What to Watch Out for at 2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix: Leclerc vs. Red Bulls and the ‘Baku Syndrome’

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From Charles Leclerc’s pole place to giving two former rivals a side-by-side second probability, and McLaren’s progress to a number of alternatives to show the race the wrong way up, Chris Medland highlights some key areas to contemplate when the race begins. The lights exit on the Baku Metropolis Circuit on Sunday…

1. Can Leclerc convert?

Purple Bull entered the weekend’s Azerbaijan races because the dominant workforce with three pole positions and three wins from the primary three laps of 2023. Nonetheless, the run ended on Friday with Charles Leclerc taking the pole place for the third time in a row in Baku.

Leclerc backed it up with one other pole place at Saturday’s Dash Shootout, however did not cease Sergio Perez on the Dash and took a stable second place forward of Max Verstappen.

With Friday’s session setting the grid for Sunday’s Grand Prix, Leclerc might be in a well-recognized place when the lights exit and can now expertise Dash’s expertise after seeing his tires fade within the subsequent levels – the identical may be stated for Dash, although. all different drivers within the area.

READ MORE: Perez beats Leclerc and Verstappen to victory in action-packed Baku Dash race

If we solely concentrate on earlier races this yr, it has been a tricky run for Leclerc, who scored simply six factors on Sundays, retired twice and completed seventh for Saudi Arabia.

There are parallels with Max Verstappen’s season final yr although, because the defending champion retired from the identical two races as Leclerc and took pole place within the fourth lap – once more a Dash however this time at Imola – and persevering with to win that race.

2023 Azerbaijan GP Qualifying: Charles Leclerc crosses the road to take pole place in Baku

2. Hamilton vs. Alonso

Whereas the battle for the win might be an enchanting hour, the third row of the grid gives us some of the thrilling lineups doable as we are going to face one other installment of Fernando Alonso in opposition to Lewis Hamilton.

Whereas the couple has plenty of historical past, it has been a very long time since that they had automobiles that had been carefully matched sufficient to struggle one another frequently, they did so a number of instances this yr.

READ MORE: Verstappen and Russell conflict after dramatic first-lap Dash crash in Baku

Alonso moved as much as third place with a surprising go in Bahrain, whereas Hamilton countered with a faultless drive in Melbourne to take second forward of the Spaniard.

Ferrari have appeared comfortably quicker than each Mercedes and Aston Martin in a single lap up to now this weekend, however as Dash race tempo confirmed Saturday’s George Russell beat Carlos Sainz to fourth place, the chances are that Hamilton might be. past his realm, and Alonso could also be struggling to as soon as once more be on the rostrum.

alonso hamilton.jpg

Former rivals Hamilton and Alonso begin the race facet by facet…

3. Proof of McLaren’s strides ahead

Since their pre-season launch, McLaren has been speaking in regards to the improve they’re planning for this weekend as they don’t seem to be proud of their automobiles’ preliminary specs.

As each Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri reached the third quarter on Friday, new floor specifically made clear progress even with only one apply session to organize.

READ MORE: Who gained and misplaced essentially the most positions within the Baku Dash?

Norris is doing this for the primary time this season and might be in seventh place forward of Piastri in tenth, because the pair are in search of one other double level to bolster their Australian top-five outcomes. builders standings

This race has come their manner because of the ensuing chaos, however now McLaren has an opportunity to point out how their up to date automobiles are from a full race distance and whether or not they’re a drive to be reckoned with within the battle to be gained. better of the remainder are behind the highest 4 groups or even when they will begin to trouble the likes of Aston Martin and Mercedes at sure tracks.

Baku, Azerbaijan - April 29: Alexander Albon (23) from Thailand drives Williams Fw45 Mercedes

Can McLaren rating large in Baku after a tricky begin to 2023?

4. An Alpine struggle

Heading into the race weekend, McLaren wasn’t the one one enthusiastic about their upgrades, as Alpine introduced a number of recent components to Baku to attempt to put stress on the highest 4 groups.

There have been a couple of races the place Alpine has been in a position to get near the lead – it has turn into a risk to the likes of Ferrari in Saudi Arabia and has seen Pierre Gasly struggle for the rostrum for a lot of the Australian Grand Prix – however the last outcomes have been lackluster.

READ MORE: Ocon to begin Azerbaijan Grand Prix from pit lane after Alpine makes indoor parking adjustments

Sadly, we did not see the automotive’s potential on Friday or Saturday as Gasly had a hydraulic drawback in first apply after which crashed in qualifying. That ought to have left him as the one one requiring a comeback – and solely on Sunday – however extra exhaust points drove him out of the Dash Shootout, after which Esteban Ocon’s automotive was pulled out of the park, forcing him to begin from the pit lane.

So each alpine drivers have all the pieces to do from behind the grid in Azerbaijan, however this can be a observe that exhibits that in lots of conditions completely something can occur, and the automotive’s potential pace signifies that each drivers can hope to have an opportunity. approaching factors.

Baku, Azerbaijan - April 28: Frenchman Pierre Gasly and Alpine F1 leave their car after being caught

Pierre Gasly has had a nightmarish weekend for Alpine up to now – together with a automotive fireplace at Friday apply

5. ‘Baku syndrome’

Race organizers have a time period they name the “Baku Syndrome” for the chaos that usually happens on the attractive avenue circuit right here. We have had all kinds of motion prior to now – crimson flags, arguments, teammates clashing, late retirements, two-round restarts, shock podiums – and all of this demonstrates the truth that there may be by no means a winner once more.

The whole lot can change on Sunday, however whoever wins the race might face a collection of twisty balls. The chance of a Security Automobile is excessive – we have had a Security Automobile or Digital Security Automobile magic in every of the final 5 races right here, and we even acquired each at Dash – crimson flags are a typical incidence as properly.

It isn’t stunning, then, that there is been a podium finisher who began out of the highest 5 seven instances in six races, and that the pole-positioned driver solely gained the race twice. No surprise the motto of the race this yr is ‘Anticipate the surprising’…

HIGHLIGHTS: Watch the motion as Sergio Perez wins a dramatic Dash via the streets of Baku

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