Two weeks will have passed since the iconic Monaco Grand Prix took place and Red Bull’s Sergio Perez was able to record his third race win of his career.
Charles Leclerc was finally able to break the dreaded curse he suffered at his home race of being unable to finish, however a pit-stop error cost him first place and the Monegasque driver found himself finishing in fourth.
His 2022 championship rival, Max Verstapen, came in third and was thus able to extend his lead over Leclerc as the teams head into the eighth meet of the 2022 season this weekend.
The Azerbaijan Grand Prix is one of the latest street races to join the calendar and offers difficulties in overtaking around the track as well as a perfect straight for three cars to go abreast.
It is one of the most unforgiving tracks on the calendar and has a history of providing races full of intensity and drama with last year’s race seeing both Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen fail to score points.
As Formula 1 prepares itself for yet another weekend of anticipation and suspense, here are some of the hot topics ahead of the Baku Grand Prix…
Can Sergio Perez make it two out of two?
Mexican Red Bull driver ‘Checo’ was the 2021 winner of the Baku Grand Prix and after taking victory in Monaco two weeks ago, he’s in a strong position to take his fourth career win this weekend.
After being forced to give up his lead at the Spanish Grand Prix, Perez came back with a vengeance, showing both his team and any doubters that he too could win the Championship.
Perez’s success in Azerbaijan in 2021 was also not his only podium at this Grand Prix, having secured a top-three finish for Force India in 2018.
The Mexican has found himself on the back foot compared to his teammate in 2022, but he may well finally be coming into his own and will be certain to give everything he has to ensure he can remain in contention for that Drivers’ Championship.
Is Mick Schumacher on his last warning?
The young Haas driver suffered yet another horrific crash in Monaco two weeks ago and after 28 races in F1, he is still yet to score a championship point.
Haas had an extraordinary start to the 2022 season with the returning Kevin Magnussed providing points for the team for the first time in over a year but they are now failing to capitalise on those early triumphs with the young German proving to becoming rather too costly.
The 23-year-old missed the Saudi Arabian GP after an ugly crash in qualifiers, where he spun at the second corner in the wet at Imola clashed with fellow countryman Sebastian Vettel in Miami before wrecking his car in Monaco.
Team Principal Guenther Steiner has already admitted that it was “not very satisfactory” for Schumacher to have yet another crash, and the German will need to provide some much cleaner sheets heading into Baku and beyond if he has a chance of remaining in F1 beyond December this year.
How will 2022 regulations play out on an unforgiving track?
Baku has been well known for its unrelenting pressures with the tiniest of mistakes proving costly.
The new regulations which came into force earlier this year were intended to help with closer racing and Baku can provide the perfect opportunity for the cars to exhibit just how closely they can compete.
While certain areas of the track will remain out of bounds for attempting overtakes, the straight leading into turn one will contradict the rest of the circuit with three cars able to go into the corner together.
F1’s new tyre regulations will also come into play. Verstappen and Lance Stroll both suffered tyre failures along the main straight of the circuit but as this year will see the new 18-inch wheels rather than 13-inch in action, teams will be hoping that this will aid in reducing any tyre stress that was such a heavy presence last year.
McLaren and Daniel Ricciardo under pressure
There has been much media talk of Ricciardo’s failings since joining the McLaren team. He has failed to score sufficient points for his team and sits 37 points behind his teammate Lando Norris.
His team has also been under pressure with other middle-order franchises closing in on their fourth place gap.
Their recent upgrades clearly paid off with Norris finishing in sixth in Monaco, but with Ricciardo still in 12th, McLaren are aware that they cannot rest on their laurels if they are to continue leading the middle-order charge.
Team Principal Andreas Seidl admitted: “we shouldn’t forget the competition is so tight where we are in, one or two tenths up or down means instead of being in position to fight for P7 or P8 you’re suddenly in P13, P14…
“It’s obviously always important that we maximise everything we have in our hands and hopefully that’s enough to give the Alpines, the Alfa Romeos and some others a hard time in these next races.”
The Azerbaijan Grand Prix is this Sunday, 12 June 2022, at 12pm BST and is available to watch on Sky Sports Main event.