FIA have released a 21 race calendar for 2018 with Australia remaining as the season opener and Abu Dhabi retaining the season finale slot.

Malaysia, which joined the championship in 1999, does not feature, but France at Paul Ricard & Germany at Hockenheim both return to the calendar. For the first time ever there is a triple-header; France, Austria & Britain. This is due to the World Cup football final on 15th July. Other changes are, Azerbaijan is moved from June to April taking the place of Russia and that round is moved to September forming a back–to–back with Japan.

Monisha Kaltenberg has parted ways with Sauber after being Team Principal since 2012.

2017 Formula 1 Azerbaijan GP Baku street circuit.

Round 8. 51 laps @ 6.006km/3.753ml = 306.306km/191.410ml.

Lap record 1m 46.485s N. Rosberg Mercedes – 2016

Baku is situated 28mtrs below sea level making it the lowest national capital in the world and the largest city below sea level. The world’s first-ever oil well was drilled just south of Baku and by the beginning of the 20th century Azerbaijan was supplying half of the world’s oil.

There is a mixture of long straights and unforgiving tight twisty sections around the city streets. There are 2 DRS zones, each now having a detection zone, unlike last year. The pit lane speed limit as per most circuits is 80kph (49.7mph) and has a chicane on the entry with a tight section on the exit. It is said to be the fastest street circuit in the world and boasts the second longest straight on the F1 calendar with a distance of 330mtrs to the first corner.

FP1 was on a bright sunny day with a temperature of 27˚C. It turned out to be quite a testing 90 minutes with the wind blowing dust & debris onto the track. Per hit the wall at turn 8 damaging the rear end of his VJM10 and losing a rear wheel causing the session to be red flagged for about 13 minutes. Ver, Ric, Vet, Per & Ham were the top five.

FP2 was again bright and sunny with the temperature at 28ºC. Gro had brake problems again. Kvy brushed the wall and left debris on the track. Pal hit the wall at turn 8. Alo stopped on track with an engine related problem and at the last minute Ver crashed into the barrier. Once again Red Bull was the team to beat with Ver on top with Bot, Ric, Räi & Vet the other four top drivers.

For FP3 on Saturday the kerbs at turn 8 had been modified being shortened and realigned with an additional row of TecPro barriers installed on the first part of the exit. Vet had technical troubles. Pal had a fire in the back of his Renault & Ver lost power and stopped on track in the dying moments. Bot, Räi, Ham, Ric & Oco were the top five.

Qualifying started at 5pm local time with a temperature of 26˚C. Pal did not take part. Ham, Ver, Räi, Ric & Kvy were the top five runners, Both McLaren cars went out along with Pal, Eri, & Gro.

Q2 was action-packed with more yellow flags waving. Both Toro Rosso drivers dropped out along with Mag, Weh & Hülk. Ric hit the barriers bringing out the red flags with 3½ minutes remaining. Ham got his 5th pole of the season and 66th of his career. Bot, Räi, Vet & Ver made up the top five.

Racing began with Räi & Bot having a coming together. Bot had to pit for a new front wing, Sai had to take evasive action to miss Kvy as the Russian returned to the track after a trip down the slip road. Pal didn’t last long as he retired with another power unit problem. Kvy stopped on track with a suspected electrical issue causing a safety car period of 4 laps. Ver retuned to the pits and retired with a technical issue. A lap later the s/car was deployed; this time filtering through the pit lane to clear debris from the track. At the re-start Vet ran into the back of Ham. Räi got a puncture and then came the red flag; all 17 cars back to the pit lane. 23 minutes later the 17 drivers returned to the circuit behind the s/car for a lap. Ham had a loose headrest and had to pit. Vet was quite rightly handed a 10s stop/go penalty (and 3 points on his super licence) for dangerous driving (stupidly side swiping Ham). Per & Räi both had drive-through penalties for working on their cars off the pit lane during the red flag. Hül retired with accident damage. Mas was next out with a broken rear damper. Per & Räi both eventually retired with damage. Ric had a great afternoon to take his first win of the season and 5th of his career. Bot just managed to get second place at the line after coming from the back of the grid after his first lap collision. Str got a podium finish, making him the youngest rookie to secure a podium. Vet recorded the fastest lap on lap 47 with a time of 1m 43.441s.

Seb increased his lead over Ham but only by 2 points.

Formula 1 report Nº 9
The FIA have made a few minor tweaks to the circuit; the left hand kink is now classed as a corner making it a 10 turn lap. Tyre barriers at turns 4, 7 & have been increased in depth. TecPro has been added to the guardrail at the pit entry and orange “baguette” kerbs have been installed at turns 6, 9 &10 to deter drivers from running wide and gaining an advantage with the space increased to 3.2mtrs and 30cm wide flat kerbs installed at various locations.

Formula 1 Grosser Preis von Österreich 2017. Red Bull Ring Round 9.
71 laps @ 4.326kms/2.688mls 307.146kms/190.861mls.

Lap record 1m 08.337 held by M. Schumacher Ferrari (2003).
The new circuit was originally named the Österreichring, hosting the F1 GP from 1970 and was situated in the wooded Styrian Mountains renowned for its beauty. The track being in a natural hillside bowl had many elevation changes and super-fast sweeping curves making it very much a driver’s circuit. The circuit length was 5.911kms.

€70m reconstruction work began in 2008 to bring the circuit up to date. It was officially opened in May 2011. Last year Ham won from pole position and he also posted the fastest lap of 1m 18.411s on lap 67. There are only 10 corners around the circuit 2 of which can be taken flat out.

FP1 and the hills were alive with the sound of turbos. It was a warm slightly cloudy 22ºC start with the possibility of rain. Gro ran over the kerbs causing a puncture. Ham, Ver, Bot, Vet & Ric were the top five runners.

FP2 in the afternoon was warm with some cloud cover and 29ºC. After a brief shower between sessions Per & Hül were back in their respective cars. Alo spent some time in his garage having a new floor fitted. Sai had an early exit after running off onto the grass causing some damage. Ham, Vet, Bot, Ver & Ric were the top five.

The final 1 hour session was bright and sunny with some cloud and 22ºC. Sai again had a problem and Alo had to revert to the old ‘spec 2’ engine. The top five were Vet, Ham, Bot, Räi & Ver.

Q1 was still cloudy but warm at 29˚C. Mag had to crawl back to his garage on 3 wheels with suspension damage, but he kept his 12th place. Both Williams and Sauber drivers went out along with Pal. Massa was out for the first time this season with Ham, Räi, Vet, Sai & Bot being the top five.

Q2 and no further action for Mag. Out went both McLaren drivers, Kvy & Hül. Bot, Vet, Ham, Ver & Räi were the top five.

Q3 was an exciting 12 minutes. Gro stopped on track in the dying moments causing a yellow flag situation and stopping any improvements. Bot got his second pole position with Vet, Ham, Räi & Ric the top five. Ham was handed a 5 place grid drop for an unscheduled gearbox change.

The race began with Weh starting from the pit lane after having a new turbo charger fitted. Bot got away very well (after an almost jump start). Kvy ran into Alo who in turn hit Ver; both returned to the pits and retired with damage. Kvy was handed a drive-through penalty and 2 penalty points for causing the accident at the start. Van was handed a drive-through penalty and 2 penalty points for ignoring the blue flags. Mag was the next casualty with hydraulic problems on lap 29 & Sai retired with a PU problem on lap 44. In the final few laps Vet caught Bot & Ham battled with Ric. Bot got his 2nd victory in F1 which took 1h 21m 48.523s and had Vet & Ric with him on the podium. Ham posted the fastest lap with 1m 07.411s on lap 69.

The title hots up again with Bot now in the frame. Vet has a 20 point lead over Ham. Mercedes have an increased lead over Ferrari of 33 points and Red Bull now 102 points away from Ferrari.