Hype Energy F1 Leagues – PC F1 – Round 4 Baku

We kicked right back into the action last Sunday in Apex Online Racing Hype Energy F1 Leagues with the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, following a two-week brake. It was a cracker over on PC’s F1 tier with widely varied strategies and plenty of discarded carbon fiber… and, at last, the first appearance of the safety car!

The fourth round of season 16 was to be disputed in the streets of Baku, one of the longest circuit of the year, but one of the most punitive, especially. There’s no room for mistakes in Baku; the walls come at you fast and the run-off areas are virtually non-existent. The castle section found between corners seven through 12 is particularly ruthless, as Mercedes’ Dani Bereznay found out early in the race, bringing out the first safety car of the season.

Track: Baku City Circuit, Baku, Azerbaijan
Laps: 26
Tyres: Ultrasofts, Supersofts, Softs

Baku City Circuit

Qualifying

A few drivers could not make it to the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, namely; Haas’ Marek Schinz, Toro Rosso’s Railgone, Williams’ Tino Naukkarinen, and Force India’s Mads Sorensen. Reserve driver Vitto stepped in the empty Toro Rosso seat for the event.

We entered an 18-minute session featuring 17 drivers and dry weather. Red Bull’s Chris “Ycoms” Holstein was the first to set a sub-1:37 time on the purple-marked Ultrasofts, the softest of the three compounds available for the race. Filip “Smash” Presnajder of Sauber quickly improved on that reference, suggesting that he could be a serious contender this particular week. McLaren’s Jan Fehler and Mercedes’ Dani “FormulaDani” Bereznay were next to register faster laps, the latter taking provisional pole with a 1:36.445.

The second half of qualifying starred Ycoms & FormulaDani in what turned out to be a duel for pole position with both challengers going head to head. Ycoms shot straight to the top with a 1:36.324 in his mid-session run, then FormulaDani went 0.004s better to marginally take provisional pole, setting the stage up for an exciting final run. Once again, the Red Bull driver set a fastest lap, the final effort yielding provisional pole by 0.001s (1:36.319)! Ultimately, it was not enough though as FormulaDani convincingly secured pole for Mercedes with an outstanding lap of 1:36.090.

As is usually the case in Baku, the dispersion across the grid was very tight with less than 0.7s separating the top 10. Fehler (1:36.401) & Ferrari’s Szabo-Konyi “Foton” Bence (1:36.440) took third & fourth place for a second row start. Presnajder (1:36.502) & Toro Rosso’s Ross “n0body” Woodford” (1:36.517) followed on third row. Williams’ Alvaro Carreton took seventh position with a 1:36.557 with Fabrizio Donoso of Force India to flank him on row #4, registering a 1:36.651 on the red Supersofts! Rounding up the top 10 were Bereznay’s team-mate Gergo “G3RRX” Bodi (1:36.679) and Manuel “Whitelilac” Biancolilla (1:36.730) in Ferrari’s sister car.

The Renault drivers, leaders of the constructors’ championship after three rounds, both played the alternate strategy card; a single flying lap on the harder Supersofts, resulting in P11 & P12 for David Tonizza & Daniele Haddad, respectively.

Race

The field of 17 drivers took to the grid for a formation lap under the sun, not a cloud in view for the 26 laps ahead. Once again, every driver outside the top 10 opted for either of the two harder compounds, Supersofts or Softs. The Renault team-mates notably split the strategy with Tonizza choosing the red rubbers, Haddad the yellow ones. Five red lights out later, the cars launched in what was a surprisingly clean start considering the proximity of the walls. The order at the top remained unchanged as FormulaDani crossed the start-finish line, followed by Ycoms, Fehler, Foton and Presnajder. Aleksi “NonRunner” Korsman’s luck went from bad to worse after starting from the back due to technical issues in qualifying when he suffered front wing damage early on the opening lap, as did marc313.

Presnajder did not waste any time to make ground up, overtaking the Ferrari of Foton in the second lap’s Turn Three after going wheel-to-wheel. Carreton & Foton narrowly avoided a disastrous crash when they made contact mid-apex. Carreton seemed thrown off by the Ferrari’s slowing down as it yielded the position to the Sauber of Presnajder. For FormulaDani, however, the race ended way prematurely when he could not clear the walls in the castle section. A costly and rare mistake from the Hungarian champion, crashing out of the race whilst leading, two laps in. With the Mercedes stuck in the middle of the track, the safety car made its season 16 debut, opening up opportunities for the drivers to modify their strategy with an unscheduled pit stop.

Several drivers chose to take up the cheap pit stop on offer under the safety car; Presnajder and Whitelilac both came in and swapped their Ultras for Softs instead, hoping to run deep. G3RRX opted for a set of Supersofts, meaning he would have to stop again. n0body and NonRunner pitted as well but changed their damaged front wing in favor of a new one, the Toro Rosso choosing Softs and the Toro Rosso a set of Supersofts.

