How Azerbaijan Grand Prix became Formula One’s antidote to ‘boring’ Monaco

Lewis Hamilton's 'natural ability is fantastic' says Button

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The Formula One circus lands in Baku this week ahead of Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix around the streets of the Eastern European nation’s capital. Having been cancelled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, this week’s race is one of the most anticipated of the season.

The race in Baku also comes just two weeks after a Monaco Grand Prix which many slammed as being more of a procession than a race.

Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton, who finished seventh in Monaco, was particularly critical of the famous circuit.

“I am glad the race is over because it was the longest race,” Hamilton said.

“I have been saying time and time again, it doesn’t matter what position you are in, this track is not fun to race on because you don’t see any overtaking and you cannot follow.

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“It is great when you win but even when you are leading and far ahead it is also boring so I am sure for Max it was a pretty chilled afternoon for him.”

Luckily for Hamilton, he will be returning to a track that has been packed full of action in the four races that have taken place there.

Many of the overtakes that take place in Azerbaijan come along the huge 2.2kilometre pit straight, which sees drivers reach 300kph before they even reach the DRS zone.

That straight leads into an excellent passing opportunity at Turn 1, though drivers have come unstuck there in the past, memorably Daniel Ricciardo in 2019 when he reversed into Dani Kyvat.

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Much like Monaco, Baku is full of tight and twisty corners, particularly through Turns 8, 9 and 10 which see the drivers cut through the Baku Old City.

It is very much like threading the eye of a needle, with the track just 7.6metres wide at its tightest point.

That has caused problems for several drivers in the past, with Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc crashing into the wall during qualifying in 2019.

That mix of straights and corners makes life hell for the strategists, meaning the no team truly dominates.

That creates the unpredictability which has seen a range of different midfield teams earn a place on the podium and four different drivers win the race.

Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez have both earned unlikely podiums in past races, with the safety car also making multiple appearances.

All of that creates the ground for a race of the season contender, much like in 2017 when the two Red Bulls crashed into each other, Valtteri Bottas suffered a heartbreaking puncture while leading and Romain Grosjean somehow crashed into the wall all on his own.

After the “boring” last outing in Monaco, Hamilton will be hoping for more of the usual Baku chaos to get his title bid back on track.
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