Formula One in Baku: Just what the sport needed

Phil Wishart Roar Rookie

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    Dan Ricciardo drives the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

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    Isn’t it great when Formula One doesn’t go to plan?

    The normal procession around the track was nowhere to be seen at Baku this weekend, as the season saw a new winner, a new driver on the podium and some experienced veterans doing some very silly things.

    Drivers were throwing their toys out of the cot all weekend, frustrated by cold tires and slow safety cars. Radio calls were filled with expletives and no one was spared an unexpected pit stop or a trip into the wall.

    Debris lay strewn across the track, forcing multiple safety cars and ultimately a mid-race red flag on lap 21. But the fans loved it!

    Championship front-runners Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton reignited their fierce rivalry on track with some interesting driving strategies behind the safety car.

    Hamilton slammed on the breaks, angering Vettel who retaliated by running into the side of the Mercedes. The race stewards appropriately awarded Vettel a ten-second stop-go penalty for his trouble, dropping him from second to sixth on the road.

    Hamilton then relinquished the lead, forced to pit due to a safety concern with his headrest coming loose after the race restart.

    Finally, we had the chance to see something different to business as usual in Formula One. Fans could not complain about a lack of action and overtaking in this race. Instead of complaining about how boring the race was, social media was lit up with excitement, chaos memes and debate about how big Vettel’s penalty should be.

    But what about the result? And what of our Aussie hero Daniel Ricciardo, I hear you ask?

    When the race started, the smiling assassin was sitting in tenth place on the grid, having crashed in qualifying the previous day. After a quick stint in ninth, debris slowed his car, forcing a pit stop and a drop down to 16th place.

    Ricciardo worked his way through the field, avoiding future incidents, and by the time the race was red flagged at lap 21 he had moved up to fifth. Surely a podium would be an incredible result based on the day so far?

    Ricciardo stormed out of the blocks from the restart, quickly overtaking the two Williams cars to move into third. Next minute, Vettel copped a penalty from the stewards, while Hamilton was forced into the pits, leaving the door wide open for Ricciardo to take the lead – the first time Red Bull had led a lap all race.

    Ricciardo went on to win the race, holding off the entire field for more than half the race.

    “That was fun. That was very fun,” an exhausted Ricciardo said prior to the presentation. “Hopefully everyone enjoyed that.”

    Well Daniel, we did. Say what you want, but Formula One needed a race like Baku to engage fans. It may not have been conventional, but boy it was fun to watch!