Azerbaijan Grand Prix Preview: Red Bull to Rule?7 min read
Daniel Ricciardo, last year’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix victor, put on an overtaking masterclass in China to claim a stunning victory. His moves on Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton and ultimately Valtteri Bottas were sublime whilst highlighting the race pace of the Red Bull. The one-lap pace of the Renault has been lacking though; Ricciardo started from 6th in China and, perhaps worryingly for this race, had to race from 10th position to win last season’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Heading into the fourth race of the season it has been Ferarri’s Sebastian Vettel making the early running, however, Mercedes hold a one-point advantage in the Constructors’ Championship.
Lewis Hamilton can count himself unlucky in the early races this season. But, after struggling to make much of an impression in the last two races, can count himself very lucky to only be trailing by nine points in the Drivers’ Championship.
What can we expect from the streets of Baku?
Being the latest addition to the Formula One there’s not much to go on from a stats point of view. The 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix was won by Daniel Ricciardo, Lewis Hamilton claimed pole and Sebastian Vettel took the fastest lap. Lance Stroll became the youngest rookie driver to find his way on to the podium, finishing third after, agonizingly, being overtaken by Bottas just before the finish line. As you can see, quite a mixed bag of results and a very small dataset. Nonetheless, we go in search of your best bet, or bets, for the Formula One weekend.
In the two previous races in Baku, Mercedes and Red Bull have shared the spoils. Lewis Hamilton has only managed to finish fifth on both occasions; fair to say the Azerbaijan Grand Prix hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for the Brit. Last year’s race was marred by the infamous road rage incident with Sebastian Vettel, something neither driver would like a repeat of.
Free practice is going to be more of a crapshoot than usual. Mercedes, who are having a poor start to their season, are likely to be pushing hard to prove their speed early on. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen equally has a lot to prove after some eye-catching mistakes in the early part of the season. Having been fastest in both FP1 and FP2 last season, the 10/1 price for the talented young Dutchman to top the timing in Practice 1 looks generous, but you feel Verstappen could just as easily stick his car into the wall. For this reason, my first pick is a tentative each-way bet on Verstappen to light up the timing sheet in FP1.
Also of note, in all three of this year’s final practices, Ferrari have come out on top. So it’s worth keeping an eye out for the free practice 3 prices which will likely be available Friday evening. Any over inflated price on either of the Ferraris is well worth a second look.
Max Verstappen to be fastest in Practice 1 at (E/W)
If Mercedes fail to take pole position, they will have failed to start from the front of the grid as many times in the first four races of 2018 as they did in the 2014, 2015 and 2016 seasons combined. On current form though, it is hard to back the favourite in a one-lap shootout.
Considerably easier to back is the overs in the qualifying winning margin market. In the previous two qualifying sessions held on the streets of Baku the margins have been 0.434s in 2017 and 0.757s in 2016. It, therefore, beggars belief that the line has been set at 0.250s and is available on the overs. I for one think that’s an absolute steal and so will be popping all my qualifying eggs firmly in one basket.
If you are looking for a bet on the fastest qualifier, you can’t go far wrong with an each-way bet on Raikkonen at 6/1. The Finn may have missed out on pole position in China, by the narrowest of margins, but his overall form in qualifying so far this year has been sensational.
Qualifying winning margin over 0.250 seconds at
The momentum is with last year’s winner Daniel Ricciardo as we had into the Azerbaijan Grand Prix and it’s easy to feel he’ll have another great weekend. Red Bull have looked capable of fighting at the front this season and a podium here would be their 150th in Formula One. It is tempting to back either Red Bull to win the race at , however, the more sensible option could well be Ricciardo to make the podium at .
The once great Williams brings up the rear of the field. The Grove-based team returns to a circuit where they performed well last year. Lance Stroll became the youngest rookie to get on the podium, only narrowly missing out on second place – being overtaken almost on the line by Valtteri Bottas. It’s difficult to see them repeating this feat this season, however. In fact, I’d be more inclined to have a small punt on them to be the first team to retire. Things just aren’t going well for the team at present and, sadly, I don’t think the hard times are over for them just yet.
Daniel Ricciardo podium finish at
Williams first constructor retirement at