The shores of the Caspian Sea play host to round eight of the Formula 1 world championship this year, as the sport returns to Baku, Azerbaijan.
The Azerbaijan Grand Prix is still a relatively new event on the calendar but it has provided some memorable moments on several occasions, with last year’s race proving very eventful as both Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton came away empty-handed.
What are the big posers going into this weekend, then? We take a look now…
Will Max Verstappen complete his ‘unfinished business’?
In his pre-weekend preview with Red Bull’s media team, Max spoke of some unfinished business in Baku and you can understand why.
He was looking good to win the race last season before a tyre blowout in the closing stages threw him into the wall and out of the race.
He’ll be eager to try and right that wrong, then, at a circuit where he’s not actually had that much to write home about so far in his career.
Will Charles Leclerc’s fortunes pick up?
Penny for Charles Leclerc’s thoughts right now.
The Monegasque has seen a decent lead in the championship completely eroded and he now finds himself sitting nine points behind Verstappen in the Drivers’ standings.
A reliability issue in Spain took him out of the lead before pit mistakes in Monaco again robbed him of a victory.
He’s still driving wonderfully well, but you need a slice of fortune in motor racing to get what you deserve sometimes – he’ll hope to have that in Baku.
Where will Mercedes be?
Mercedes looked perhaps the best they’ve been all year in Barcelona but then in Monaco they regressed a bit, with George Russell finishing 5th and Lewis Hamilton coming home in 8th.
They feel that Baku will be better for them than Monte Carlo but have cautioned they’re still not going to be challenging right at the front.
Can they at least establish themselves as the 3rd quickest team on the grid this weekend, though? Time will tell.
Can Sergio Perez keep the momentum?
Sergio Perez is flying along in his Red Bull at the moment and he’ll be eager to keep the momentum going this weekend in Baku.
He won last year in Azerbaijan after the late drama involving Max Verstappen and then Lewis Hamilton’s botched restart, and he has other podium finishes here too so it’s a track he clearly likes.
He’s got a Monaco win under his belt, a brand new Red Bull contract and says he’s in the form of his life – he’ll be eager to take another stride forwards in the championship this weekend.
Will we get another Baku classic?
As we mentioned at the top of the piece, we’ve seen several memorable races in Baku and a number of standout flashpoints, so we’re naturally excited to see what comes about this season.
The racing has usually been good in Baku and, with the cars improved this year to help that along even further, the logic suggests that we could be in for another top Grand Prix.
Of course, there are no guarantees but we’re quietly confident this is going to be another enjoyable weekend in Azerbaijan.