By News Team
Last Updated: 3rd June 2021
The F1 circus jumps from one famous street circuit to another as we head to Baku this weekend for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Red Bull enjoyed a sensational outing at Monaco, taking the lead in both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ championships, while Mercedes left with plenty of issues to solve.
Ahead of the weekend’s action in Azerbaijan we take a look at how the teams’ chances fair going into the Grand Prix and who to look out for.
Red Bull flying through the streets
Red Bull have had plenty to smile about already this season but their performance at the Monaco Grand Prix only added to that. They had the quickest car on the day and arguably would have been on pole position if it wasn’t for Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc putting himself in the wall to bring an end to the session.
Max Verstappen started the race at the front of the pack (although technically still from the second position) and that was where he stayed for the entirety, bringing home his first ever win at the famous street circuit. That win also meant that he was leading the Drivers’ championship for the first time in his career.
Sergio Perez also enjoyed a successful afternoon in the sister car. The Mexican qualified in ninth position the day before and thanks to the brilliant strategists on the pit wall, took the chequered flag in fourth. Perez was kept out while others in front of him darted into the pits. The overcut was more than successful, and Perez found himself within touching distance of the podium places.
Red Bull seem to be able to match Mercedes on most types of track, but a strong display in Monaco will have them feeling excited about the streets of Baku. Verstappen is currently 5/4 to win back-to-back races while his teammate Perez is 7/4 to get his first podium with his new team.
Mercedes looking to bounce back
It’s no secret that Mercedes had a shocker at Monaco. It was nothing like the Silver Arrows that we’ve come to know. Their strategy was all over the place and the retirement of Valtteri Bottas from second position was disappointing. Lewis Hamilton made his frustration clear on the team radio when finding out he was dropping positions through strategy calls, and he’ll be hoping to avoid a similar disaster this weekend.
Despite losing the championship lead and failing to make an impact on the tight streets of Monaco, the reigning champions’ fortunes could be on the up. Mercedes are strong at the Baku City Circuit and have finished on the top step of the podium three of the four times that racing has commenced at the track (including the 2016 European Grand Prix). Hamilton himself has won this race back in 2018 and is 6/5 to win this year’s renewal.
The hopes of his team-mate Bottas cannot be underestimated (8/1). He looked rapid at Monaco before retiring through no fault of his own. The Finn beat his team-mate to the chequered flag in the 2019 running of the race and is on the hunt for his first win of the season, having not finished higher than third so far.
The fight between McLaren and Ferrari
Ferrari had their best finish all season at Monaco when Carlos Sainz finished second, but it was bittersweet as they had the potential to not only lockout the front row in qualifying but also secure a double podium in the race.
Unfortunately for the Scuderia, Leclerc’s crash in qualifying meant that Sainz was unable to put in another flying lap and, even more disappointing, Leclerc couldn’t start the race the next day. Having managed to secure pole position, this was a bitter blow as the track is so hard to overtake on.
Nonetheless, that performance from Ferrari turned a few heads and it looks like they are going in the right direction. Will their Monaco performance translate identically over to the streets of Baku? In short, probably not. The Baku City Circuit is notoriously fast with one of the longest pit straights on the calendar. Although Ferrari could still be fighting for a podium, it’s unlikely they will be going wheel to wheel with the Mercedes and Red Bulls. Leclerc is currently 3/1 to finish on the podium and team-mate Sainz is 6/1.
McLaren have picked up where they left off this season. From finishing third in the Constructors’ championship last season, they look to be the best of the rest currently and have been sniffing around the podium places on more than one occasion. Lando Norris, who has recently committed his future to the Woking outfit, has finished third twice this season, with his most recent coming at Monaco. He’s been performing incredibly well recently, and he’s expected to pick up another haul of points once again this weekend.
His team-mate Daniel Ricciardo has been struggling of late. For a man who knows Monaco like the back of his hand being a former winner at the track, there was a disconnect between him and the car. He’s still bedding in at McLaren, having moved from Renault at the end of last season. With a man of his experience and talent, you can expect him to come out swinging this weekend, however. Both McLaren drivers are 4/11 to finish within the points on Sunday.