Max Verstappen arrives for this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix leading the championship for the first time in his career and the Red Bull driver is rated
6/5 joint-favourite for race victory along with his chief title rival Lewis Hamilton.
Like Monaco last time, the Baku City Circuit is made up of public roads. But while both tracks feature tight, narrow sections and ever-present barriers, power is king at Baku, which includes the longest flat-out section of track on the F1 calendar.
Bottas Looks Value for Bounce-Back Victory
All the circuits on the Formula 1 calendar are unique, but there is nothing remotely like the challenge of Baku, and Valtteri Bottas has proved a master of the layout.
The Mercedes driver suffered heartbreak in Monaco last time, as a stuck wheelnut during his pitstop forced him out of the race while he was lying second.
But Bottas has a history of bouncing back from adversity. The Finn qualified a disastrous eighth at Imola and then crashed out of the race while fighting for ninth place, which led to some observers sounding the death knell on his career. But Bottas responded by taking pole position in Portugal next time.
Hamilton’s unofficial wingman won from pole position the last time F1 raced at Baku in 2019, and he was unlucky not to win the previous year when a late puncture dropped him out of the lead. He looks a value bet at
8/1 to claim his first victory of the year.
Mercedes looked to have too much power for Verstappen’s Honda-engined Red Bull to live with in Portugal, and if that impression is accurate the Silver Arrows will be hard to catch this weekend.
Norris’ Flying Start
McLaren’s Lando Norris has made a superb start to the season and lies third in the drivers’ standings after five races.
The 21-year-old was handed a contract extension by his team over the Monaco weekend, and rewarded their faith with his second podium finish in four events.
Norris is known for his fine racecraft and has finished his last 10 grands prix in the points. His McLaren, equipped with Mercedes power, should be well suited to the circuit and in what is traditionally an incident-packed race, the young Bristolian is likely to be well-placed to capitalise on any dramas at the front as he chases another top-three finish.
Can Russell Finally Make His Point?
Despite a number of near-misses, George Russell is still looking for his first points as a Williams driver after 42 races for the team. But the young Brit could get a chance to end the long wait this weekend.
Russell has become known as Mr Saturday for his excellent qualifying performances. The young Brit has progressed to the second stage of qualifying at every event this year, with an 11th-place start in Portugal the highlight,
The Williams is a lower-midfield car but none too shabby on the straights and if he can steer clear of the inevitable incidents on Sunday Russell could easily end up in the top ten.
*All odds correct at time of writing