Written by Ashlee Josias, Edited by Leah Brown
When we think of F1 drivers having a “cursed” track, most think of Charles Leclerc and Monaco. Leclerc had failed to ever complete a full race distance at his home grounds, dating back to his Formula 2 season in 2017, until the 2022 Monaco Grand Prix - but that finish was filled with drama in itself. He fell from P1 to P4, at the fault of team miscommunication.
However, there is another driver who has his own bad omen at a certain track: Max Verstappen at Baku. The Azerbaijan track has certainly brought the driver his fair share of bad results.
Max has only finished one out of the four previous Grand Prix at the Baku City Circuit, not counting when Azerbaijan was named as the European Grand Prix in 2016. When Formula 1 first held the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in 2017, Verstappen was in fourth position when he unfortunately had to retire the car due to engine problems, marking his fourth non-finish in six races that season. What topped this entire disaster off was that his then-teammate Daniel Ricciardo went on to win the race.
Now we move onto 2018 and the infamous Ricciardo and Verstappen crash at the circuit. This crash would go down in the early stages of Daniel Ricciardo leaving the team for Renault for the 2019 season. The crash forced both drivers to retire and both were reprimanded, sharing the blame for the crash. Ricciardo opposed this, and felt as though he was “made to feel guilty.” This was the second retirement in a row for Max at the street circuit. Now it was Baku 2 - Max 0.
In 2019, the only year where Max did not DNF, he placed fourth, whilst mainly having an ontrack battle with Charles Leclerc. Possibly this would be the end of the Baku curse for Max? Unfortunately two years later the bad luck would return.
In 2021, Max was on the way to win the race after a crash from Lance Stroll, due to tire failure, caused a restart. This was all good and well until lap 46 out of 51 when Max’s tire also had a failure and he was forced to retire. This DNF could have been an extremely detrimental point in his championship battle with Lewis Hamilton, until Hamilton was also forced to retire at the cause of something (surprisingly) not tire related.
Will Max ever have a good Baku race? Or is this his own Monaco? Of course we cannot directly compare the irony of Charles Leclerc and Monaco to this, as Max finished at — and even won — his first and only home Grand Prix in 2021 at Zandvoort in the Netherlands. But maybe 2022 is the year Max finally beats the odds at Baku.