Back-to-back wins in Bahrain and China has given Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton the world championship lead for the first time in 2019. Now it’s over to you, Ferrari.
What time does it start? How can I watch it?
This weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix is set to get underway at 16:10 p.m. local time, 13:10 a.m. (BST) and 8:10 a.m. (ET). For U.S. viewers, all of this weekend’s sessions are live on ESPN:
Welcome to the Weekend – Thursday, April 25, 11:00am – ESPN3
Friday — Practice
Practice 1 – Friday, April 26, 4:55am – ESPN2
Practice 2 – Friday, April 26, 8:55am – ESPNU
Saturday — Qualifying
Practice 3 – Saturday, April 27, 5:55am – ESPN2
Qualifying – Saturday April 27, 8:55am – ESPN2
Sunday — Race
Pit Lane Live – Sunday, April 28, 6:30am – ESPN3
On The Grid – Sunday, April 28, 7:30am – ESPN2
Race – Sunday, April 28, 8:05am – ESPN2
U.K. viewers can watch every session live on Sky Sports F1. Check local listings for all other territories.
The burning question… Can anyone stop Lewis Hamilton?
Only once before has Lewis Hamilton tallied 68 points through the first three rounds of a season. He did it back in 2015, a year he went on to claim 10 race wins as well as the world championship.
Hamilton has enjoyed an identical start this year with wins in Bahrain and China going along with a second place finish in Australia. After three rounds, he leads the drivers’ championship by six points from Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, and we’re all starting to wonder if the 2019 season is already going the same way as 2018 and 2017.
What should really terrify his rivals is the fact he hasn’t been at his best in the early part of 2019. Hamilton has had an unusually high amount of sessions where he’s right off the pace, and Bottas seems to have had his measure at least half of the time. But on Sundays, when the trophies and points are handed out, Hamilton has stepped up and been in a position to capitalise.
With Ferrari continuing to mess up race strategy and trip over themselves with team orders, Hamilton has been offered an early advantage in 2019. Every time he has won multiple races in the first five rounds he has gone on to win the world championship (2014, 2015, 2017 and 2018). You’ve been warned.
Which car will suit the track?
If there’s one race which has been utterly unpredictable since being added to the Formula One calendar, it’s the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
To highlight just how crazy racing in Baku has been, we’ve had eight different podium finishers in three races. For modern day F1, that is unbelievable.
Still, we’ll try and offer up some sort of form guide for this weekend, and all signs point towards Mercedes once again.
The long back straight in Shanghai was really supposed to favour Ferrari’s package, but it didn’t. In qualifying the Ferrari still hit the fastest top speed, but in the race that advantage waned. One theory is that the Mercedes was able to carry more speed through the long Turn 13 ahead of the straight and that helped nullify the Ferrari advantage. Although a very different circuit to both China and Bahrain, Baku is likely to see a return to the speed advantage Ferrari enjoyed in the desert.
Red Bull has always been competitive in Azerbaijan — even if both cars failed to finish in last year’s race after a dramatic accident — and I expect that to continue this year, at least through Max Verstappen.
Lastly, in 2018 the Racing Point cars were best of the rest in qualifying, so keep an eye on Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll this year.
The stat files
Sergio Perez – The only driver to finish on the Azerbaijan podium on multiple occasions (2016 and 2018).
7 – Lance Stroll’s current streak of Q1 exits.
68 – The equal most points Hamilton has banked in his career after just three rounds.
1992 – The last time a team started a season with three consecutive one-twos (Williams).
33% – Pole position has only won once in Baku (2016).
Available compounds: Hard C2 (white), Medium C3 (yellow), Soft C4 (red)
Mario Isolo, head of car racing — “The main challenge in Baku lies in balancing the front and rear axles, keeping both the front and rear tyres in the right operating window. It is quite a varied track, with a very long two-kilometre straight and also some more technical corners. The frequency of the Safety Car often causes a headache — or maybe an opportunity — for the strategists. The tyres that we have nominated from the middle of our range should be well suited to the mixed demands of Baku, but it’s always one of the most difficult races of the year to predict. This is often the case for a street circuit, but Baku is the most unconventional street circuit on the calendar, with the high speeds of a conventional track as well as a very long lap.”
Minimum starting pressures: Front 21.5 psi, rear 20.5 psi
The sun will be out in Baku this week, but don’t expect it to be too warm. Temperatures are expected to peak on Sunday when it hits 19C, while it will be a fraction cooler on Friday and Saturday. But in the sun the dark tarmac should reach some relatively high temperatures, which will help with keeping the tyres in the correct operating window.
The chance of rain, however, is zero percent.
If form tells us anything it’s that Hamilton will win once again, but something tells me we’ll see the other Silver Arrow saluting in Baku.
Winner: Valtteri Bottas