Hype Energy F1 Leagues – Xbox One F1 – Round 4 Baku
November 9, 2018
The anticipated return to racing after a two-week hiatus in the Apex Online Racing Hype Energy F1 Leagues for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix delivered a great deal of entertainment, including a wet qualifying session to kick things off in Xbox One’s F1 tier.
The Grand Prix in Baku does not typically feature rain but, as opposed to Bahrain for example, it is never entirely out of the question either, which the drivers have to take into consideration in their preparations towards the event. The track is relatively unorthodox in nature, filled with 90 degree turns spaced by long flat-out straights, generally favoring a low downforce setup for optimal straight-line speed. However, the Baku City Circuit’s walls are the most penal trait of character it possesses, particularly within the castle section where drivers have to navigate one of the tightest and most intimidating series of corners of the season. So, we can only imagine how much a wet surface will shuffle the cards!
Track: Baku City Circuit, Baku, Azerbaijan
Tyres: Ultrasofts, Supersofts, Softs
For the first time in season 16, the Xbox One F1 drivers had to install wet-weather tyres on their Formula 1 cars as the qualifying session was forecast to be rain-plagued throughout. In those circumstances, it can go any direction and unexpected results are common. The drivers have to adjust their setups consequently to the weather but depending on the forecast for the race and due to Parc Fermé regulations, there has to be a compromise between downforce, grip and speed. The cars are typically fueled for multiple-lap runs but the drivers have to be wary of the changing conditions and weigh in-between runs whether the Intermediate tyres are viable or not.
Mercedes’ Josh “Surprize” Idowu and Haas’ Chris “Pinecone” Parry rapidly established themselves at the top of the leaderboard with sub 1:53 references. The lap times kept tumbling down as the session went by, with the usual suspects – Red Bull’s Simon Weigang, Ferrari’s Cedric “Evo” Thomé, and the Force Indias of langman17 & its Jo – looming atop as one would expect. The surprise guest at the party was Pinecone who kept improving over and over. It looked like he was set to grab the pole position honors with a 1:51.164 as we neared the end of the session, but none other than championship leader Evo swooped in late with a brilliant lap time of 1:51.119 to narrowly secure the top of the sheets.
Within the same tenth, Surprize took third position with a 1:51.174 closely followed by Simon (1:51.200). Row #3 was locked out by the Force India team-mates; its Jo (1:51.328) & langman17 (1:51.362). Cryo Lockdown, for Red Bull, placed P7 with a time of 1:51.563 to be flanked by the Williams of Brown (1:51.684) on the fourth row. Finally, McLaren’s MVPZero33 (1:51.950) and newly appointed full time driver Clonetroop5 (1:52.396), for Toro Rosso, completed the top 10.
Evo’s team-mate Leopard qualified just outside the top 10 in P11. Haas’ Jason97F1 retired mid-way through the session after completing a lap and picking up a five-place grid penalty for making contact with another driver. Mercedes’ Taylor Reynolds retired early as well after colliding terminally with the walls.
Every one of the 17 drivers to form the grid had free choice of tyre compound for the race that was to be disputed under the sun of Azerbaijan after having to cope with the rain in qualifying. Evo was the only driver to go for the purple Ultrasofts, mentioning in his post-race interview that he wanted to have a grip advantage for the first stint and use it to create a gap to his rivals. 11 of the 16 remaining drivers fitted Supersofts in favor of the Softs to attempt a one-stop strategy.
Evo launched beautifully at the off to hang on to the lead and the remainder of the field quickly got into a single file as the opening lap progressed, avoiding any sort of significant incident. At the front, Pinecone was the first driver to commit an error when he hit the wall exiting Turn 16, damaging his front-wing. Surprize pressed on the issue rapidly and got past the Haas on the main straight to take P2. The order at the top after a lap of racing looked as follows : Evo, Surprize, Pinecone, Simon and the two Force Indias of OMG its Jo & langman17.
With the aerodynamic loss caused by his damaged front-wing, Pinecone struggled to hold his ground and fell victim to Simon’s Red Bull on the main straight of the third lap. Later on, Evo’s pace began to drop on Lap Five as his Ultrasofts were wearing out whereas the Supersofts of Surprize were holding on quite well, allowing the Mercedes driver to charge past his Ferrari rival on the main straight, taking the lead of the race in the process. Simon quickly arrived to stick his nose into Evo’s gearbox but had to remain patient to find a worthy overtaking opportunity, the circuit not offering a decent one anywhere after Turn Three. As Simon was finally getting by on the main straight with the help of DRS, Surprize unexpectedly took a dive into the pit lane in what was surely an attempt to avoid a possible undercut from Evo behind, who also pitted as he was being overtaken by Simon. So, on the sixth lap, the leaders both came in to install fresh sets of yellow-walled Soft tyres, officially initiating the pit phase.
