Fresh off his 3rd career victory at last month’s Monaco Grand Prix, Perez will be looking to go back-to-back for the first time in his career this weekend in Baku. Adding to the Mexican’s undoubtedly high confidence, he won here last year and has historically performed well at this track.
Meanwhile, Leclerc will be hopeful that his team don’t blow a third straight race for him, and he can get back in the title hunt. The Baku track has produced some stellar races in its short history, and we can only hope for another exciting race this weekend.
Practice 1: Friday 21:00 - 22:00
Practice 2: Saturday 00:00 - 01:00
Practice 3: Saturday 21:00 - 22:00
Qualifying: Sunday 00:00 - 01:00
Race: Sunday 21:00 - 23:00
Monaco Grand Prix Review
Once again, Charles Leclerc topped the majority of practice sessions throughout the Grand Prix weekend, as he did at the Spanish Grand Prix, and once again he took Pole Position. Carlos Sainz locked out the front row for the Ferrari team, giving them an excellent chance of making some headway into the lead the Red Bull’s now enjoyed.
The race began with a rolling start, given the wet conditions, and all drivers were conservative in the opening stages, making sure not to stick the car in the barriers. Pierre Gasly, along with some of the tail enders pitted early for intermediate tyres, and after a few laps Gasly showed they were the tyre to be on. The front runners didn’t budge though, realising track position on this circuit is king. Leclerc pulled away nicely, with the race very much in his hands.
On lap 17 Sergio Perez decided to stop, coming in for the intermediate tyres. This would prove the catalyst for how the race would pan out. Leclerc pitted two laps later to cover off on Perez, however, came out behind the Mexican. Just 3 laps later Sainz pitted from the lead for dry tyres, with Leclerc stopping again. However, there was a miscommunication as the team wanted him to stay out, infuriating Leclerc and dropping him to 4th after the pit stops all shook out. Perez and Verstappen stopped the next lap, with Perez 1st and Verstappen 3rd. This is how the race ended, another missed opportunity for Ferrari. How many more times can they curtail Leclerc this season?
Azerbaijan Preview and Predictions
The circuit at Baku lends itself to entertaining racing, with the circuit being a street circuit in the same vein as Monaco, there are also two long straights and some high-speed corners sprinkled in, meaning the cars are tested in every area. With the high speeds mixed with the surrounding walls, there is always a chance of interesting results and safety car / red flag chances.
The crazy outright prices of Sergio Perez are no more, with him paying $9 to win the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Whilst the Mexican has shown his abilities this season, matching up very closely with teammate Verstappen, he hasn’t got it done consistently enough throughout his career for me to believe he has a chance.
I see this weekend going very similarly to weekends past, with Leclerc dominating through Saturday. The Ferrari appears to be well suited to most circuits, and the tight and twisty sections of this circuit should suit the Ferrari perfectly. As for the long straights, the Ferrari has shown this season that despite not having the top end speed of the Red Bull, they still manage to get from one end of long straights to the other in a similar period, showing the acceleration and torque of the Ferrari is superior.
So, I lean Leclerc for Pole Position, however I just can’t bet on him or Ferrari to win the race. This conclusion is two-fold. First, Ferrari seem to be experts at making the wrong calls and making simple mistakes on a regular basis. This has continued to hurt Leclerc this season and could end up being the main reason they don’t take the title. The second is the superior top-end speed of the Red Bull. If Verstappen (or Perez) can stay close enough to Leclerc, they will have a huge advantage down the straights and should pass Leclerc with ease during the race.
Further down, my bullish approach on the Mercedes has been knocked down a peg. The natural street circuit bumps seemed to affect them quite severely in Monaco, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it again in Baku. They’ll still be top 10, but minus attrition I don’t see them pushing for a podium.
One man who consistently overperforms his car at this circuit is Seb Vettel. He loves this track and despite the Aston Martin being a poor car, don’t be surprised at all to see Vettel well above where his car should be.
Pierre Gasly has also shown decent pace here in the past, and if he doesn’t get screwed over in qualifying again, should be right in the mix for a points finish at plus money.
Charles Leclerc (Pole Position) - ($2.16 at Betfair) 2u
Seb Vettel (Top 6 Finish) - ($12 at Unibet) 0.5u
Seb Vettel (Top 10 Finish) - ($2.50 at Unibet) 1.5u
Pierre Gasly (Top 6 Finish) - ($6 at NEDS) 1u
Pierre Gasly (Top 10 Finish) - ($2 at NEDS) 2u
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