Sergio Perez’s Monaco Grand Prix victory opened up the fight for the championship, but can he topple Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen or Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc on the streets of Baku? Head over to F1 Play to enter and participate in our prediction game.
Competing for pole
In four Grands Prix, Ferrari and Mercedes each have two pole positions in Baku, with Leclerc the last driver to take P1 on the grid here in 2021. Four red flags helped the Monegasque case this Saturday, with Yuki Tsunoda and Carlos Sainz bringing this session to an early end with their respective incidents.
Leclerc’s pole here in 2021 was therefore a shock, but he has a chance to become F1’s first poleman in Baku this year. After all, he mastered the streets of Monaco a few Saturdays ago…
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Azerbaijan GP 2021 qualifying: Leclerc takes pole position as Tsunoda and Sainz crash
On his home streets this season, Leclerc was backed up by Sainz for a Ferrari double. But the situation could change in Azerbaijan as Red Bull would have the straight-line speed advantage over their rivals.
Not only that, but there’s also a dilemma facing competitors this weekend when it comes to wing levels – and that means Mercedes could even enter the fray. They are underdogs, but sacrificing wing level could see them crumble in qualifying…
Despite that danger, it will likely be a four-driver fight for pole position in qualifying for the 2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, while Mercedes’ George Russell and Lewis Hamilton have a slim chance on Saturday. Note that Baku hosted the European Grand Prix in 2016.
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Pole positions in the last four races:
• 2021 – Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
• 2019 – Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
• 2018 – Sebastien Vettel (Ferrari)
• 2017 – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
FAN VIEW: Baku is another street circuit, but it’s very different from Monaco. Max Verstappen leads the F1 Play vote to be fastest over a single lap after Red Bull was by far second best behind Ferrari for qualifying pace last time out. There is good support for Sergio Perez and a little for Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.
In the mix for the win
Azerbaijan loves to show off, so much so that we’ve had four different winners since the GP started in 2017. And although Ferrari took two pole positions in Baku, Red Bull took victory twice, as did mercedes.
Moreover, it was only in 2019 that there was a pole position winner – Valtteri Bottas – while Daniel Ricciardo won from 10th in 2017 and Perez from sixth in 2021 for Red Bull. So it’s fair to say that it’s unlikely, but not impossible, for the poleman to cling on to victory here.
After Perez’s Monaco win, can he make it two in two? The Mexican scored podiums here for Force India in 2016 (at the European GP) and 2018 and won for Red Bull when Verstappen crashed out in 2021, the eventual champion having led 29 laps. Note that the Dutch driver has only finished one Azerbaijan Grand Prix, with the P4 in 2019 (while he was P8 in 2016). Maybe he can finally be the first to cross the checkered flag in 2022.
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As for Ferrari, Leclerc’s results in Baku are P6, P5 and P4 in his last three respective appearances; Sainz has a better P5 finish here for Renault in 2018. Both expect to be strong in Azerbaijan, but there are a myriad of factors, including crashes and safety cars, that could derail the race leader. race, whatever it is.
Mercedes are underdogs for victory this weekend – unless chaos plays in their favour. And chaos might strike; there were six retirements here in 2017 and 2018.
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Victories in the last four races:
• 2021 – Sergio Perez (Red Bull)
• 2019 – Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
• 2018 – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
• 2017 – Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull)
FAN VIEW: Things couldn’t be closer than they are right now, with Verstappen edging Leclerc by a handful of F1 Play votes – that’s recount territory. There is support for Perez after his tremendous win in Monaco and the same for Sainz after following the Mexican home to the Principality.
The underdogs of the podium
Unlike in Monaco, there is no rain forecast this weekend, but that does not mean that we should not count on a mixed podium. In just four Grands Prix, Baku has seen six different teams reach the podium (seven if you differentiate between Aston Martin and Force India) and a staggering eight different drivers finish in the top three.
Again, this is largely due to the spike in dropouts that Baku attracts, with its long straight leading to a complex of twisty, tight bends that may encourage some drivers to take a chance. Only one of the last four races has not been hit by a safety car, with the general lack of clearance having triggered only one virtual safety car in the last four GPs.
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So safety cars are likely, as are shock podiums. Outside of the top four, Russell and his Mercedes team-mate Hamilton should be considered a close contender for the podium, while Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel has done well here in previous years. Don’t forget Lando Norris, the McLaren driver who hopes to return to 100% after a bout of tonsillitis. He’s a constant threat to top teams when things don’t go their way…
Podiums in the last four races:
• Mercedes – 4
• Ferrari – 2
• Force India/Aston Martin – 2
• Red Bull – 2
• Alpha Tauri – 1
• Williams – 1
FAN VIEW: Russell is unsurprisingly the pick of the drivers set to challenge Red Bull and Ferrari after posting seven consecutive top-five finishes in 2022. The lack of love for Hamilton from F1 Play voters is very evident in same time – he even trails McLaren, Lando Norris, in the vote to finish in the top three in Baku.
The top 10 could be open to literally anyone on the grid, given Baku’s generosity. But the Ferrari-powered Alfa Romeos of Valtteri Bottas and, to a lesser extent, rookie Zhou Guanyu, should be seen as the favorites to score some points. Haas has fallen behind recently, but Kevin Magnussen managed seventh place here for Team USA in 2017.
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Alpine are another team to watch, with Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso likely to fight for points, the latter having scored in the last two races in a row while Ocon faltered in Monaco with a five-second penalty.
Neither Pierre Gasly nor Yuki Tsunoda have scored in Monaco, but both are hoping to unleash the power of AlphaTauri’s Red Bull PU, considered best-in-class by many, to get back on the scoresheet – Gasly saying before the weekend that he wanted to “defend” his podium here from 12 months ago…
Points in the last four races:
• Mercedes – 96
• Ferrari – 84
• Red Bull – 62
• Aston Martin/Racing Point/Force India – 51
• McLaren – 32
• AlphaTauri/Toro Rosso – 26
• Williams – 19
• Alpine/Renault – 18
• Alfa Romeo/Sauber – 11
• Haas – 6
FAN VIEW: Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo) and Fernando Alonso (Alpine) are both highly regarded by F1 Play players for scoring again in Azerbaijan after picking up points at Monaco. There is also plenty of support for Aston Martin man Sebastian Vettel and a little for AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda and Pierre Gasly.