Formula 1

Second Street Race of the Season – Azerbaijan Grand Prix preview

After a twisty Monaco GP, the world's top racers will be heading to the significantly faster straights on the Azerbaijanian streets.

The memories of Monaco GP are still lingering in Monte Carlo’s streets. But it’s time to get ready for the action at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. We are five races into the season and this year’s championship battle looks quite fierce. And heading to the City of Winds that has delivered some spectacular drama in the past, we are expecting nothing less this time around too. 

Did someone say wind? Well, the Silver Arrows Camp seems to have a tough week ahead. Azerbaijan GP is making a comeback after a gap of about 14 months as last year’s event was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Baku is another street circuit, but features significantly faster straights than Monaco. The Baku City Circuit is a 6 km track with 8 right and 12 left corners. The world’s top racers will be doing a 306km marathon this Sunday and here’s what we are expecting from the 51 lap competition. Baku is also famous for Vettel playing bumper cars with Hamilton… forcefully!

Red Bull vs Mercedes – Beginning with the top of the table, the leadership fight will go on the streets of Baku. On one side Max Verstappen and Red Bull will be looking forward to stretching their Monaco lead by mimicking their victory of the first Azerbaijan Grand Prix in 2017. Verstappen needs to be extra cautious though, and not repeat the famous crash of 2018 when he collided with his then-team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.

Mercedes on the other hand have won on three of F1’s four previous visits to the Azerbaijani capital and will be trying to bounce back after Monte Carlo’s disaster. Both Mercedes drivers bagged the podium in the 2019 race with Valtteri Bottas walking away as the clear winner, followed by his teammate Lewis Hamilton.

However, things are pretty different this time around. Not just the table leaders, Red Bull & Verstappen’s performance will be a problem for the W12s at Baku; the capital city infamous for its windy environment may also provide extra challenges for the Silver Arrow chassis.

Ferrari – The Prancing Horse had its best and the worst moments of the season, both at Monte Carlo. The homeboy Charles Leclerc while managed to sweep the P1 in the qualifier he missed the main race amidst Ferrari’s “mis”-management chaos.

The Italian team most certainly missed its best chance to get its first victory of the season. However, they got the consolation prize as Leclerc new teammate Sainz Jr. secured his and Ferrari’s first podium of the 2021 Championship. However, with their share of lessons learned, both the talented young racers will try to produce a performance similar to the Monaco qualifiers during this weekend at Baku.

McLaren & Aston Martin – Ferrari wasn’t the only one who found their lost mojo in the street of Monte Carlo. The British automakers, McLaren and AM also managed to unleash their potential at the Monaco GP. While McLaren managed to get their second podium with Lando Norris crossing the chequered flag behind Sainz’ SF21, the four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel finally managed to open his points tally after what we can say a very dull opening to the season.

Both the drivers will be looking forward to maintaining their form and not labelled as a “one-hit show”. The winner of the crazy 2017 Azerbaijan GP, Daniel Ricciardo will also be looking forward to doing some similar magic with its new team, McLaren after a rather tumultuous performance at Monte Carlo. Vettel’s teammate Lance Stroll will also be looking forward to shutting the critics after a set of consistently good races.

The rest of the racers and teams will also be there to give a tough fight to these top-flight contenders, adding the fun quotient… with the blue flags? However, all eyes will be on Red Bull and Mercedes’ rivalry at the streets of Baku, especially the current favorite of the league, Max Verstappen. Or will Ferrari and McLaren’s fans enjoy moments like Chelsea FC?

The first free practice is scheduled for Friday, June 4. The practice session of  Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix 2021 will be available on Star Sports Select 2 SD/HD and the Disney+ Hotstar VIP app.

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Himanshu Harsh

My love for automobiles is what fuels my writing. You can catch me twisting synth knobs when I'm not drooling over cars.

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