First held in 2016 and won by a different driver each year, starting with Rosberg, followed by Ricciardo and Hamilton, respectively, the Azerbaijan Grand Prix is just around the corner. There are tracks. There are challenging tracks. And then there are those of the standard of the epic 6.003 km long track that’s about as exciting as it is challenging.
Apart from being a contest that shall field rookies like Lando Norris, Alex Albon for the very first time, the 2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix will hold the promise of extracting something special from the experienced drivers.
While only one among Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel has graced the top step of the podium, that a Ferrari driver is yet to win at Baku shall make the 2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix (perhaps) more than worth a watch.
Charles Leclerc, Valtteri Bottas– are you listening?
That said, what are the 5 predictions from what could be a scintillating weekender in the form of the 2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix?
Vettel misses out on a podium
Will he be ‘brake-tested’ by Hamilton this year too? Who knows, life’s not always a smooth ride for Vettel, least of all for an F1 driver.
But in context to Round 4 of the 2019 season, it’s important to note that Sebastian Vettel holds the track record here at Baku.
It was back in 2017 when Sebastian Vettel went around the track at a 1:43:441. On Lap 47, the German driver scored the fastest lap of the race. Apart from this fine feat, the Ferrari driver has scored a strong P2 in 2017’s contest and scored not 1 but 2 poles here.
But that told, the Heppenheim-born hasn’t yet won here.
This year too, he’ll find it tough to undo a record he’d want to correct. And to add further, Charles Leclerc will end up ahead of Vettel regardless of whether a Ferrari finishes ahead of the Red Bulls or Renaults.
Raikkonen continues the scoring for Alfa Romeo
Here’s the greatest prediction for the 2019 race. Kimi won’t be asked a stupid or rhetorical question. Anyways, moving on to more believable stuff now, here’s what you ought to know.
There was a time when Kimi Raikkonen was called the King of Spa. But as seen over the course of the last half a decade, where the track has coronated Hamilton as its new king, one reckons, there’s something kingly still left in Raikkonen, the 2007 World Champion.
Where scoring points on a consistent basis stands, then it ought to be said, that Kimi’s the king at Alfa Romeo, his teammate Giovinazzi having failed to open his account (thus far).
In the 2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Raikkonen aka ‘The Iceman’ will end up inside the top ten yet again and shall continue a good string of scoring that’s seen him collect a best-place finish of P7 at Bahrain from the 3 races held thus far.
Another DNF for Grosjean
Romain Grosjean who’s often called Crashjean- but understandably so (if you happen to browse through his past performances in F1)- will find it tough to get going at Baku. This, interestingly, isn’t his favourite track either.
What makes it worse for the Swiss-French driver is the fact the mental pressure he’ll be carrying at the 2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix. After all, he’s failed to collect a single point, ever since the first race which was held in 2016.
In the 2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Romain Grosjean will lack the grip and the pace needed to put together a strong performance and could well be outdone by his more consistent teammate, Kevin Magnussen. Although, Romain would emerge unscathed in the race and there’d be no crash whatsoever. Can we do that, Romain?
Bottas lands on the podium
If anyone wanted to understand the definition of tough luck, then perhaps visiting Valtteri Bottas’ 2018 season results would serve a fine example.
The winner of the 2019 Australian Grand Prix didn’t show a nerve when he scaled the top at the season-opener. But in 2018, he failed to win a race.
Not a driver who cribs a lot. Not a driver who relishes the idea of indulging in political comments either; Valtteri Bottas would love to correct some tough luck at the 2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, a race he’s never won before.
This year, however, will see Bottas avoiding instances like running over the debris on the track as seen last year. And in so doing, he’ll do much better at a track where he does have some unfinished business.
A rookie scores the fastest lap of the race beating Mad Max
Max Verstappen shall once again be a tough nut to crack for most drivers at the 2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix. This, it must be reminded, happens to be a track where the winner of 4 Grands Prix has never secured a win.
But even then, Max, who scored a solid third at Australia, following it up with a consecutive string of P4s at Bahrain and China, will struggle to make it to the podium.
It could well be Bottas, Leclerc and Hamilton or something as crazy as Bottas, Leclerc or Gasly. But while the Mad Max, often the quickest in middle sectors and someone who has the talent to extract something special even on old tyres (a bit like Bottas) will find the fastest lap of the race going to either his own teammate Gasly or Ricciardo of Renault.