Formula 1

PREVIEW: 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix – Baku City Circuit

4 Mins read
Credit: LAT Images

The Azerbaijan Grand Prix hasn’t been part of the Formula 1 circus for long, but it has sure given us some exciting races. The four times the race has been previously held at the Baku City Circuit, we’ve been lucky enough to see four different winners. Will it be five for five? Only this weekend can tell.

The Baku City Circuit was also one of the casualties of the 2020 season, cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic meaning we haven’t been to the Caspian Sea city since 2019.

What Happened at the Monaco Grand Prix?

Max Verstappen stormed to his second win of the year, sending himself above Lewis Hamilton to sit top of the Driver’s Championship and Red Bull Racing to the top of the Constructors’ Championship.

Pole-sitter Charles Leclerc was unable to start the race due to a crash he had during qualifying. During the out lap to the grid, Leclerc complained of an issue. Despite the cars gearbox being ok to race, the team didn’t check the driveshaft, which ended up being his downfall. The team could not fix the issue before the race start meaning the Monegasque driver was missing from his home race. 

The race was all in all lacklustre but did have some moments of drama. Valtteri Bottas was forced to retire due to problems during a pit stop as the team struggled to remove the front left tyre from his car. After a minute of trying with no luck, the team were forced to retire the car. Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula OneTeam didn’t get the tyre off the car until the following Tuesday, when the car was back at Brackley.

Carlos Sainz Jr. finished the race in second place, securing his first podium with Scuderia Ferrari. Following him in third was Lando Norris in the McLaren.

Sebastian Vettel was voted Driver of the Day, the Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team driver climbed from eighth to fifth and claimed his first points of the season. 

What Happened at the 2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix?

The 2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix was a tight contest between the two Mercedes drivers, with Bottas being the one on top. Hamilton spent a lot of the race in the shadow of his teammate and was never able to get the jump on him for the win, finishing just under two seconds behind him to claim second place.

The race was full of overtaking, with drivers switching positions all over the grid.

Daniil Kyvat and Daniel Ricciardo were involved in a bizarre collision. The two locked up coming out of Turn 3. Ricciardo reversed back onto the track, not noticing Kyvat was still behind him and crashed into the Toro Rosso. The pair ultimately had to retire. 

Joining the two Mercedes on the podium was Vettel in third, ten seconds away from Hamilton.

The Circuit

The 6.003km street racetrack is the third-longest circuit in the F1 calendar. Drivers will race round for a total of 51 laps, making a total race distance of 306.049km.

The lap record was set in 2019 by Leclerc. His time of 1:43.009 is the lap to beat. 

Sectors, Corners and DRS Zones

There is a grand total of 20 turns at the Baku City Circuit, twelve to the left and eight to the right. Sector 1 consists of Turns 1 through to 5. Sector 2 is very congested, having eleven turns in total, Turn 6 through to Turn fifteen. The third and final sector has the last turns, Turn 16 through to Turn 20.

There are two DRS Detection Zones on track. Baku is home to the longest straight on the F1 calendar. At 2.2km, drivers will have DRS enabled at Turn 20. The second DRS zone is along the straight between Turn 2 and Turn 3.

Tyre Strategy

Pirelli have opted to go softer for the 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix. In 2019, the drivers used the mid-ranged tyres. However, due to the hard tyres not being used in the race, Pirelli have decided on the three softest compounds, white striped C3, yellow striped C4 and red striped C5, in hope it mixes put the strategy. 

What should we look out for this year? 

The top of both championships has seen a change with Verstappen and Red Bull moving to the front of the drivers and constructors’ championships. So far, Verstappen is yet to finish any lower than second place and Red Bull have only had one race with both drivers not scoring points. No longer are they just a threat to Mercedes.

Mercedes will want to bounce back quick after a poor display in Monaco. A retirement for Bottas and a seventh-place finish for Hamilton left the team in the dust of Red Bull. Mercedes is just one point away from Red Bull and Hamilton is five from Verstappen so all can change in Baku.

The battle for third place is really hotting up with McLaren F1 Team and Ferrari split by just two points. Both Ferrari drivers have had a good start to the year and so has McLaren’s Norris. If Ricciardo can start performing in the McLaren, then they’ll be the ones to watch. 

Elsewhere, Aston Martin, Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda and Alpine F1 Team sit fifth, sixth and seventh, just one point abreast from each other. Aston Martin climbed to fifth after Vettel’s heroics in Monaco but will now need to be consistent to keep that spot.

Uralkali Haas F1 Team and Williams Racing are the only two teams not off the mark yet, still sitting on zero points. George Russell has got close but still cannot score in the Williams.

What’s the schedule?

Friday 4 June

09:30 BST / 12:30 Local Time – Free Practice 1
13:00 BST / 16:00 Local Time – Free Practice 2

Saturday 5 June

10:00 BST / 13:00 Local Time – Free Practice 3
13:00 BST / 16:00 Local Time – Qualifying

Sunday 6 June

13:00 BST / 16:00 Local Time – Race

How can I keep up with the action?

Follow all the action at the Checkered Flag with our extensive coverage, quotes and analysis of every session of the 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix. You can watch all the coverage live on Sky F1 and see highlights on Channel 4.

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