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From one concrete jungle to another, Formula One travels to the streets of Baku for the first time since 2019, for a welcome return of the high-speed, high drama Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Catch live blog coverage on The Roar from 9:50 pm AEST.
The streets of Monaco saw Red Bull take the lead of the constructor’s championship for the first time since 2013, while Max Verstappen’s win saw him lead the standings for the first time in his career.
A dismal weekend for the reigning world champions, which included a 43-hour pit-stop for Valtteri Bottas, as well as strategy calls and lack of pace frustrating Lewis Hamilton – has Mercedes on the back foot in Baku.
The six km street course blends long straights with low-speed corners, including the infamous narrow Castle section. Unlike Monaco, teams that boast low-drag and high-power setups will be favoured across the 51-laps.
Also assisting with low drag will be the controversial flexi-rear wing which has been under intense scrutiny this weekend on the Red Bull and Ferrari cars.
With the benefit of a slipstream from Hamilton, it was back-to-back pole positions for Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc – who stunned the field by qualifying ahead of Red Bull and Mercedes for the top spot.
A red flag at the end of Q3 triggered by a crash from first-time top-ten runner Yuki Tsunoda and Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz denied the likes of Verstappen to improve on their final laps and challenge for pole.
Mercedes have struggled throughout practice with their tyre warmup, but Hamilton was able to join Leclerc on the front-row – while Verstappen heads the second row ahead of Pierre Gasly in the AlphaTauri.
There were four red flags during qualifying, with one of them caused by Daniel Ricciardo who crashed out of Q2 and ended up in 13th. McLaren teammate Lando Norris is set to start sixth, but that is pending a steward’s investigation into the Briton breaching one of the red flags.
Overtaking is very possible at this track unlike Monaco and also the probability of a safety car is much higher too, given the number of red flags already seen during qualifying.
There have been no repeat winners from the past four visits to Baku, though Red Bull have won here thanks to former driver Ricciardo. Can Verstappen however add his name to this short winner’s list and claim back-to-back wins?
Catch live blog coverage on The Roar from 9:50 pm AEST as Baku prepares for another fascinating Formula One race.
Lights out: 10:00pm (AEST)
Venue: Baku City Circuit, Azerbaijan
TV: Fox Sports
Online: Kayo Sports, Foxtel
1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), 2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), 3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull), 4. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri), 5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari), 6. Lando Norris (McLaren). 7. Sergio Perez (Red Bull), 8. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri), 9. Fernando Alonso (Alpine), 10. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes), 11. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin), 12. Esteban Ocon (Alpine), 13. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren), 14. Kimi Räikkönen (Alfa Romeo), 15. George Russell (Williams), 16. Nicholas Latifi (Williams), 17. Mick Schumacher (Haas), 18. Nikita Mazepin (Haas), 19. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin), 20. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo)