A two-stopper would be better, really much better. Not impossible we’ll see a few try it today, especially given the tyre degradation the teams suffered on Friday. Of course, a safety car at the right time could throw it all out of the window.
And welcome to our coverage for the 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix from the Baku City Circuit. In Baku, obviously. So far the season has been a thoroughly entertaining one (that Monaco Grand Prix aside…) and that was no different in yesterday’s qualifying session. Charles Leclerc took his second pole of the year and his second in a row, in a performance that raised a few eyebrows.
Another performance that raised a few eyebrows was Lewis Hamilton‘s appearance on the front row of the grid after a very difficult weekend up until that point. Clearly something clicked on Saturday after all weekend Red Bull looked on top and well ahead of Mercedes. Max Verstappen could only manage third and Sergio Pérez seventh. Who knows what would have happened if the red flag during the final runs hadn’t appeared? Verstappen probably could have improved but he did not manage a brilliant first lap and that cost him yesterday. Could starting third cause him to lose his championship lead?
We should be all set for an intriguing race, though pole-sitter Leclerc was not all that confident that he will be able to hang onto his lead to the chequered flag, citing Mercedes and Red Bull’s superior race pace. Five different cars in the top six shows how close it now is at the very top. For Verstappen and a few others the mercy is that this is a track where overtaking is possible. Could we see another wheel-to-wheel battle between the two championship contenders?
Elsewhere, Pierre Gasly had another standout performance for AlphaTauri and Fernando Alonso made it into Q3, too, in an encouraging showing. Lando Norris well out-qualified team-mate Daniel Ricciardo again (who shoved it into the wall in Q2…), but will take a three place grid drop.
Strategy, as ever, will be crucial but there could be a lot of luck with today’s winner, too – if the four red flags in qualifying are anything to go by, we could well end up with a couple of safety car periods, and we all know how they sometimes pan out…
As ever, I’ll be here for all the build-up, latest updates and reaction from the race, which gets going at 1pm BST. Fingers crossed for another cracker.