Well, well, well. Against all pre-race expectation, Baku delivered a belter. And after a race that had everything – red flags, red mist, shunts, flying debris, innumerable safety cars and a loose headrest (!) – the question on everyone’s lips is ‘who da man in Azerbaijan?’
Well, wonder no more as Badger’s Top Dog is revealed.
Frankly, this harem scarem race had so many reversals of fortune the prize could have gone to just about anyone! Problems for (not to mention between) Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel meant a midfield points bonanza – and possible Top Dog honour – was seriously up for grabs. Heck, even the backmarkers (aka McLaren) were in with a shout. Fernando Alonso finally broke the team’s points duck. Esteban Ocon continued his impressive finishing streak with 6th place, despite more on track argy-bargy with his teammate. Kevin Magnussen drove his best race of the year to finish a creditable 7th.
And then we have the podium. The biggest crystal ball in the world could not have predicted that one! All three had absolutely stonking drives. Valtteri Bottas’ recovery drive from dead last (and two laps down) was a corker. Jubilant race winner Daniel Ricciardo (and Monaco Top Dog) was an absolute star, but by a whisker, Azerbaijan’s Top Dog is…
I say dog, but the lad is still a pup! His third place makes the Canadian rookie the second youngest podium finisher in F1 history. And he was oh so nearly the runner-up but for that last gasp lunge for the line by Valtteri Bottas. So close! Still, Lance was a very happy boy on the podium, scarcely believing he was up there in the company of Bottas and Ricciardo.
Stroll has had a torrid start to the season which has attracted the predictable torrent of criticism that is often thrown in the direction of underperforming ‘pay drivers’. But his first points finish last time out in Canada appears to have turned the tide. His confidence is on the up, and it shows. His qualifying performance was outstanding and he continued to shine in race mode. Three safety cars and a red flag timeout can unsettle even the most experienced drivers, but Stroll took it all in his stride (pun intended!). He stayed out of trouble, was focused throughout and raced hard and hungry with his fellow midfielders.
But where he really impressed was in those final few nail-biting laps. He knew Bottas was reeling him in and was likely to catch him on the last lap. Vettel and Hamilton were charging hard behind. Lance remained calm and coped admirably with the pressure of a Bottas-shaped car looming large in his rearview mirrors. Yes, he was pipped to second place in the end, but a lesser man might have bottled it entirely and lost the podium place.
Extra Badger points were awarded for him daring to drink from Ricciardo’s customary ‘shoey,’ dirt and all! Well done young man on a tremendous result for you and Williams, the team’s first of 2017. Badger hopes you enjoy the celebrations – and your Top Dog award!
Join Badger for more fun and frolics in Austria. Can Red Bull continue their winning ways at their home track? Find out in two week’s time.