F1 Azerbaijan: Vettel king and other oddities of the craziest race in the world

The Baku GP has always produced bizarre and unexpected results: Seb and Perez made sensational surprises, Verstappen never went on the podium, Leclerc got the first points in his career. But above all: pay attention to Bottas …

Mario Salvini


– Baku (Azerbaijan)

Ever since they put it on the calendar, Baku has always had the air of being an anomalous appointment planted in the middle of a changing calendar, certainly, but all in all without other big surprises. It amazed and intrigued because it was in a sufficiently mysterious and fascinating location, because it runs on a city circuit and yet with a straight that is twice that of Monza. Because it has a chicane-bottleneck next to a tower of the ancient city walls. Because between the straights of the first sector it has right-angled bends, the first of which arrives precisely after that straight two kilometers and two hundred meters, at the end of which the brakes are cold and go to the wall – we have seen it all these years – it’s the easiest thing to do. Because along that straight Valtteri Bottas drove us at 378 km / h, which represents the highest speed ever reached in the history of Formula 1. Yet then in all those left-hand curves that make the circumnavigation of the Old City you go slow. And so finding the right compromise for the set-up is a very delicate alchemy.

“Like the Colosseum”

All reasons why the errors and the (consequent) safety car cannot be counted. So that in recent years (we have been running since 2016, with the exception of 2020) we have seen all sorts of things. Including Sebastian Vettel’s turn to Lewis Hamilton. “We’re not at the Colosseum,” said Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene at the time. We wrote down results we wouldn’t bet on. In other words, the Azerbaijani Grand Prix has earned its reputation and its role: it confirmed that idea of ​​a foreign body. Becoming the crazy race that mixes rankings and clichés.

Five different winners

Those two circuits in one imagined by Hermann Tilke to unite as many areas of Baku have always produced some surprises. A fact: five times we raced there and five different drivers have won us, in the Formula-Hamilton of recent years not a small detail. Considering the last 5 editions of all the other GPs on the calendar, only Montecarlo has had as much alternation. In the Principality 8 of 4 teams went on the podium; 9 drivers from 7 teams in Baku. A unique case, in fact. A unique case that distorts the forecasts and can even be decisive.

Hamilton’s nightmare in 2021

Lewis Hamilton, for example, is likely to dream of the yellow flag at night and then the safety car entry notice in Abu Dhabi for Nicholas Latifi’s accident, but it is even more likely that in his nightmares he will see himself going straight to the curve 1 of Baku, as he did at the restart due to an error in setting the controls. A huge mistake, with Max Verstappen already retired and with at least 18 points practically certain. With whom a motorcade could have entered the safety car in Abu Dhabi and he would also have been world champion for the eighth time. At that moment, few would have thought that Baku could be the circuit of destiny. And yet it was, and how.

The carrier you don’t expect

And among so many strange facts it is imagined that some may like the Azerbaijani track very much and others not at all. Just one example: the king of Baku is unsuspected for everything that has happened to him in recent years. Neither Hamilton nor Verstappen has the highest point average, it belongs to Sebastian Vettel. That he never won us, but he always got to the bottom – something not so common – and above all he never got less than fourth. Three times he went to the podium, as did Sergio Perez, winner of the last edition a year ago. Only Seb in the Azerbaijani GP averages 14.2 points against Checo’s 12.6. An unattainable pace for anyone else and also rather anomalous for Vettel himself. That in his career he has an average of 10.8 but dropped to 9.5 if we consider the races from 2016 to today, or since he has raced in Baku. And if in all his years with Ferrari the good placings should not have surprised, he did it much more than a year ago with Aston Martin. In fact, it must be remembered that Seb was second, the only podium of a championship in which in none of the other 21 races has he ever finished better than fifth. Of course, everything happened in front of us, but in the meantime he was there.

Checo title holder

The other one who has always benefited a lot from the mythological Azerbaijani monster half Monza and half Montecarlo is Sergio Perez who, as mentioned, won us last year and collected an average of 12.6 points per race, despite a withdrawal. Moreover, with few faults, in 2017, when his then-partner at Racing Point, Esteban Ocon, crushed him against the wall at the infamous turn 1. If we remove that DNF the average would rise to 15.75. To get the exact idea of ​​what this means, just say that Checo’s career average is 4.57 points per GP. In Baku he almost quadruples it. What’s more: up until last year he had a total of 15 podiums, 3 of which in Baku …

Max’s Azerbaijani curse

On the other hand, for Verstappen one can almost speak of an Azerbaijani curse. Baku is one of only two Formula 1 locations where he hasn’t visited the podium (the other being Monza). And if in his career he has brought home an average of 11.37 points per race (only Lewis Hamilton – so far-has done better: 14.25) over there his average is still at 3.2. It must be said that last year he was dominating when his rear left tire exploded on the straight. But it is precisely for these things that we speak of curses.

Charles, sweet and bitter memories

And we are with Charles Leclerc who went to Baku to race a few days after the death of his father Hervé, in Formula 2, in 2017, and won us. Then he scored the first points in Formula 1, with Alfa, and despite the crash in qualifying in 2019 with Ferrari, every time he returned a few points he always remedied it (it only happened to him in Sochi and Mexico , as well as in Singapore and Montreal, but he only did a couple of GPs there). And then there was last year’s beautiful and rather surprising pole. His average is 10 points at GP, and he is fifth best in Baku among the current 20 drivers on the grid.

Beware of Bottas

Better than him, in addition to the aforementioned Vettel and Perez and Hamilton, also Valtteri Bottas with 10.2. Valtt won us, in 2019, and he also made us a nice second place in 2017 (not counting 6th place in 2016, when he was at Williams). But beware: in 2018 he retired due to a flat tire due to debris (on Romain Grosjean’s Haas): it was lap 48, there were only 3 left at the end, and Valtt was in the lead …

Lewis & Carlos

Hamilton has shone less than in almost all the other circuits on the planet, his average of 12.6 is not too surprising when you consider that the general one is 14.29. Similar speech, making all due proportions, for Carlos Sainz, for whom the bizarre Baku is in line with the rest of the circuits. He signed us the highest placement on Renault: 5th place in 2018. Which also remains the best he has achieved so far in the crazy Azerbaijani race.

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