The restart on Lap Five saw Carreton pulling a fancy double overtake coming into Turn One to take P2 while Ycoms retained the lead. Donoso was up in P4, notably, on an advantageous strategy with Supersoft tyres as opposed to his Ultrasoft-shod rivals. Fehler and Foton surrendered their top five places later that lap when they came in for a pit stop. Fehler chose the Supersofts and a guaranteed additional stop later, whereas Foton was fitted yellow-walled Softs. On the sixth lap, the leaders Ycoms & Carreton pitted, trading their Ultras for Softs, and rejoined in P12 & P15 respectively, which left Force India’s ace Fabrizio Donoso in the lead of the Grand Prix with Tonizza and Haddad in the chase, P2 & P3.

Donoso went on his qualifying-used Supersofts until the ninth lap, at which point he pitted from the lead for a set of yellow Softs, rejoining 3.4s behind the Red Bull of Ycoms. Tonizza pitted on the next lap for a set of Softs as well, he found Donoso to be on his side as he exited the pit lane but got the better of him. Nevertheless, Donoso found a way past his Renault rival on Lap 12. The net leaders at this stage of the race were Presnajder, Ycoms, Tonizza and Donoso. Presnajder had pitted early during the safety car and was gambling on a massive long run but the trio of Ycoms, Tonizza & Donoso had to deal with traffic as they were charging back on their second stint.

It was becoming apparent that Renault’s David Tonizza was the man to beat on that day. He muscled his way through Donoso again and on Lap 16 he had caught up to Ycoms, whom he overtook on the home straight with superior top speed. Only a couple of laps later, he moved on Presnajder’s Sauber to take the lead of the race once again and never looked back, therefore making it three wins in a row. An outstanding streak for Tonizza and Renault.

Donoso could not match his Renault rival’s pace and therefore never effectively challenged for the win, but he kept him honest and remained within three seconds. Earlier, he had discarded the likes of Presnajder and Ycoms for P2, which he held to the finish. Those 18 points helped the Force India driver make two places in the championship where he trails leader Tonizza by 27 points.

For a long while it looked as if Chris “Ycoms” Holstein was going to battle it out with Tonizza for the race win, but technical issues hindered his progress in the 10 final laps of the race, meaning he had to turn his full attention to just surviving the walls of the Baku City Circuit. He managed to do that but not without problems, breaking his front-wing and picking a five-second time penalty in for corner cutting. He finished fifth on track but was classified sixth with the penalty applied.

Filip “Smash” Presnajder survived his risky strategy by having to save his tyres significantly throughout his 23 lap stint on those Softs. Even though he was not able to mount a convincing defense against his attackers on much fresher tyres, it still was a massive pay day for the Sauber driver, who picked up his first points of the season as he stepped on the third step of the podium. It was a close call though as he saw Daniele Haddad closing in dangerously on him on the final lap, the Renault finishing just 0.3s behind in P4. It was another day of learning for Haddad who seems to be piling up unforced errors week after week. This time around, he was awarded a five-second stop & go penalty on the safety car restart for overtaking before the yellow flags had cleared. Nonetheless, Haddad adds another 12 points to his tally and further establishes himself as a contender within the championship. Additionally, he helps Renault increase the gap in the constructors standings, who now have a 64 points lead to second place Williams.

Jan Fehler mentioned in his post-race interview that he left a podium on the table in Azerbaijan. Would it have materialized had he not suffered front-wing damage after the safety car and had he applied a better tyre strategy? It’s doubtful when looking at the quality of drivers racing alongside him and the races they had respectively, but one thing’s certain, Fehler has the pace to challenge week in and week out and he’s as confident as anyone for the races ahead. A fifth place and its 10 points will go a long way for the McLaren driver, now sixth in the drivers’ championship.

Classified seventh right behind his team-mate was Red Bull’s NonRunner. He should be satisfied with that finish, especially considering the qualifying issues he suffered, starting dead last in seventeenth place. As a matter of fact, NonRunner showed great pace and made the most of a two-stop strategy and a broken front wing. Presnajder’s team-mate Slickk finished P9 on track but thanks to Foton’s five-second penalty he gained a position to take P8 and two more points. Foton, however, fell back a long way from his P4 grid position, only taking two points home for Ferrari. The final scoring position went to G3RRX who ended up being the only point scorer for Mercedes, only taking a single point. G3RRX had promising speed but it seems it just never materialized, unable to exploit his full potential.

Williams’ Alvaro Carreton finished just outside the points in 11th in what was a difficult outing overall. With the absence of Tino Naukkarinen, Williams had nothing to show for on the scoreboard for Baku but held on to second place in the standings nonetheless, seven points clear of Force India, who also missed one of their drivers.

The Azerbaijan Grand Prix, one of the latest arrival on the Formula 1 calendar, lived up to its wild reputation, with championship contenders falling victim of the track, others thriving in the harsher conditions. The appearance of the safety car certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed, reminding the drivers of one more factor they have to better prepare for in the future. Tune in next week for Apex Online Racing’s Spanish Grand Prix!

Written by Kevin “saKuuu” Turner – @tR_saKuuu

 



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