Another colossal Ferrari mess-up in Monaco means that Red Bull have started to build a lead in the championship fight, and as we head to the Azerbaijan race, everyone’s eyes are locked on Ferrari to see what the Scuderia’s response will be.
Will Ferrari bounce back, or will Red Bull start to run away with the title? Here, we take a look at a few things that might happen in Baku.
Now or never: Ferrari need to answer back
The last three Grands Prix have seen Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc take three back-to-back pole positions, but the Monégasque has converted none of them into a win. Ferrari’s inability to capitalise on their Saturday advantages have seen them not only lose the Drivers’ lead but also that of the Constructors’. Red Bull, meanwhile, have won the last four races, with Max Verstappen taking three of them, while Sergio Pérez took his first win of the season at the last race in Monaco.
With both Verstappen and Pérez arriving to the party, Ferrari have no scope for any more errors. Mistakes in Monaco and Spain have cost them dearly, and if the Scuderia want to remain in the battle for the two championships, they need to bring their A-game, starting with Azerbaijan.
This isn’t new territory for Ferrari, though: both in 2017 and 2018 they started the season strongly and then, thanks to a mix of poor strategies, driver errors and some Mercedes dominance, they lost both the titles those two years. If Leclerc, Carlos Sainz and the rest of the Ferrari team don’t capitalise on the advantages, this season will soon be over for them.
It isn’t all doom and gloom for Ferrari yet, however: they have shown strong pace and performance in almost all of the races till now, which will definitely be a major boost for them. The drivers and the team know they have a strong car capable of dominating the Azerbaijan circuit. Given the Monaco disappointment, expect Leclerc to bounce back strongly in Baku.
Pole predictions: Max Verstappen / Charles Leclerc / Sergio Pérez
Race win predictions: Red Bull / Ferrari
Monaco saw Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez take his first win of the season. Days after his win in Monaco, it was announced that Pérez was given a two-year contract extension to stay with the team, which apparently was signed ahead of the race in the Principality.
Buoyed by his new contract, Pérez showed confidence right from the get-go and made the most of the Ferrari debacle to take the win. His win has put him right in the middle of the championship fight, with his teammate Verstappen and Ferrari’s Leclerc. If Pérez continues his strong performances, he may just end up in the reckoning for a maiden Drivers’ title.
Pérez’s new contract and win in Monaco already has put doubts in the Verstappen camp, with Verstappen’s father, former Formula One driver Jos Verstappen, having publicly criticised the team for favouring Pérez ahead of his son in Monaco — a claim that made little to no sense given that Pérez has had the quicker Red Bull car throughout the season.
If Pérez can continue performing at the same level and take the fight to Verstappen and not submit to being a number-two driver, we may get to see one of the most intense intra-team battles since Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg’s drama between 2014 and 2016.
One thing is for certain: Sergio Pérez now has his future secured and will go all-out for the wins every race weekend.
The midfield battle intensifies
When the new regulations were first announced, one thing that everyone was looking forward to was closer wheel-to-wheel racing, which has been thoroughly delivered.
Up ahead the grid, it has been a two-horse race between Ferrari and Red Bull so far. The midfield this season has truly been compact. The likes of McLaren face tough competition from Alfa Romeo and Alpine every race weekend; the midfield scrap is generally something to look ahead to every race weekend.
As far as McLaren are concerned, however, they would’ve hoped to be fighting for wins. Instead, the British team are now involved in a very tight fight in the championship with Alfa Romeo, who have moved ahead from the back of the grid, while Alpine have shown solid race-pace throughout the season. Add to that the odd race where Aston Martin or AlphaTauri get on the pace, the midfield is truly packed with competitiveness.
Given the clashes and incidents we have previously witnessed in Baku, count on Alpine, McLaren or even Alfa Romeo to conjure up a shock result.
Podium dark horses: Alpine / Alfa Romeo / McLaren
Race details – When and where to watch (India)
Circuit: Baku City Circuit
Venue: Baku, Azerbaijan
Practice Session 1 time: 16:30 (IST), 10 June 2022
Practice Session 2 time: 19:30 (IST), 10 June 2022
Practice Session 3 time: 16:30 (IST), 11 June 2022
Qualifying time: 19:30 (IST), 11 June 2022
Main Race time: 16:30 (IST), 12 June 2022
Where to watch: Star Sports Network | Disney+ Hotstar