Bazu City Circuit requires maximum concentration and no margin for error
The 6km Baku City circuit in Azerbaijan, used for the first time last year when it was known as the European Grand Prix, is the location for round eight of the F1 season.
The tight street sections are not dissimilar to Monaco but, unlike that famous venue, Baku also features flat-out straights like Monza.
This track requires maximum concentration, with around 78 gear changes per lap and an average speed of 210 km/h.
Look out for the green asphalt-covered sections on turns eight, nine and ten.
This section is normally cobblestoned and is just over seven metres wide at its narrowest point.
With the cars even wider this season, there is going to be even less margin for error than last year.
The now-retired Nico Rosberg dominated last year’s race, taking pole position and leading from start to finish. Sebastian Vettel chased him home in second place, with Lewis Hamilton, who only qualified in tenth place on the grid, finishing fifth.
Like last year, LEWIS HAMILTON arrives in Azerbaijan on the back of a victory in the Canadian Grand Prix, where he closed the gap on championship leader Sebastian Vettel to just 12 points.
Consistency has not been Hamilton’s strong point this season, with his two previous victories – China in round two and Spain in round five – both followed by defeats.
Hamilton himself has described this current campaign as “a rollercoaster ride” and he simply didn’t perform in Monaco, trailing home in seventh.
Last year’s fifth place in Azerbaijan doesn’t tell the whole story of Hamilton’s weekend
He seemed to take to the circuit well enough in early practice, leading all three sessions, but crashed out in the final qualifying and started from tenth place on the grid.
He’s almost certain to improve on that position this time around but a single lapse of concentration could prove costly and he doesn’t appeal as a betting proposition at short odds.
Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate VALTTERI BOTTAS, signed on just a one-year contract, has been under intense pressure as a result and has just the round-four Sochi win to show for his efforts.
This week, team boss Toto Wolff has acknowledged the pressure that Bottas is under but the young Finn needs to find some consistency over a full weekend, rather than just in practice or the race itself. He was sixth at Baku last year when driving for Williams, improving two places on his grid position.
Championship leader SEBASTIAN VETTEL, having performed so well in Monaco in round six, will relish the return to a tricky street circuit.
Vettel has also won in Australia and Bahrain this season and last year’s runner-up effort in Baku will give him confidence this weekend. He was only fourth to Hamilton in Canada but performed miracles to finish so close after losing a wing and dropping down to 18th place at one stage.
The dominance of Ferrari and Mercedes is likely to continue but don’t rule out a big performance from Force India driver SERGIO PEREZ.
He was third behind Rosberg and Vettel in this race 12 months ago and is seventh in this year’s driver standings. He again got the better of teammate ESTEBAN OCON when fifth in Canada and was not far away from a podium finish in Spain.
Azerbaijan Grand Prix Odds
Winner: Sebastian Vettel (6/4)
Podium Finish: Sergio Perez (9/1)
For more Formula One odds, take a look at Grosvenor Sport’s F1 betting.