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Azerbaijan GP Preview

NEWS STORY
09/06/2022

From Monaco we head to Azerbaijan, and while both are street circuits the pair are like chalk and cheese.

For while the Baku circuit, like its counterpart, has a tight and twisty section, until the arrival of Jeddah on the F1 calendar it was the fastest street circuit of the season.

What the two do have in common is the fact that both have the ability to spring shocks and surprises, and despite only being part of the schedule for five seasons - if we include 2016's Grand Prix of Europe - Baku has provided more than its fair share.

In 2016, Nico Rosberg was able to extend his championship lead while teammate Lewis Hamilton suffered an engine mode issue, the rules preventing the British driver from receiving assistance from his team over the radio.

In 2017, Valtteri Bottas overtook Lance Stroll within yards of the chequered flag to claim second behind Daniel Ricciardo, all the more remarkable since the Finn had suffered a first lap puncture in a race which featured two red flag stoppages.

2018 witnessed calamity for Red Bull as drivers Max Verstappen and Ricciardo collided whilst battling for fourth in a race which saw the safety car deployed twice.

Ricciardo was in the wars again in 2019, this time for a collision with Daniil Kvyat which saw both drivers eliminated as the Australian reversed into his rival's car after both had gone off down one of the circuit's numerous escape roads. For his efforts, Ricciardo was handed a 3-place grid penalty for the following race.

With the 2020 race cancelled due to the pandemic, the streets of Baku didn't resonate to the sound of F1 again until 2021, when tyres stole the headlines. Having started on the hard tyre - the only driver to do so - Stroll suffered a failure on lap 30 necessitating the deployment of the safety car.

On lap 45, race leader Verstappen crashed into the wall on the main straight after suffering a similar tyre failure. At the restart, as Hamilton and Sergio Perez headed into the first corner, the Briton locked-up and headed down the escape road, emerging in last position. The Mexican went on to claim his first win for Red Bull.

Coming off the back of a famous victory in Monaco, Perez will be fired-up to repeat the feat this weekend, even more so having agreed a new contract with Red Bull in the interim.

However, while Perez' Monaco win went down well with much of the team, at Chez Verstappen the victory was not so well received with Max and his father both hitting out at the Austrian outfit for its poor strategy - by which they mean strategy that didn't favour Team Verstappen.

Strategy was the issue at Ferrari also, the Italian outfit - not for the first time - snatching defeat from the hands of victory. With Charles Leclerc having suffered his first DNF of the season a week earlier, it is understandable that the tifosi might be getting nervous.

Having appeared to have got on top of its porpoising issue in Spain, a week later the W13 was bouncing away like a good 'un. However, Mercedes says it is the nature of the Principality's bumpy streets that was the problem. Whether it is true or not will become clear this weekend, where the straights are long and smooth.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the issue, having been roundly trounced by his new teammate thus far, now is the time for Hamilton to raise his game.

Over the years we've seen a few surprises when it comes to the podium, be it Sebastian Vettel and Pierre Gasly last year, or Stroll in 2017, therefore don't be surprised to see an unfamiliar face up there on Sunday.

While, unlike Monaco, overtaking is possible, Baku presents numerous problems and as a result executing the right move at the right time is not for the faint-hearted.

A previous winner here, Ricciardo could do with a good result, likewise Mick Schumacher, while Kevin Magnussen finished an impressive seventh here in 2017.

Bottas should be good for a handful of points, likewise Fernando Alonso, while Lando Norris should be fully recovered from his bout of tonsillitis.

According to Betway, Verstappen is 2.10, Leclerc 2.75, Perez 7.00, Sainz 9.00, Russell 23.00 and Hamilton 29.00 for the win this weekend.

In terms of teams, it's: Red Bull 1.66, Ferrari 2.25, Mercedes 11.00, McLaren 67.00, Alfa Romeo 126.00 and Alpine 151.00.

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