Max Verstappen leads the Formula One driver’s championship and Red Bull Racing lead the Constructors title race for the first time since 2013 as the F1 carnival heads to back to Baku.
The maiden Azerbaijan Grand Prix took place at the Baku street circuit in 2017 and at the time it was one of the five street circuits part of the Formula 1 calendar. As of 2021, it is one of four street circuits on the current calendar that include Monaco, Singapore and the newly included Jeddah Street Circuit.
Street circuits bring a different level of excitement to Formula 1, and after a one-year break due to the pandemic, the roar of the Formula 1 cars will finally echo around the streets of Baku as the much-awaited Azerbaijan Grand Prix is finally upon us. Let’s take a look back at the previous winners at Baku and their road to victory in each event:
2017 – Daniel stands tall through the drama
Daniel Ricciardo stood victorious at the inaugural Azerbaijan Grand Prix after a stunning performance. The Australian clattered the wall in qualifying and started a lowly 10th on race day, while Lewis Hamilton took pole.
The first lap of the race was chaotic, with multiple crashes taking place and Ricciardo was collateral damage. He was forced to pit on the 6th lap due to debris on his car and re-joined the race all the way down in 17th spot. With teammate Verstappen retiring, Red Bull’s hopes rested on Ricciardo’s shoulders in a race that was red flagged on lap 22 due to debris on track from multiple crashes.
The race restarted behind the safety car with Ricciardo up in fifth, behind, Hamilton, Vettel, Massa and Stroll. Ricciardo pulled off his signature late breaking move at turn one, overtaking both Williams drivers into 3rd. Hamilton was then forced to pit on the 31st lap due to a loose headrest, while Vettel was given a 10 second stop and go penalty. Vettel served his penalty on the 33rd lap which meant Ricciardo now outrageously led the pack. He drove an impeccable race from there on out to clinch first, with Bottas 2nd and Lance Stroll picking up a maiden podium finish in 3rd.
2018 – Lewis takes charge!
Lewis Hamilton took home the win at the 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix after qualifying second and starting the race behind title rival, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
The top five drivers had a clean start and fortunately missed out on the pandemonium which ensued behind them. Ocon and Räikkönen’s crash caused a first lap safety car and meant an immediate retirement for the Force India driver. The race was relatively clean from there on out except for Hulkenberg’s crash on lap 10.
It was on lap 40 though when the rhythm of the race changed completely. Both Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo ended up crashing into each other, which not only forced their retirement but also brought out another safety car. The safety car did not enter the pits until the 48th lap due to another incident with Haas driver Romain Grosjean which meant Bottas led the pack at the restart, with Hamilton in 3rd. A failed move from Vettel pushed the Brit into 2nd pushed Vettel down to 4th. Hamilton was then gifted the lead on the 49th lap after his teammate, Bottas suffered a tyre puncture and failed to finish. Hamilton went on to claim first, with Kimi Räikkönen behind him and Sergio Perez in third and it was a win that proved crucial in the race for both the Driver’s and Constructor’s Championships.
2019 – Redemption for Bottas!
The 2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix was redemption for Valterri Bottas. After being so close to winning in 2018, he finally tasted victory a year later. The Mercedes driver was brilliant throughout the weekend and started the race from pole.
The opening lap was pretty tame in comparison to the previous years, and Bottas managed to hold on to the lead from a charging Lewis on lap 1. Everything went according to plan for Mercedes with Bottas pitting on the 11th lap and Hamilton pitting a lap later. Charles Leclerc kept Bottas from reclaiming the lead till the 31st lap as the Monégasque had not pitted. From then on, the Finn drove with aplomb, claiming a well-deserved win, with Hamilton completing a Mercedes 1-2 and Vettel completing the podium.
The 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix is set up perfectly, with both Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships being blown wide open after the Monaco Grand Prix. Both Mercedes drivers will be looking to get back to form after their disappointment at Monaco while Charles Leclerc would also be raring to get back on track after showing great pace at his home qualifying. Max Verstappen is perhaps the favourite after leading the title race for the first time and would be looking to extend his and Red Bulls lead at the top of both Championships. F1 Races at Baku very rarely disappoint so strap yourselves in this Sunday, as we could be witnessing one of the races of the season!
[Image Credit: Red Bull Content Pool]