Azerbaijan F1 Grand Prix 2022: Odds, Preview and Top Storylines
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Clive Rose/Getty Images
The Azerbaijan Grand Prix has had four different winners in its short history on the Formula 1 schedule.
That trend could move to five drivers in five editions of the race if Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen continue their championship battle on the streets of Baku.
Ferrari and Red Bull once again outpaced the field in qualifying. Leclerc became the first driver to win multiple poles in Baku. Verstappen will start on the second row behind his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez in second.
Perez appears to be the only driver who can beat Leclerc or Verstappen on Sunday. He is the reigning champion in Azerbaijan and is coming off a win at the Monaco Grand Prix.
The spotlight will be on Ferrari and Red Bull for most of the race, but there is a chance we see a surprise finisher on the podium or in the top six.
Pierre Gasly put his AlphaTauri machine into sixth place on the qualifying grid. The Frenchman finished third behind Perez and Sebastian Vettel in one of the more surprising podiums last season.
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Bryn Lennon – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
Max Verstappen (+145; bet $100 to win $145)
Charles Leclerc (+155)
Sergio Perez (+285)
Carlos Sainz (+2200)
Lewis Hamilton (+5000)
Pierre Gasly (+5000)
George Russell (+5000)
Sebastian Vettel (+15000)
Fernando Alonso (+15000)
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Clive Rose/Getty Images
Ferrari and Red Bull have the fastest cars on the Formula 1 grid.
As long as they avoid mechanical failures, or a clip of the wall in the tight corners on the Baku circuit, their cars will be at the front on Sunday.
Charles Leclerc laid down the fastest time in qualifying to land the pole position. Sergio Perez was 28-hundredths of a second back of him and Max Verstappen was 34-hundredths behind the Ferrari driver.
The pole position has not been an automatic key to victory for Leclerc this season. He won from the pole in Bahrain and Australia, two of the first three races on the calendar. Leclerc has not won in each of the last three races in which he started first.
Ferrari’s top driver failed to cash in on the pole in Miami, Spain and Monaco. Red Bull won each of those races. Verstappen took first in Miami and Spain, while Perez won in Monaco.
Leclerc will be under pressure from Perez and Verstappen right away on Sunday. Red Bull has to like its chances of overtaking Leclerc since that strategy worked well for them so far this season.
Azerbaijan is a much easier track to pass on than Monaco, where the drivers last raced two weeks ago.
Leclerc, Perez or Verstappen should be considered the likely winner in Baku. Carlos Sainz could take the other Ferrari to Victory Lane, but he has not been in front much this season.
Sainz is a better candidate to finish on the podium. He has a pair of second-place finishes and two third-place marks this season.
Ferrari could use a different pit strategy with Sainz to put pressure on the Red Bull cars if he remains in fourth after the start.
Sainz could still have a chance to win, but Ferrari may focus most of its energy on getting Leclerc a victory to regain points in the drivers’ championship standings after the Red Bull’s four straight victories.
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The Azerbaijan Grand Prix produced a surprise podium combination one year ago.
Sebastian Vettel put his Aston Martin into second place and Pierre Gasly rode his AlphaTauri into third.
Four of the drivers that placed in the top six in 2021 gained multiple spots from their places on the starting grid.
The ability to overtake in multiple parts of the course could help one of the midfield teams land a much-needed high finish.
Gasly is the top candidate to fill that role on Sunday. He took sixth in Saturday’s qualifying round. The Frenchman was the only driver to break up the Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes hold on the top six.
Mercedes is not considered a midfield team on the grid, but it has driven like that at points of the season. Both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell could use podium finishes to boost the morale inside the Mercedes camp.
Gasly’s teammate, Yuki Tsunoda, has not finished above seventh this season. Tsunoda starts in eighth and he could benefit from the same power that has Gasly starting on the third row.
Vettel and Fernando Alonso, who drives for Alpine, could be in the mix for a high finish because of their experience. If either driver gets off to a fast start, they could make a surge into the top five or higher.
McLaren is the only team outside of Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes to produce a podium finish this season. Lando Norris took third at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
McLaren has Norris starting in 11th and Daniel Ricciardo beginning the race in 12th. Norris finished fifth from a ninth starting position in 2021 and Ricciardo won from 10th for Red Bull in 2017, so it is possible for both drivers to earn high finishes from average starting positions.
A podium finish would do wonders for any of the midfield teams in the constructors’ championship. McLaren holds an 18-point edge on Alfa Romeo and an 19-point advantage on Alpine. AlphaTauri could jump into the mix for fourth, fifth or sixth with a high finish. AlphaTauri is currently in seventh place.
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