Azerbaijan Grand Prix 2021: Max Verstappen leads title race by four points ahead of Lewis Hamilton
But crucially, Max has finished on the podium only and therefore leads Hamilton by four points at this stage. It is the first time the young Dutchman has ever led the F1 championship.
For Mercedes, Monaco was a cruel outing. Their lead driver Hamilton never managed to find a good balance in car set-up throughout the weekend and was left trailing in P7. Team mate Valtteri Bottas endured a nightmare of a pitstop where a wheel nut refused to come off the Mercedes W12, forcing the Finn to retire prematurely from P2. Verstappen and Red Bull Racing were flawless though and capitalised on their rival’s woes by taking over the lead in the Constructors championship too, albeit by a single point.
Traditional F1 headlinegrabbers Ferrari and McLaren also stole the podium limelight as Carlos Sainz Jr and Lando Norris finished P2 and P3 respectively for the Italian and British teams.
Also read: Bahrain Grand Prix: We’re back to the max
Off track, a storm seems to be brewing with Mercedes and McLaren intending to stage a protest against Red Bull’s apparent ‘Flexiwings’ at Baku. The sport sees the best of engineering minds try and exploit the grey areas of the rule book every season and this year it appears that Red Bull has innovated a rear wing that flexes at high speed and stiffens through slower corners. It is a genius solution to provide aerodynamic efficiency throughout a lap, but it remains to be seen if the FIA will deem it legal.
At Baku in Azerbaijan, fans can look forward to the ultimate drag-fest as F1 cars will demonstrate slip-streaming down the 2.2 kilometre home straight clocking up speeds in excess of 360kmh! It’s fitting that Baku is known as the Land Of Fire then, although that title refers to the natural gas fire that blazes continuously on a hillside.
Interestingly, the Azerbaijan Grand Prix has seen four different winners in the four times it has hosted F1. Nico Rosberg, Daniel Ricciardo, Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas have won here suggesting it is definitely a track suited to Mercedes power.
But with Max Verstappen’s new street-fighting form, a fifth new winner is more than a possibility!
The writer is a motorsports enthusiast who will cover the 2021 FIA Formula One® season exclusively for Indulge.