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Formula 1 Preview: Azerbaijan

Written by Max Smolarski, Edited by Sasha Macmillen

Even though the track we go to next is very accident-prone, with 12 accident-related retirements from its five years of running, the Baku City Circuit easily provides a spectacle every time the Formula 1 circus comes to Azerbaijan.

The domination of Mercedes in 2016 made the fans feel like the fastest cars will always win here, with the entirety of sector 3 (turns 16 to finish) and towards turn 1 being flat out. Since then, however, the loom of the circuit became clear. The wider, high downforce wings and wider tyres proved to give the Caucasian track a lot more chaos. Despite all the domination calls throughout recent years, no one has won the race, got pole position for it, or scored the fastest lap on more than one occasion.

Yes, in five races at Baku there were only nine podium finishers, Vettel and Perez both appearing three times, so it’s not insanely chaotic, but the process in which the Grand Prix gets to this point is what matters. The best way to say anything about this weekend is to give a suggestion of what can happen is by mixing how fast the cars are in Miami, a similar track but without upgrades, and in Monaco, the most recent Grand Prix.

As per the maximum speeds, an unusual Haas stands out, with Kevin being the fastest at the Miami speed trap into turn 17 during the race, as well as fastest across the finish line in qualifying, with Mick Schumacher being fastest going into the Nouvelle chicane on the Monaco Saturday. Despite the unlucky race for both cars, Mick has been optimistic about the upcoming race, with it being his and the teams’ second highest finish of 13th last season (arguably highest on merit since his highest of 12th was second last of the finishers in Hungary).

The Ferrari and Mercedes cars seemed to porpoise quite a lot during the Monaco weekend, and since Baku is also a full-on street circuit, these problems will blow up throughout the drivers’ journey in sector 3. The Red Bulls have been very stable on the straights, but sector 2 might pose a challenge, with the twisty corners and the long set of left turns giving Ferrari an advantage. McLaren aren’t so quick on the straights as any of the top 3 constructors, but their bouncing also seems eradicated. The best way to know, however, is to find out this weekend, as all the porpoising will only be either non-existent or quite extreme.


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