5 drivers who need to deliver a strong Azerbaijan GP

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As Formula 1 arrives at Azerbaijan, a track where just about anyone on the grid can grab victory and where a front row start on the grid may not necessarily result in a win, as seen in 2021, probably it’s fair to say that racing shall descend into chaos as we hit Baku. 

It is here where Vettel and Hamilton came to blows in a car versus car confrontation that led to heated exchanges on the radio; where  Daniel, in a definitive triple overtake, conquered the top step in 2017; where Raikkonen salvaged a podium during a lacklustre period with Ferrari and where, most remarkably, Perez claimed what was then, a second win of his career in 2021. 

Baku, famously riddled with a 2 km long straight, has done both- crushed hearts and healed some when nothing has particularly seemed right for its eventual victors. 

Can it unfold, once again, a surprise winner given in the half a decade history of racing here, we’ve always gone on to see a different winner and one who hasn’t necessarily won from pole? 

But before that, which drivers need to deliver a strong Baku race? 

Lewis Hamilton

The czar of the grid, the only current driver in Formula 1 with seven world titles has, for the lack of a better word, endured a banal and uninspiring season much to the surprise of his legions of fans and unlike his usual winning self. 

With a solitary podium so far in 2022, Hamilton’s been spotted in rear view mirrors of Mercedes teammate, George Russell.  

Two narratives, therefore, have rather infamously evolved over the course of this season starting with whether Hamilton’s ever reliant on a quicker car and if he can’t perform with a machine that doesn’t pack any punches. 

On the other hand, there’s also a theory that Hamilton will eventually get on top of his wailing W13, which – if and when happens- may be too late in the day. 

Nonetheless, for someone who gathered a lowly eighth in Monaco, prior to which, he bagged a fifth in Spain and a sixth in Miami, it’s clear that the great Briton needs to deliver a top Baku drive. Can that happen though?

Pierre Gasly

Around this time last year, Gasly had already claimed a podium besides a fighting sixth at Monaco compared to his 2022 woes, which wasn’t a bad result from the first seven races. 

Though in the ongoing season, the Rouen-born driver has already suffered two DNFs and lowly results such as his thirteenth at Spain. 

Can he turn things this time around? 

Though he begins his 51-lap run sandwiched between the two Mercedes’, with Russell ahead and Hamilton on his tails, what one can note with sufficient cohesion is that the Alpha Tauri driver’s race will be one to note. 

It’ll be exciting to see what the driver, who begins from sixth on the grid, offers a team to which he’s the go-to driver with Tsunoda still maturing in his craft. 

Gasly enters Azerbaijan at the back of an eleventh at Monaco. 

Daniel Ricciardo

For a driver who made a reputation as being one of the sport’s best- if not the greatest- overtakers, the sight of a seemingly banal Ricciardo being overtaken without much effort by the better on the grid isn’t a joyful site. 

His 2022 woes have been exacerbated by the fact that Formula 1’s Honeybadger has only been able to claim eleven points with seven races done, which sees him eleventh on the standings. 

Entering Baku at the back of results like the P13, scored at tracks like Miami and Monaco, it is about time that the McLaren driver delivered given his massive potential. 

Honestly, the wide eyed smile has, of late, paved way for a worn-out look that doesn’t seem to sit well with countless Ricciardo fans.    

Can Daniel seek inspiration from the tremendous race result such as his 2017 drive to achieve something inspiring this Sunday? 

He’s not a driver who can only manage a sixth and go no better as seen at his home track event: the Australian GP. 

It’s all to play for. 

Mick Schumacher

Hailing from a venerable racing pedigree has earned Schumacher more plaudits and interest that most spend their lives searching for on the F1 grid. That’s when Mick is yet to even open his account. 

When and when shall that happen, we don’t know. But what we do know is that Haas have afforded the young German a fast charger that can hold onto its weight quite well against its midfield competitors. 

After all, Magnussen’s prowess this season is a remarkable example of that. Which is why many question- and may never be doubted- that if the Danish driver can gather a fifth and ninth, as seen at Sakhir and Jeddah, respectively, why can’t Schumacher get going? 

Although, that’s an answer that only Mick can offer, a driver who’s collected not one but two rather painful-to-endure crashes this season; one each at Saudi Arabia (qualifying) and Monaco, the latter as seen most recently. 

He must drive a solid race at Baku for his own good and not only to keep a growing clout of critics at bay. 

Charles Leclerc

For someone who’s displayed scintillating qualifying form, having grabbed four pole positions on the trot and six in totality this season, Leclerc’s Sunday results don’t quite seem as happening as his Saturday turn outs in his Ferrari. 

And while he overcame the visible porpoising issues on Friday to collect a fantastic pole just hours ago, it’s all down to how Leclerc, among the best there is on the grid, conducts his race just about to undergo live. 

A win here the Ferrari driver, who was also on pole here in 2021, will, once again, make the Verstappen versus Leclerc showdown a much-vaunted and widely-followed affair. 

But truth be told, Baku won’t be a walk in the park for the Monegasque, who could find the threat imposed by Checo Perez, P2 on the grid, a hard task to negotiate. 

Meanwhile, will Ferrari go for the overcut in order to bring up a solid lead over arch rivals Red Bull or bring Leclerc in early as a strategy to preempt something from the Milton Keynes outfit will be some of the key things to watch out for. 

But most important among anything else from a Ferrari perspective, will be Leclerc getting off to a flier soon as the five red lights turn green