Ten days after the Monaco GP, the Formula One World Championship resumes its European tour with the celebration of the Azerbaijani GP. Thus, the sixth appointment of the season’s calendar will take place at Baku this weekend (June 4-6).
On the shores of the Caspian Sea, we can expect a new episode in the battle between Mercedes and Red Bull. The blue team and its leading pilot Max Verstappen will debut the leadership of both the drivers and constructor’s standings after stealing both positions from Mercedes in Monte Carlo.
The Dutch driver currently commands the individual classification with 105 points against the 101 of Lewis Hamilton, winner in Portugal, Bahrain & Spain. His triumph at the Principality, added to the seventh place of the Briton, has propped him up to the top of the standings for the first time in his career.
At the team level, Red Bull was also able to take advantage of the overall lacklustre performance of the German team at the Côte d’Azur. Along with the poor result of #44, Valtteri Bottas was knocked out of the game following a dreadful pit stop.
The other Red Bull of Checo Pérez, on the other hand, finished in fourth place on board his RB16B, enabling the Austrian team to snatch the lead from Mercedes at the Constructors’ standings.
Great battle Hamilton vs Verstappen
A rotund reaction, however, can be expected from the team of the star this weekend, even more so at a race that has been traditionally friendly to them. Mercedes won the last two editions of the Azerbaijan GP in 2018 and 2019.
The stop and go layout of the track, which features the longest straight of the season (two kilometres), will play in favour of the sheer power of the W12. The peculiarities of other sectors of this street racetrack, however, could be more favourable to the blue cars.
The area surrounding the old city, for instance, and its rise to the fortress with the narrowest stretches of all the contest (7 meters), will demand a great aerodynamic load and traction from the cars.
All in all, we can expect a very close contest between both rivals with a slight superiority in favour of the Germans. In a season marked by the unpredictable, however, anything can happen.
McLaren & Ferrari, rivals for the third place
Everything points out to Ferrari having a hard time in Baku after that beautiful dream that was the race at the Côte d’Azur. The SF21 suffers from a power deficit, so Italian squad will have to concentrate all of its efforts in containing McLaren.
The Woking cars with their powerfull Mercedes engines and their very efficient chassis should be able to get ahead of the Italians. Just as with the intense fight to lead the standings, there is also a bitter struggle going on for third place.
Meanwhile, his teammate Daniel Ricciardo, outperformed by the young Briton, is in desperate need to make some progress in his arduous adaptation to the MCL35M.
Aston Martin, Alpha Tauri & Alpine, to fight for the fifth place
Further down the grid, Aston Martin, Alpha Tauri and Alpine will be engaged in their very own battle for fifth. Finally, Alfa Romeo, Williams and Haas will be happy if they manage to dodge the last place in Azerbaijan.
Images of Azerbaijan GP: Red Bull Racing.