By the time we take to the streets of Russia on 30 October next year, the knock-on effects of the disaster at Monza will have been felt throughout the season’s 2018 calendar.
For Michael Schumacher’s newly appointed successor, Fernando Alonso, the team may yet be able to settle into a rhythm and conversely not rock the boat too much. But have things changed with a minimum of fuss and naturally it will be easy to overlook what an astonishing turnaround a round in Azerbaijan has brought?
When the Azerbaijan Grand Prix was announced, it was regarded by teams as a tactical bid to relieve some pressure on the champion Lewis Hamilton. And perhaps there was a chance of gaining influence in the hands of Force India’s backroom crew. In all, teams had suggestions it was to be far too short of a race, beset by rain and and with a high degree of inconsistency. Only three teams entered in 2013 – the year the race started – although that was raised to nine when a deal was finally struck to bring back former champions BMW Sauber. The action is to have relocated from two days to two hours.
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But now there is new life on the small track beneath the Caucasus mountains, and while laps may be cut to 90, meaning fewer laps and a longer weekend, the weather cannot be better. Furthermore, the weekend’s temperature is expected to hit 40C in Baku on Saturday. Speaking at his weekly press conference, Hamilton said: “It’s tough to go out there and make the most of that conditions. It’s a very, very nice track. It’s run so smoothly with very good grip. It’s a really enjoyable lap. We should be able to use those good conditions to make the most of it.”
Hamilton leads the championship from Lewis Hamilton by 13 points.
Montjuïc recalls the glory days
Racing driver, driver-designer and Ferrari designer Luca Montjuïc, who died last week aged 80, left a long trail in the sport. Montjuïc brought an intensity to his on-track approach, an incisive way of cutting up the track and speaking the language of a driver. “He was passionate,” said Alain Prost, a close associate. “He was a team player, he respected everyone.” Montjuïc came from a racing background and at Ferrari he provided the technical template for the team’s only world title success, in 2005. Speaking at the memorial service, Felipe Massa said Montjuïc had inspired him to make a career in F1, while Hamilton commented: “We all knew what a super guy he was but especially him.”