August 12, 2022

From the next round of the tense fight between the top two teams to a thorn in the side of Mercedes; and McLaren with work to do at almost inevitable interruptions, we pick out some of the key things to watch out for on the streets of Baku during Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix…

1. Another fight between Ferrari and Red Bull

This season may have been Red Bull’s most frequent path to racing so far – with Sergio Perez’s win at Monaco their fourth in a row – but the qualifying battle has been won by Ferrari and Charles Leclerc so far. now.

READ MORE: Leclerc grabs pole from Baku as Perez joins him on the front row in Azerbaijan Grand Prix qualifying

Leclerc took four straight poles with a superb final lap in qualifying – his sixth in eight races – and that’s back-to-back pole positions in Baku too after being fastest here in 2021 too.

From a Championship perspective, it’s beautifully set up as Leclerc will lead the field but he has both Red Bulls behind him, with Perez joining him in the front row after a good weekend so far. The Mexican is just 15 points off the Championship lead and has looked slightly more comfortable than team-mate Max Verstappen this weekend so far, buoyed by his Monaco win and the new contract of two years in his pocket.

Perez is also looking to become the first double winner of this race after winning here last year, while Carlos Sainz moved from provisional pole to fourth at the end of Q3 and will also be a factor as the top two teams fight for victory.

Azerbaijan GP 2022 qualifying: Leclerc beats Pérez to claim sensational pole position

2. Gasly splits the Mercedes pair

Mercedes may have been getting the upper hand in their drive in Barcelona, ​​but they were a bit behind in Monaco and are also struggling to resolve their rebound issues in Baku, leaving them unable to join the battle for pole position. But in this context, they almost secured the third line for themselves – but for Pierre Gasly.

It hasn’t been the easiest season for Gasly so far and he only has six points to his name at this stage, but the Frenchman looked on quickly throughout Saturday and managed to split the pair Silver Arrows, taking sixth place on the grid ahead of Lewis Hamilton. .

READ MORE: Red Bull and Ferrari ‘in a completely different league’, says Hamilton after frustrating Baku qualifying

Gasly and AlphaTauri were strong here too last year, as he finished on the podium after starting from the second row, and he has the car to give Mercedes a headache on Sunday if he can keep his position or even ahead of George Russell at the start.

Meanwhile Russell will be looking to extend his impressive start to life at Mercedes, having finished in the top five in every race so far this year, but the Briton admits he has struggled with his car’s rebound and fears that he is in a difficult situation. race on Sunday.


Gasly is in great form in Baku and shared the Mercedes in qualifying

3. McLaren out of the top 10 but confident

Both McLaren drivers were strong for Q3 after the final practice session, finishing in the top six. But that wasn’t the case later in the afternoon as temperatures dropped for qualifying and both finished outside the top ten, with Lando Norris 11th and Daniel Ricciardo 12th.

Norris felt he should have made it to Q3, but for losing a battle trying to get a wake from Lewis Hamilton, and it was a message to Ricciardo that will give McLaren fans hope for Sunday. while his race engineer told him they had a car to fight with in the race.

READ MORE: Gasly thrilled to split Mercedes pair with ‘best of the year’ in Baku

There is also optimism from the team as Alfa Romeo struggled even more in qualifying and Alpine have just one driver in the top ten, with Fernando Alonso lining up just one position ahead of the McLarens. in tenth.

Team principal Andreas Seidl hopes there will be an attacking run ahead for McLaren as they chase what would be just the second double for the team in 2022.


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Daniel Ricciardo banking on better race pace from his McLaren in Baku

4. Bottas and Ocon with some catching up to do

Two other of 2022’s most consistent performers have been surprisingly subdued in qualifying in Baku so far, but their form ahead of this weekend suggests they could be in the mix for some serious points by the time we we come to the last stages of the race.

Valtteri Bottas scored points in every race he finished – retiring only in Jeddah – and had four top-seven results in that race, but never looked particularly competitive on Friday and Saturday and finished 15th on the grid in Azerbaijan, behind the rookie squad. companion Guanyu Zhou.

FACTS & STATS: Leclerc first to win multiple poles in Baku as he eclipses Verstappen’s P1 tally

Likewise, Esteban Ocon also had four top seven finishes this year and is one position behind Bottas in the Drivers’ Championship, but as Fernando Alonso reached Q3, Ocon was eliminated in 13th place.

Both are capable of battling it out on the pitch and have done so on occasion this year, and could provide some exciting action as they try to gain places in the race.


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Valtteri Bottas has a job to do if he wants to maintain his goalscoring streak this season

5. Safety cars and mistakes

There has been a certain trend in Azerbaijan where a race is either chaotic and spectacular or relatively uneventful. The first event was the latter example, as all the drivers saw the drama of that year’s Formula 2 race and chose to play it safe. They expected carnage that day, but in the end no one made a significant mistake.

Since then, however, most races have had twists and turns, none more so than the two-lap shootout we saw here a year ago.

HIGHLIGHTS: Watch qualifying action in Baku as dominant Leclerc takes pole

As qualifying has shown, there are plenty of places a driver can make a costly mistake – and not all of them require him to push hard. With rarer cars this season, only a slight mistake could force someone into the clearing areas, and turning around isn’t easy in this scenario.

But the main incidents are going to be those where contact with a wall might require a safety car or a virtual safety car, because that will impact strategy but could also lead to the tense restarts that have become familiar here, with the ground. fight on the long straights until turns 1 and 3.