Therefore, Simon ran in clean air for Lap Seven which turned out to be his in-lap. He entered pit lane to swap his old Supers for brand new Softs and rejoined slightly ahead of his rivals Surprize and Evo, making him the net leader of the race with a splendid and rarely seen overcut. Surprize benefited from DRS on the straight that leads to Turn Three and positioned his Mercedes on the outside to attempt an overtake but, shockingly, missed his braking point by what looked like a mile and violently crashed head first into the wall, effectively ending his race and retiring in a second consecutive Grand Prix.
As the net race leaders on the fresher tyres, both Simon & Evo caught up to the yet-to-pit drivers ahead of them, firstly discarding Reynolds in successive laps who would retire shortly thereafter as he entered the pits. On Lap 15, only one more obstacle stood in the way of Simon before he could claim the lead of the race; Leopard, Evo’s team-mate at Ferrari, who had yet to pit having started on the Soft compound tyres. It fell into place perfectly for Evo, just a few seconds back. In fact, it looked perfectly orchestrated. Simon, on much younger tyres, began attacking Leopard but failed to overtake in the tighter section of the circuit, allowing Evo to close right in and to take advantage of the out-of-position Red Bull into Turn Five. Simon had no answer for the championship leader and was confined into staring at the Ferrari’s gearbox. As they made their way on the main straight, Leopard happily gave space to his team-mate only to get back into a defensive stance against the Red Bull as they approached Turn One. From there, they raced wheel-to-wheel up to Turn Three when Leopard got the better of a certainly frustrated Simon to remain in front, once again helping Evo’s case and letting him pull away.
Unfortunately, Leopard & Simon collided massively down the stretch on the main straight in what was seemingly nothing more than a racing incident; as they were side-by-side, both drivers turned into each other, sending them into a spin at over 300 kph. Simon’s Red Bull survived as it landed into the pit lane, albeit with a destroyed front-wing. Not so much for Leopard who saw his race come to an end, activating the Virtual Safety Car for a short while.
That whole deal placed Evo in a prime spot, free of his main rivals’ pressure. From there, he held the lead of the race up to the end of the 26th lap, securing his third victory of the season and dramatically increasing his championship lead on Simon, who managed to recover up to sixth place, nevertheless. On the broadcast, it largely felt like we had been robbed of a battle between two of the main protagonists in the championship, but such is the nature of Formula 1 racing; anything can happen!
Force India’s OMG its Jo, who had pitted from the lead back on the 11th lap, had a relatively quiet second stint and took advantage of a decimated field to grab his first podium of the season in second place and a fourth consecutive points finish. Jo had excellent pace to show for in Baku and had he kept his cool and not broken his front-wing with 10 laps to go trying to push his limits, he might have given Evo a run for his money, considering he had significantly fresher tyres than the Ferrari.
Behind Jo, there was a massive contest for the final step of the podium with Pinecone & Brown once again fighting each other and trading blows on track. langman17, who had been running in P3 for much of the second phase of the race, was eventually joined by the storming pair of Pinecone & Brown. The Force India overshot the first corner on Lap 20 while attempting to defend the position, allowing both the Haas and the Williams through. Pinecone finally found his way past Brown for good when he overtook him on the 22nd lap and went on to clinch his first podium of the season in what was a sensational recovery for the young driver, after having to replace his front-wing early on in the race. Just over a second behind, Brown will be pleased with fourth place and the 12 points associated with it, coming from P8 on the grid.
langman17 kept struggling after his Turn One mishap earlier and was eventually caught by Simon & Jason97F1 who were also on much newer Supersofts. Once more, langman17 committed an unforced error into Turn One while battling entering Lap 25, hitting Jason97F1’s Haas from the inside and spinning around. Luckily, Jason97F1’s car remained intact despite the contact which enabled him to pick up another fifth place, thanks in part to Simon’s two penalties promoting him one spot in the classification. Finally, langman17 secured Force India a double points finish with seventh place, taking the checkered flag 10 seconds behind Jason97F1 on track.
In his debut race as a full time driver in the Xbox One’s top split of AOR, Clonetroop5 grabbed 8th position and four points from 10th on the grid. McLaren’s MVPZero33 could not replicate his China Grand Prix’s heroics and barely finished into the points in P9 in what was a long and eventful race for the promising driver. Feisty Ted salvaged Renault’s evening with the final place in the top 10 and one point added to the bank.
The Azerbaijan Grand Prix was nothing short of electric with great displays of strategy and raw pace. Evo further extended his dominance but he will have to stay sharp as there is still a long way to go in the season and he has worthy contenders to deal with. Stay tuned for the upcoming Hype Energy F1 Leagues’ Spanish Grand Prix!