F1 2021 Season Spoiler Filled Race Talk

Also, LOL at Leclerc. What a way to ensure pole position for yourself.

I assume Ferrari will do everything they can to make sure they keep that pole, but it's also a possibility that something mechanical will need to be replaced, which may incur a penalty. So, it's not exactly an "ensured" pole, but there you are. They're already saying there was no significant damage to the gearbox.

IMAGE(https://preview.redd.it/us4jr6vujo071.jpg?width=640&crop=smart&auto=webp&s=628e90f941af90cf831934c87611540e998540af)

Yeah, that was a wild one for sure.

Sounds like Ferrari are pretty sure the repairs won’t require grid penalty parts to be replaced, but still, sort of seems like Leclerc’s home race curse continues to some degree.

Also, all kidding aside, that was absolutely NOT him employing the Schumacher Monaco qualifying strategy — that crash was very legit.

Yeah, that is the corner that seems to catch "new" drivers pretty frequently. That crash is an exact copy of a few of Max's at that same spot.

Okay, Mercedes needs to get their pit stops sorted out.

They usually have one horrendous pit stop a season. But I don't think this was it. That lug nut was threaded wrong when it was first put on and was never going to come off. I blame whoever put that lug on before the race started, not the pit stop. That being said, I do enjoy seeing the Mercs screw up.

Day one of practice in Baku was scruffy as hell -- nearly everyone was caught out by wind and track conditions, frequently taking to the runoffs and tapping walls.

Ferrari is once again looking stronger than expected, especially given the way their power issues were expected to hurt them on that long straight. Meanwhile, Mercedes seems to be having even more trouble than in Monaco getting the car dialed in. They looked okay in FP1, but FP2 was pretty bleak.

Also worthy of note: apparently it's likely to be even more windy tomorrow and Sunday, so expect things might get a bit wild.

IMAGE(https://i.redd.it/ofm9lbozy7371.jpg)

IMAGE(https://i.redd.it/mmfwselpz8371.jpg)

Yessss please, full return to chaotic Baku. It was boring when everything went right.

I'm looking forward to this one. Perez has a solid history here.

Hoooooooooooooooboy. Mercedes is falling off of a cliff.

Does this happen often in F1? A once-dominant team having a sudden, total drop off?

Well, it's less of a cliff than the results in Monaco and the timesheets from today might look like at first glance.

Both of these tracks are fairly extreme outliers in terms of what they ask for from the car, and even going into Monaco Mercedes were pretty clear that they didn't expect that their car concept this year would be competitive there. In fact, though, on day 1 of practice it actually was pretty solid -- it's just that they made changes that did NOT work for Hamilton for FP3 and quali. Bottas still qualified okay (and potentially would have been higher had everyone's final laps not been aborted), so if anything the car was a bit better than they anticipated going into the weekend.

BUT, they were undone by their weekend being uncharacteristically full of mistakes -- the setup for Hamilton's car on Saturday, the pit stop nightmare for Bottas, and the terrible strategy call for Hamilton during the race -- and they just happened to be mistakes that mattered a LOT more given the outlier nature of Monaco.

As for this weekend, Baku is another strange track -- in some parts it's very similar to the things that make Monaco so unusual, and at others it's a lot more "normal," whatever normal is. In any case, going into this weekend Mercedes expected their car to be better than at Monaco, but still at a notable disadvantage to Red Bull. Clearly though, some of the other competitors have cars that are better than anticipated here, and also their initial guesses about what the setup needed to be were very, very wrong.

Still, though, I wouldn't necessarily read too much into, either for this weekend or in a broader sense for the season in general. Teams (even top teams) occasionally show up with an initial game plan for a track that doesn't pan out on Friday, but one of the characteristics of a good team is that even a pretty lousy Friday can lead into a solid Saturday. They are still going to be at a bigger disadvantage than they are used to having already started on the back foot today, but unlike Monaco even if they have a mediocre quali (ie, row three or four) it's a track where passing is possible and your entire race isn't determined entirely by your starting position and the quality of a single strategy call regarding when to pit.

