The Formula 1 season heads to another tight street circuit after the Monaco Grand Prix two weeks ago. This time the drivers will navigate the streets of the Baku City Circuit which hosts its sixth race, and fifth under the Azerbaijan GP name. The track offers a combination of wide sections, particularly down the long main straight as well as tight twisty sections. The first turn has produced drama in the past with many drivers misjudging the brake marker and locking up, losing position in the process. Another part of the track to look out for is the rapid T13 to 15 complex which will show well a car is set up for the circuit. Speaking of set-up, Baku forces teams to opt for low drag for quicker top-end speed down the main straight. Top speed in the new regulation ground-effects cars will be north of 350km/h. The 20-strong field will drive a total race distance of 300km and complete 51 laps to finish the race.
It’s no surprise that Red Bull and Ferrari will be favourites in Azerbaijan this weekend. The teams have collected every race win this season and the energy-drink owned team have won the last four races. Sergio Perez is making life uncomfortable for reigning world champion Max Verstappen at Red Bull and the Mexican trails his teammate by 15 points in the championship. The meat in the Red Bull sandwich was early-season flyer, Charles Leclerc. The Monegasque driver experienced two terrible moments in Spain and Monaco, due to an engine failure which curtailed his race and then a costly error from the Ferrari team saw him pit when he shouldn’t have and ultimately lose his home GP.
The Ferrari had brought significant upgrades to Barcelona three weeks ago and the F1-75 looks in really good nick. Leclerc had opened up a 12-second gap over Verstappen before the power unit failure. They also had the fastest car in Monaco. Therefore, we have Leclerc in pole position and to take the race win.
Expect strong performances from Mercedes-Benz’s George Russell, McLaren’s Lando Norris and Alpine’s Esteban Ocon as the younger generation have shown they are capable of getting the most out of the new ground effects cars.
Former winners at Baku include Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel, who will hope to use their experience this weekend and eke out some points.