After a dramatic weekend in Monaco, Formula One tackles another street circuit this afternoon in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Sergio Pérez, fresh from his first victory of the year, makes this championship a three-horse race.
After Monaco, Red Bull will be aiming for back-to-back victories later today as the team attempt to stretch their lead in this year’s championship race.
A third musketeer has emerged after Monaco in the form of Pérez, as the Mexican finds himself just 15 points off team-mate Max Verstappen’s position in the drivers’ championship.
It was just 12 months ago that Pérez claimed his first victory of his Red Bull tenure in Baku in Azerbaijan, and he returns to his happy hunting ground looking to replicate that result.
Ahead of the race, Pérez said:
Championship leader Verstappen will be happy to return to a more “normal” track. While the Dutchman was disappointed with third place last time out, he still extended his lead over title rival Charles Leclerc to nine points.
The 24-year-old found himself in command last season before a sudden tyre blowout saw Verstappen retire from the race. Nevertheless, Baku is a track that pushes the drivers to the edge and beyond. with the barriers just millimetres away from the cars.
It was a nightmare weekend in Monaco for Monégasque Leclerc as the pole-sitter ended up finishing fourth after leading the opening stages of the race. A communication mistake caused both Sainz and Leclerc to pit on the same lap meaning their talisman was relegated behind both Red Bulls.
The bright starlet has been struggling to claim a win recently, with his last being in Australia – five races ago – as Red Bull continues to go from strength to strength. It is key to see if Ferrari has focused more on their race car today, as they clearly continue to have the edge in qualifying.
While George Russell continued his streak of finishing within the top six in every race this season, Lewis Hamilton had to settle for a lacklustre eighth-place finish as he was left frustrated by Fernando Alonso in Monaco. It is clear to see the frustration that engulfs the seven-time world champion given the competitiveness of his 2022 Mercedes car.
Earlier in the weekend ex-title rival Sebastian Vettel questioned Hamilton’s excitement and commitment as he finds himself 75 points off the title battle. After seemingly taking a big step forward in Barcelona, Baku should see the team take a step back into the top six with the high-speed track being better suited to their W13 car.
Although it does look increasingly likely that the pairs’ battle this year will be with one and another before they look to claim race victories once again. The streets of Baku are known for their speed and drama in recent years with its tricky castle section being one that tests the driver’s concertation levels.
Today’s race will see the drivers travel 6.003km to complete only one of what is a 51-lap race. The circuit will remain with two DRS zones in both sectors one and three as the track begins to narrow in sector two as the drivers push all of the boundaries, in a bid to final added lap time.
We can expect another titanic battle down the long main straight between both Red Bull and Ferrari today, whilst strategy is also key, especially for Leclerc who is hungry to get back to winning ways after he admitted his team “cannot afford” to make any more mistakes in this year’s title battle.
FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem meanwhile tried late Thursday to clarify statements that he made during the Monaco Grand Prix weekend, in which he questioned the non-racing statements of some of the drivers. Speaking to Grandprix247 the Emirati former rally driver said that Niki Lauda and Alain Prost only cared about driving.
“Now, [Sebastian] Vettel drives a rainbow bicycle, Lewis [Hamilton] is passionate about human rights and [Lando] Norris addresses mental health. Everybody has the right to think. To me, it is about deciding whether we should impose our beliefs in something over the sport all the time.”
On Thursday Ben Sulayem tweeted the following:
Whether that is enough to show FIA’s commitment to meaningful change remains to be seen.