After another week off, the Formula One stars are back in action this weekend on the streets of Baku. Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix (8 a.m. ET/ESPN 2) will mark the fourth race of the F1 season as well as the fourth time the series has stopped at the 3.730-mile street circuit.
Here are the top five storylines for this weekend’s race.
Can Mercedes Go 1-2 For A 4th Straight Race?
No one can touch Mercedes right now. Through all three races, the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas have gone 1-2 in each of them. In Baku, they’ve won two of the three races there as well.
While Ferrari is supposed to have more speed, the Mercedes drivers are the ones to beat once again.
Hamilton, has a top five finish in all three tries in Azerbaijan but only one of those was on the podium. Bottas, has just one top five finish though in three tries which was a runner-up in 2017. He was strong last year but had bad luck in the end and finished 14th.
The overall stats aren’t there but I think Mercedes wins again.
Can Ferrari’s Get Going?
Sebastian Vettel earned his first podium of the season in the last race in China (3rd) but despite three top five finishes in as many starts in Baku, he has one podium which was a third place run last year. If not for Bottas’ problems at the end of last year’s race, he wouldn’t have even scored a podium.
Charles LeClerc has finishes of fifth, third and fifth respectively this year and was sixth in last year’s race at Sauber. He’s +325 and could be a sleeper pick.
The problem is that Ferrari sits behind Max Verstappen in the drivers standings and needs to move around him.
Verstappen May Struggle
He does have a top four finish in all three starts this year, but the Dutch driver has failed to finish two of his three starts in Baku, including each of the last two years. In 2016, he finished eighth. Is this the race that the Ferrari duo top him and move around him in the drivers standings?
Signs point to, yes.
For whatever reason, Baku is a track that produces some unlikely podium finishers. Sergio Perez took Force India to a podium finish in two of the last three years. Lance Stroll when he was at Williams was on the podium in 2017.
Now, both are teammates with Racing Point (formerly Force India). Can they steal a podium result on Sunday?
Perez, was third in 2016 and 2018 and has two straight top 10 finishes on the year. In fact, he’s gotten better by the race. He was 13th in Australia then 10th in Bahrain. He went from 10th (Bahrain) to eighth (China). He’s due for a good run again.
Stroll, has finished third and eighth respectively on this track and could be in play for another top 10 on Sunday.
Their odds are +200000 (Perez) and +250000 (Stroll). With Hamilton and Vettel only scoring one podium each at Baku and Verstappen failing to score a top five in his career there, these two are worth the risk if you ask me.
Sunday starts a stretch where two of the next three F1 races are on street courses. We have Baku on Sunday and Monaco next month. Sandwiched in between there is a race in Spain on May 12.
With street courses featuring some narrow real estate to race on, mistakes could play costly this weekend.