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Azerbaijan GP: Winners & Losers from Baku

Written by  Jun 25, 2017

After an unconvincing inaugural race, the Baku City Circuit in Azerbaijan hosted a race that would be remembered for ages. From Safety Cars to a red flag, a first podium to first points, anger and satisfaction, who finished the Grand Prix as the winners and who were the losers?

Biggest winner: Lance Stroll

Stroll leaves Baku as the biggest winner after the Canadian became the youngest ever rookie to get a podium. Following a slow start to the season with three retirements and three non-scoring races, a resurgent Stroll collected his first points at his home race in Montreal. If some thought that was a one-off drive the 18-year-old backed it up with a solid race taking advantage of all the drama to finish third. The only slight blip, losing second on the finish line to Valtteri Bottas by a tenth of a second.

Other winners:                                           

McLaren & Fernando Alonso:

McLaren was able to score their first points of 2017 on a circuit they were expected to struggle at, even more having had both cars at the back after a combined 70-place grid drop. Finally, however, Fernando Alonso got some reward for all his incredible performances as he managed a safe race to take ninth position and a valuable two points for the British team.

Daniel Ricciardo:

As if a crash in qualifying was not enough bad luck for the Australian, Ricciardo had to stop early in the race with a blocked brake duct, dropping him back to 17th. Even Ricciardo lost hope until the drama started and the Red Bull driver began to make his way back towards the front. It would take a moment of brilliance and bravery to pass both Williams into Turn 1 at the final race restart and, after assuming the lead following the problems for Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, the unexpectedness of the win only added to the sweetness of those 25 points.

Valtteri Bottas:

Following his first lap collision, Bottas dropped to last position and was lapped. With the first Safety Car allowing him to rejoin the pack on the same lap, from then it was one flying lap after another as the Finn performed some astonishing overtakes until the chequered flag. To then make over a second in the final two kilometres to grab second from Stroll, that was crucial for him to close the gap to the top drivers in the championship a little more.

Sebastian Vettel:

The German should be satisfied with fourth position after a hard weekend. Vettel, who was forced to change his engine to an older spec with less power but was able to keep his engine safe for the whole, demanding race. While much of the attention is on his penalty and the drama with Lewis Hamilton, the Ferrari driver will enjoy finishing ahead of his direct rival in the world championship and increasing his lead to 14 points.

Carlos Sainz:

It was an eventful start for the Spaniard, as he spun to avoid his team-mate exiting Turn 1 at the start, from there Sainz would drive a calm race claiming valuable points for him and Toro Rosso in eight.

Pascal Wehrlein:

The German youngster had another strong performance. Wehrlein was able to avoid the drama and chaos, keep his head down and grab the last point coming in 10th. This point is of huge importance for the bottom teams and might play a role in deciding positions at the end of the season.

Biggest Loser: Max Verstappen

The Dutch teenager was forced to retire early in the race with an engine problem after a good start and running third. But to see his team-mate on the top spot must hurt Verstappen after he enjoyed a good weekend competing with the top teams and had high hopes for the race. He also now has less than half the points of Ricciardo with four retirements in six races.

Other Losers:

Lewis Hamilton:

An issue with his headrest forced the Briton and lose the lead having been comfortable throughout. Perhaps more frustrating was how his main title rival, Sebastian Vettel, was able to finish ahead of him on track, despite being given the harshest penalty before disqualification for a moment of craziness in which he was the victim.

Kimi Raikkonen:

Raikkonen was in need for a solid performance, as the gap to his team-mate continues to increase race after race. However, the Finn would clash with fellow countryman Bottas at the start damaging his car, then, as he started building a comeback, the Force India duo collided ahead of him and the Ferrari was not able to avoid the debris picking up a puncture. Raikkonen's car was hastily fixed during the red flag but ultimately, it was severely damaged forcing him to retire later on.

Sergio Perez:

Colliding with team-mate Ocon arguably cost Perez a podium, maybe, if he's to be believed, a victory. That alone is enough to be considered a loser.

Romain Grosjean:

Grosjean endured a miserable weekend as the usual brake problems were particularly emphasised. The Frenchman seemed to have zero confidence at any point in the race as he struggled to finish a rock bottom 13th of 13 finishers, compared to his team-mate in seventh position.

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