The Race that Was: Europe 2016

May 14, 2020
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In 2016, the European Grand Prix returned after a three-year absence, with the Azerbaijani capital of Baku the sole new track on the calendar and the only race where every team was arriving with completely identical experience.


The layout of the circuit suited the Force India cars too, with long straights favouring a low-downforce setup and the strength of the Mercedes power unit.


Practice was more important than ever, with teams racking up the miles to collect data, and drivers learning the unique demands of the street circuit, pushing to discover the quirks when possible.


Sergio Perez was one of a number of drivers to make contact with the wall in practice, but a quick repair between FP3 and qualifying allowed the Mexican to take part in the classification session.


Nico Hulkenberg was knocked out in the second part of qualifying, but in a frantic finish to the pole position shootout – where lap times continued to tumble – Checo posted a time worthy of P2 and a front-row start.


Those smiles were short-lived as the team soon found an issue with the gearbox caused by Checo’s practice crash, with a forced change leading to a five-place grid penalty for the race.


Two corners into the race and Checo was already making up ground, gaining two positions while further back, Nico was the victim of some midfield bunching, getting pushed out of shape in Turn 1.


As the field settled into a rhythm, sixth-placed runner Lewis Hamilton was called into the pits and as a natural response, Checo too boxed two laps later to prevent the Briton from getting the undercut. The decision worked.


With this strategy call, Checo also shaved off time to Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, and by closing in, cleared the Australian on lap 22 to come out on top in the battle for P4.


Nico was picking up places throughout the race as well having lost a couple of places at the start. By the final lap, he had climbed up to P9 to notch a pair of championship points.


Checo meanwhile, saved his very best until the very end of the race. Putting in consistent lap times in quick pursuit of P3, he was on the tail of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.


As the laps wound down, he was running out of time to overtake and as the pair entered Turn 1 for the final time, Checo pulled out of Raikkonen’s slipstream, diving up the inside.


Taking the chequered flag after fending off the Finn, Checo completed the podium to collect Team Silverstone’s second set of silverware of 2016, fronting a total haul of 17 points.