This week speed was back on the menu for the F1 crew as they tackled the mean streets of Baku for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix . Melvin Guererro (Melg222) and Edwin Garcia (ForzaAlonso14) had a classic last lap battle in Season 8, which saw Melvin take home the win after Edwin lost traction in the final sweeping turns on the front stretch on the final lap, giving us one of the most memorable finishes in League history. Would history repeat itself and give us another wild finish? (Hint: ya… it did)
The pressures of qualifying weigh heavily on drivers on tight street circuits… especially when the race forecast calls for rain. Every position would be critical in qualifying as the whole field would start the race on Intermediate rain tyres. At the end of the 12 minutes, Conner Stanek (McSendit) would snag his 4th Pole of the season, beating out Edwin Garcia (ForzaAlonso14) by .277 seconds. Melvin Guererro (Melg222), fellow McLaren teammate Mitchell Riggs (MitchMan009), and Jarrod Bruno (JRod15243) rounded out the Top 5.
We all knew Baku would be dangerous and exciting, but no one could imagine what would unfold over the next 50 mins… especially in the final minute. The race started out clean. While we had a gaggle in Turn 1, there was no big wrecks or terminal damaged vehicle right off the bat in the super slick conditions. In a Podium defining moment early in the race, Mitchell would make a pass in Turn 3 on teammate Melvin, and would carry on better pace and not relinquish the position back at any point. Pole-sitter Conner got off the line clean and started building the gap from that point forward. Edwin secured his qualifying position, and would then have to fend off Mitchell for a few laps before building a gap of his own. The Top 3 drivers would hold their positions throughout the entire race, minus a couple laps when pit stops were cycling through. In the wet conditions, the race would turn into a battle of attrition with any mistake a chance to lower the field by one car. We never did see a multiple car accident, but we would see 6 cars in total in the first 25 laps fall victim to the wet, mean streets of Baku. This also caused the field to spread out more than we would normally see. However there were some overtakes to be had through the race. Our 3rd and 4th Place finishers Cameron Epilon (Cameps) and Jon Pfeiffer (AerosStrike) would provide the most on track action as they moved up many spots as the race wore on, and had a competitive battle at the end of the race that saw Cameron complete the overtake for the final podium spot in Turn 1 after a drag race was had down the front stretch. Now, how did Cameron get a podium when we mentioned earlier that Conner, Edwin and Mitchell put a huge gap on the field? Well, that answer is a tough one to type out for this broadcaster. On the last lap of the race, the cameras were all on our Points Leader Conner who dominated the race. He had a 12 second gap on Edwin and was driving a smooth final lap. Conner came off of the final turn flawless and started down the front stretch for the final time. All of a sudden going through the sweeping bends leading to the main straight, Conner’s car bounced off the outside wall and then smashed the wall a 2nd time, completely destroying the vehicle. The announcer was beyond shocked, the chat exploded in amazement. No one could believe what he had just witnessed. While everyone was trying to figured out what may have happened, Edwin would drive past the mangled Mercedes and take his 41st Career victory. That would also move Mitchell up to a Career best 2nd place, and allow Cameron to then pass his disabled teammate to round off the Podium. In a post race interview of sorts, Conner would discuss the incident and give the details which made everyone’s heart sink. Now if a driver makes a mistake, then while it may be a bummer, it is on them and you move on. However when something outside of the driver’s control cost the driver a win, then that is the hardest pill to swallow, and that’s what we had. When entering the sweeping turns, Conner’s PS4 would glitch and give him a Blue error screen, taking away all control of his vehicle. Even all 3 of our Podium finishers felt terrible for Conner’s situation. But to try and end this recap on a positive note, let’s talk about the in-race accomplishments. Edwin would capture his 4th Fastest Lap of the Season, adding onto his All-Time record. We would actually have a tie for the Hard Charger Award, as both Jon and Kyle Spencer (KDawgHonda777) would go +8 for the race.
**Top 10 Finishing order for Azerbaijan**
1. Edwin Garcia (ForzaAlonso14) – 4th Win of the Season; 41th Career Win (League Record)
2. Mitchell Riggs (MitchMan009) – 1st Podium of the Season
3. Cameron Epilon (Cameps) – 2nd Podium of the Season
4. Jon Pfeiffer (AerosStrike)
5. Jonathan Foucault (Fouko_QC) – Best Career finish
6. Jarrod Bruno (JRod15243)
7. Conner Stanek (McSendit)
8. Kyle Spencer (KDawgHonda777)
9. Nick Delp (NicktheQuick)
10. Alan Dunagan (DestroyAlkaline)
After 8 rounds for the Driver’s Championship, the 2-man championship battle would continue, but in a different order. Edwin Garcia (ForzaAlonso14) would take the lead from Conner Stanek (McSendit) for the first time this Season after the shocking finish at Baku. Edwin currently holds a 6 point lead over Conner, with Jon Pfeiffer (AerosStrike) 85 points back in 3rd.
For our Team championship, the Ferraris (Edwin and Aaron) cut a little bit more into Mercedes’ (Conner and Cameron) lead, as the gap fell to 53 points after Azerbaijan.
Next week we return back to circuit racing, as we travel to Austria to tackle the very entertaining Red Bull Ring Circuit. Each Thursday at 9PM EST, you can catch the live race commentary broadcast from Charles Sumner (Hooitus) @ www.twitch.tv/oldmanhoot. Follow the link below to watch back the crazy moments at Azerbaijan: