F1 European Grand Prix: five things we learned from Baku

Formula One - Grand Prix of Europe - Baku

Nico Rosberg is once again bossing the Formula One championship table – and with Austria to come, where he has won for the past two years, there was an extra spring in his step on Sunday night.

1) Rosberg is back in the driving seat

He believes this could be his lucky season.

After two bad race weekends in Monaco and Montreal, after which he had seen his 43-point lead slashed to nine, Rosberg is now 24 points ahead. As the season’s halfway stage approaches Lewis Hamilton, who has won two races to Rosberg’s five, cannot afford to slip further behind.

2) Ferrari still cannot make a good strategy call

It has ruined Ferrari’s season so far, but they have not learned anything. On the face of it, they did not have a bad race in Baku, with Sebastian Vettel finishing second and his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen fourth. But that was only after Vettel totally ignored a call to pit for fresh rubber. “Why?” he asked. “My pace is good.” And so it was. Vettel was helped by troubles at Red Bull, and by Lewis Hamilton’s failure to find his right engine mode. But he was right to show a lack of faith in his team and that is why he finished strongly. But there will be more problems ahead if Ferrari’s very experienced drivers do not have faith in their pitwall.

3) Massa is feeling the heat

Felipe Massa is showing signs of pressure at Williams, where his contract expires at the end of the season. In the past the Brazilian, now 35, has done well to keep up with his younger team-mate Valtteri Bottas. But lately the Finn has looked the stronger driver. On Sunday Massa started fifth and finished 10th and even he described it as a “terrible” day.

Massa is not helped by rumours linking Jenson Button with the team. The British driver looks certain not to have his contract renewed by McLaren and Williams are known to be long-term admirers.

4) Pérez is under-rated

McLaren’s decision to split with Sergio Pérez at the end of the 2013 season, and replace him with Kevin Magnussen, looks stranger by the race. On Sunday Pérez was asked, very strangely, if he would consider a return to McLaren. He replied “No” in the politest terms. Why should he? His current Force India team are much more competitive, with the Mercedes engine. Besides, Ferrari have been linked with Pérez as they look to replace Kimi Raikkonen. Yet the Mexican looks perfectly happy where he is.

5) Baku delivered as a racing venue

Forgetting the politics and looking purely at the racing, Baku was a great success. OK, not much happened on Sunday – perhaps the drivers were spooked by what had happened in GP2 a little earlier, with a raft of chaotic safety car restarts. But over the entire weekend the venue really delivered.

Vettel was in no doubt. “It’s the first time here and I didn’t know what to expect but it’s been a great track,” he said. “The circuit is incredible – you need to be well equipped around here.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Paul Weaver, for theguardian.com on Monday 20th June 2016 16.02 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010