Insights

Azerbaijan Grand Prix: Preview

After an uneventful Monaco Grand Prix, and a week off from racing, the F1 calendar has brought us to The Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Baku’s street circuit.

With many overtaking opportunities, mainly at the 1.4km straight run to turn one, Baku is going to be a great watch. This race is expected to be one of the highlights of a magnificent season.

A strange record

This is the fifth time that Baku will be hosting a race, with the previous four being won by four different drivers. Nico Rosberg won in 2016 (the European Grand Prix), Daniel Ricciardo in 2017, Lewis Hamilton in 2018, and Valtteri Bottas in 2019. Last year’s race was cancelled due to Covid-19. There is a good chance that yet another first-time winner could take the win with both Ferrari and Red Bull drivers expected to go well this weekend.  

Flexing an unfair advantage

Red Bull, Ferrari and Alfa Romeo have all confirmed that the rear wings of their cars flex at high speed.

This reduces drag on the straights, and allows for more downforce when the car slows down before a corner. In Layman’s terms, very fast on the straight and very fast at the corners. Both Mercedes and Mclaren have publicly questioned the legitimacy of the rear wing and complained to the FIA.  

All of the cars have passed a stringent testing system, however, the FIA have brought in a tougher testing system for future races, starting in France.

The change will likely force Red Bull, Ferrari and Alfa Romeo to make changes to their car, in order to be allowed to make it onto the starting grid. This situation is likely to lead to protests this week because of the “advantage” that the long straights will give to the three teams with the flex wing. 

Driver(s) to watch

This is one of the very few races in which any three of eight drivers could make the podium, however, with the aid of the flex wing, Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) and Max Verstappen (Red Bull) are the most likely duo to battle it out for the win. 

Their teammates, Carlos Sainz, and Sergio Perez could make an unlikely challenge for the top spot of the podium.

Mclaren is expected to maintain the pace they had at Monaco, but the jury is out on Mercedes after a diabolical performance by their high standards, two weeks ago.

Over the years, Bottas has been more consistent than Hamilton at Azerbaijan, and if a past winner is to win again, it will have to be one of the two Mercedes drivers as Rosberg has retired, and Ricciardo has no chance of victory.

There will be plenty of racing, overtaking and defensive driving to be done. 

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