Looking back on the Azerbaijan Grand Prix weekend following another barnstormer in Baku, Crash.net F1 Editor Luke Smith puts together his driver ratings.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes - 7

It’s hard to think of many race weekends where Lewis Hamilton has been more of an underdog and yet still emerged victorious. After a rough Friday, Hamilton got things together a bit more in qualifying to grab a front-row start, but then lacked the pace of Sebastian Vettel through the race. Things fell his way after Valtteri Bottas’ heartbreaking puncture, giving him what could prove to be a crucial victory come Abu Dhabi.

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes - 8

Like Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas didn’t really seem to be in the frame for victory until very late in the weekend. Mercedes nailed his strategy by keeping him out on the Supersofts, with the Finn putting in some excellent lap times to keep a gap to Vettel that would have won him the race, had it not been for the puncture. For the third weekend running, he was the quicker of the two Mercedes drivers.

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari - 9

Vettel was almost perfect in Baku until the late Safety Car. He was lucky not to lose pole to Raikkonen after a mistake on his second Q3 flyer, but was imperious in the race. The timing of the Safety Car was unfortunate after Ferrari’s premature pit call. Vettel then tried going big to reclaim the win, and didn’t even end up on the podium.

Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari - 7

Another weekend largely of unfulfilled promise for Raikkonen that ended with him finishing an excellent P2. His mistake in Q3 cost him a possible pole and left him P6 on the grid, with the early incident with Esteban Ocon dropping him back. Raikkonen did excellently to rocket up the order after that, rising to second as the drama unfolded ahead. Should have been there to help Vettel counter Bottas’ strategy, though.

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull - 7

Ricciardo fell from possible race winner to disappointed retiree in the space of 48 hours in Baku. He did well to outqualify Verstappen, only to drop behind early as the Red Bulls struggled with energy. Verstappen’s staunch defence perhaps went too far at times, with Ricciardo’s pass then being made worthless by a poor outlap. Ricciardo definitely had a role in the crash, albeit not as much as his teammate as they ended the race in embarrassing fashion.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull - 5

In terms of raw pace, Verstappen trailed teammate Ricciardo throughout the weekend, leaving him to make some desperate moves to keep him and other drivers back in the race (his early corner cut somehow going unnoticed). You have to wonder just how much further ahead Ricciardo may have been had Verstappen bailed early. In hindsight, it would have prevented a very amateurish crash that, while Ricciardo did play a role, must largely be pinned on Verstappen.

Sergio Perez, Force India - 9

What is it about Force India and this circuit? The team was comfortably leading the midfield on Saturday before dropping back in the first-lap melee. But after that, Perez was superb, running all the way from 15th to P3 thanks to issues for cars ahead. The final move for the podium was all on him though, sweeping ahead of Vettel. As with most of his F1 podiums, he got given an inch, but took a mile.

Esteban Ocon, Force India - 7

As Perez grabbed a podium, Ocon would have been left wondering what could have been in Baku. He outpaced his teammate in qualifying, only for his race to end on the first lap after a racing incident with Raikkonen that left the Frenchman in the wall. Ocon was excellent for the rest of the weekend, though, maximising his pace. Still, he’s now tied with Brendon Hartley in the championship.

Lance Stroll, Williams - 8

A really good weekend for Lance Stroll and Williams, with both getting off the mark for 2018. Stroll qualified an excellent 11th before starting P10, and then made another rocket start to run P7. Williams’ lack of pace caused him to drop back, but he held on for P8 at the flag, finishing ahead of many faster cars. A solid job indeed.

Sergey Sirotkin, Williams - 6

Baku was Sergey Sirotkin’s strongest weekend in F1 to date, yet he still left empty handed. Sirotkin qualified well, lining up 11th on the grid, only to then be caught between Alonso and Hulkenberg after running into the back of Perez, with the incident resulting in a grid penalty for Spain.

Nico Hulkenberg, Renault - 6

Nico Hulkenberg looked to be in contention for his first F1 podium at one stage, making an excellent start to pass the struggling Red Bulls and run P5 briefly. It was all lost after a mistake at Turn 4 saw him hit the wall and retire with damage, blowing a big points chance for Renault.

Carlos Sainz Jr., Renault - 7

Sainz fought well for his best result in Renault colours, taking P5, but like Hulkenberg, there’s a certain wondering of what could have been. He was superb early on, passing both Red Bulls to run fourth for a while before his tyres hit the cliff. A poor Soft tyre stint left him ailing before he battled past Leclerc to grab fifth in the final sprint to the finish.

Pierre Gasly, Toro Rosso - 7

Gasly’s is a hard weekend to gauge. He looked bound for Q2 before his scary moment with Brendon Hartley on Saturday, but made a rocket start to run in the points for a while. The Toro Rosso’s lack of pace in Baku then showed as he dropped down the order. He’d have been in the points had it not been for a late clash with Magnussen that left Gasly fuming, meaning he could only hobble home in 12th.

Brendon Hartley, Toro Rosso - 6

Hartley may have scored his first F1 point in Baku, but even he did not wish to sugarcoat it. Toro Rosso had lacked pace all weekend long, with issues prevent him from completing a single flying lap in either FP3 or qualifying. His race was nothing to write home about, even if the point will get one monkey off his back.

Romain Grosjean, Haas - 5

Baku was a tough weekend for Romain Grosjean, but it so nearly ended with a surprise breakthrough. After starting P20 due to a gearbox issue in qualifying, Grosjean battled his way up the order through the race, battling with Perez before the late Safety Car. Trying to warm up his tyres, Grosjean crashed out in embarrassing fashion, costing Haas a decent haul of points in the process.

Kevin Magnussen, Haas - 6

Baku was a weekend that held good promise for Magnussen and Haas all the way up to Q2, when a mistake meant he didn’t get a quick lap in and had to start 15th. Contact with Ericsson early on left his car with significant damage, but the Dane was able to continue, eventually sniffing at the points in the final stages before his run-in with Gasly.

Fernando Alonso, McLaren - 7

Fernando Alonso may be bound for WEC this weekend, but he proved in Baku he’s also a dab hand on two wheels, hauling his car back to the pits after contact on the first lap. McLaren regressed towards the back of the midfield, but as usual, Alonso did what he could to bring home some points, taking P7 in the end after a last-lap pass on Stroll.

Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren - 6

Given he dropped out in Q1 and was a lap down running second-last at one stage, Vandoorne did well to grab two points for McLaren in Baku. After struggling on his tyres, the Belgian ended up going for a three-stop strategy that turned into a four-stop thanks to the late Safety Car, allowing him to get back on the lead lap. Incidents ahead and a good spurt saw him snatch ninth at the flag. 

Marcus Ericsson, Sauber - 5

As Leclerc stole the show, it was a largely underwhelming weekend for Ericsson. 1.8 seconds slower than his teammate in Q1, Ericsson got caught up with Magnussen at the start and spent much of the race running last, only rising to 11th late on thanks to incidents ahead.

Charles Leclerc, Sauber - 9

An outstanding weekend from Charles Leclerc as he really ‘arrived’ in F1. After charging into Q2, he actually went slower in the second session as he pushed too hard, misunderstanding the advance in track conditions. Leclerc was able to not only nail his strategy but also make some decent overtakes through the race, taking a richly-deserved sixth place finish for his first F1 points.



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