel thinking in his moment of rage as he drew alongside and made further contact? It would have been so easy to damage either or both cars and he was certain to get a penalty. We've seen his short fuse ignite before, not least in last year's Mexican GP with his expletive-laden radio rant at Race Director Charlie Whiting.
Vettel is now on nine penalty points from a permitted 12 before he takes a race ban, although two points drop away at Silverstone. He's turning into quite the naughty boy now he's a 29-year-old father, and other drivers will know well that he's exposed when it comes to combat.
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Of the in-race penalties available to the Stewards they applied the most stern available, without black flagging him, with a 10-second stop-and-go penalty which means navigating the pit lane at 50 mph (80 kph) and stopping in your own pit box for 10 seconds, without work or fresh tyres. This meant he lost approaching 30 seconds and would go from first to fourth with a loss of 13 points.
If Vettel had put Hamilton in the wall at speed or damaged his car I think an exclusion or race ban would have been in order. He didn't force Hamilton off the track at high speed as we've seen some champions do, it was more of a slap at walking pace.
People talk about road rage and what would happen if they did such a thing but it's nothing to do with road driving, in the same way that doing 220 mph, spinning wheels, locking brakes, sliding sideways, running people wide in corners, blocking and bumping is also considered illegal on the road…
This is a world championship contest in a most extreme environment and there are no angels. And nor do we want any.
Vettel incorrectly thought Hamilton brake tested him, and he was desperate to stay close to the Mercedes because earlier restarts had left him vulnerable in the drag race to turn one. His reaction was irrational and alarming, but that's what sometimes happens when ultra competitive people are full of adrenaline.
I think the Stewards got it right; I wouldn't have disqualified him or banned him from the next race unless he took Hamilton out of Baku.
But all in all, he should consider himself very lucky to be fourth and to have increased his championship lead.
While we were watching and waiting to hear about Vettel's inevitable penalty, we also had Lewis driving at 200 mph one handed as he tried desperately to push his large one-piece headrest down which had not fitted properly after the red flag interruption. Race Control wasn't going to let a safety issue like that go unresolved and Hamilton was instructed to pit immediately.
In another episode of 'you couldn't make this up' he ended up just behind Vettel on the road after they'd both visited the pits for their totally unrelated and unscheduled dramas.
Daniel Ricciardo pulled an ace move to get himself in front of both Williams and it would prove to be decisive in taking victory. Considering he was P17 on lap six having had debris lodged in a brake duct, he had a bit of Safety Car and red flag luck and love along the way to add to his great drive.
After his first lap contact Bottas was last and a lap down, yet he would end up second after a great drive once the Safety Car had fortuitously donated him a lap back.
The driver who seemed most under control over the whole event was 18-year-old Lance Stroll. Earlier in the year, he looked rather erratic on occasions but he's clearly a fast learner and thoroughly deserved his first podium and 'driver of the day'. The second youngest F1 podium star after Max Verstappen, he needed a calm head amongst the Safety Cars, Virtual Safety Car, red flag, and wild side-by-side action into turn one. He's the first Canadian not called Villeneuve to stand on the F1 podium, and the first since 2001.
Bottas had a slipstream, DRS and no doubt full qualifying power to steal second place from Stroll on the line, I don't know if Williams deployed all their armoury but the works Mercedes blew past the finish line like a hurricane.
Max Verstappen's management team will know their contract word by word now as they search for a way to get him into a Ferrari or Merc. On Sunday his car failed him again, the fourth time in the last six races, and he could so easily have been the winner rather than his team mate. He looked gutted and angry rather than resigned at the airport later.
We'd already seen too many large pieces of carbon fibre bouncing off cars and it was absolutely right to interrupt proceedings to clean the track especially given the confined but high-speed nature of the course. Another good reason to get rid of so many aero pieces hanging off the cars which cost a fortune, weigh too much, spoil so many races, prevent cars from following closely and then clutter the track.
The Force India looks like a front-running car with evenly matched drivers but for the second time in two races they've been too close for comfort and thrown away podium chances, this time in a serious way. Esteban Ocon has to largely take the blame for that one and it may even be a frustrated hangover from Montreal. The team simply can't afford it.
McLaren grabbed their first couple of points for the season with an ultimately lonely ninth for a frustrated Fernando Alonso and they could have done with his team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne passing the two Saubers on his nose at the end but it wasn't to be.
Felipe Massa had a broken shock absorber on the final restart otherwise he might even have won the race such was his pace and position. An 'if only' day for so many teams and drivers, and many of the grid will have woken up on Monday morning with that awful sinking feeling.
Jo Palmer's Renault broke down and it was an unusually clumsy contact with the wall which took Nico Hulkenberg's Renault out of the race, another who could have stolen some big points. Only the Renault team failed to score on the day.
Kevin Magnussen drove a very fine race for Haas in P7 too, the fourth consecutive point-scoring finish for that team.
With four winners in the first eight races and never really knowing who will take pole position and victory, it looks like a classic season unfolding as Red Bull head to their 'home' race in Austria fresh from a most unlikely victory, and Hamilton and Vettel are now bad friends.