So anyway, while it IS strange to see Mercedes have potentially two disastrous races in a row (they've averaged about one or one and a half disastrous races per season for their entire championship run here -- ie, Bahrain 2020, Hockenheim 2019), they're still Mercedes and very likely to being back to having a strong competitive position relative to Red Bull once we return to the less unusual circuits after Baku.

Prederick wrote:

Hoooooooooooooooboy. Mercedes is falling off of a cliff.

Eh. Bottas was running second in Monaco when his wheel problems caused a retirement and if it's something plain like tyre temps they could be back on the pace as soon as tomorrow. Given the nature of Monaco and Baku what's happening isn't really dramatic unless it carries over into Paul Ricard or the two Austrian races.

For former drop offs, Williams won back-to-back Drivers and Constructors titles in 1996 and '97, then fell away the season after. They did finish third in the constructor's championship in '98, but it was a far and distant third. They only managed three third places in 98 after winning 20 races over the previous two seasons.

(This is not to mention where they are now.)

IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/l4Bjt0j.png)

Wow, that was scruffy as hell.

Pretty happy for Leclerc, though, and to see that Merc managed to figure things out for one car at least.

LOLwut

Perez keeps his best at Baku title. Loving it!

IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/arEnDIb.jpg)

Ooooof.

I mean, it was a spectacular race with three exceptionally deserving podium sitters, but still, oooof.

Mr Bismarck wrote:

IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/arEnDIb.jpg)

Ironic that a photo of their main title rival crashing out of the race from the lead perfectly sums up Mercedes' weekend.

Wow, Verstappen did that the hard way. I think this is the first race where he just looks like the Champion. A mistake but like the best, no panic and able to recover.

In other news, what are the odds Botas is still at Mercedes next year? He seemed really annoyed about being used to cover Lewis and wasn’t able to do anything anyway.

DoveBrown wrote:

what are the odds Botas is still at Mercedes next year?

I think he could offer to pay to drive there next year and they'd still move him on.

IMAGE(https://i.redd.it/e8gthu6inf671.jpg)

Oh, man.

Not quite the disaster for Mercedes that the last two races were, but in a way much more devastating.

I'm making my call now: Hamilton may still eke out the driver's championship, but Red Bull will take the constructors. The cars are just too closely matched (with the edge perhaps going to Red Bull more of the time), and Perez has finally found his comfort with the car and will only be getting stronger.

Meanwhile, yeah, things are really souring with Bottas. He's now at least a strong race behind Norris in the driver standings (granted, partly due to two bad races that were not on him) but his spirit and team cohesion are just so obviously frayed.

I mean, it's a bit of a chicken or the egg situation as to what's causing what, but assuming Russel keeps his head together for the next few races (and especially if he delivers a few more results like today!) he'll have his contract by the summer break, and Bottas will be fully checked out and continue dropping the points that would be needed to beat the spectacular driver pairing Red Bull now has in hand.

Bottas out or back to Williams?

He's running out of options, really.

Ferrari and McLaren seem like they should be very happy to keep their current lineups, and have them already under contract for at least 2022 (mostly beyond). Alpine and Aston similarly have their drivers under contract for next year at least, but I suppose in theory either Vettel or Alonso could change their mind and decide they're done. Alpha Tauri is Alpha Tauri, so there's no guarantees for anyone there, but assuming Tsunoda gets himself rolling a bit more cleanly I expect they'll stick with their current drivers at least one more year -- and if they do change drivers, it would probably be to another one of their juniors, not Bottas.

So, the only real openings would be swapping with Russell back to Williams, or potentially Alfa Romeo if Kimi decides to retire -- but I wouldn't place bets on that.

Oh, right, Haas. Who knows what's up there, but if they remain a team you can bet your ass it will still be Mazepin in one seat. They'd probably like to keep Schumacher too for the name driven sponsor money, but honestly, who really knows what will happen there.