Max Verstappen has unfinished business at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku
Formula 1 championship leader Max Verstappen has some business to attend to at this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, as he seeks to reassert himself as Red Bull’s main driver.
The Dutchman was heading for victory on the Baku street track last year when a tire exploded and threw him into the barrier during the high-speed race along the Caspian seafront.
His Mexican teammate Sergio Perez took the win instead and returns triumphant and as a potential title contender after his victory two weeks ago in Monaco.
Verstappen will be determined to prevent him from becoming the first driver to win twice in Baku.
“I can’t wait to get back to Baku, we have unfinished business there after last year,” said the 24-year-old who is nine points ahead of Ferrari rival Charles Leclerc with Perez another six behind. .
“Last year was not lucky, it’s as simple as that,” he said.
“It was very painful, but it happens. It’s racing… it’s different cars, different tires (this time) and we start again.”
Perez, who also made two podium finishes in Baku while racing for Force India, is in the form of his life and with a freshly signed two-year contract with Red Bull.
Baku’s 6km street track, a mix of flat-out explosions and tight turns lined with unforgiving barriers, is famous for its unpredictable races and has produced five different winners in five years on the calendar.
Leclerc knows the pitfalls of the track, having crashed while in the race for pole position in 2019.
The Monegasque and Ferrari, chasing a first title since 2008, will want the weekend to run smoothly after potential wins slipped through their fingers in Monaco and Spain.
Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton will also want to make amends after failing to capitalize on Verstappen’s retirement last year when he fell from second to 15th in Baku after accidentally triggering a brake function. magic” on his steering wheel.
His Mercedes team is the most successful in Baku, with three victories. A fourth looks a distant prospect unless the trail holds another surprise.
“Baku often produces fun and crazy track action, and the layout generates good racing opportunities,” said Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.
“So let’s see if he lives up to his reputation this weekend.”
The possibility of a podium appearance by a midfield team is still there. Besides Perez’s exploits in Force India, Sebastian Vettel was second last year for Aston Martin with Pierre Gasly third for AlphaTauri.
Lance Stroll’s first top-three result came in Baku with Williams in 2017.