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verstappen ricciardo crash baku 2018 30-Apr-18 10-47-34 AM

Formula 1 braced for “a bit of mayhem” in Baku

verstappen ricciardo crash baku 2018 30-Apr-18 10-47-34 AM

Formula 1 is braced for “a bit of mayhem” on the streets of Baku this weekend as the Azerbaijan Grand Prix features the first Sprint Race of the season, and kicking off a run of five races in six weeks.

After an overly long April break due to the cancellation of the Chinese Grand Prix, racing resumes with the sprint recast as a standalone event and a qualifying session replacing final practice. read more

The change should allow drivers to race for points on Saturday, knowing the outcome will not affect where they line up on Sunday.

Despite teams voting unanimously in favour, the new format could backfire on such a tricky city circuit where speeds are high and the walls and fences leave no room for error. The track has seen plenty of crashes since its debut on the calendar in 2016.

“It’s absolutely ludicrous to be doing the first sprint race of the year in a street race like Azerbaijan,” Red Bull boss Christian Horner told reporters at the previous race in Australia.

“From a spectacle point of view, from a fan point of view, it’s probably going to be one of the most exciting sprint races of the year. From a cost cap perspective, all you can do is trash your car and it costs a lot of money around there.”

Chances are high that bent F1 metal will be collected this weekend in Baku

Haas boss Guenther Steiner, whose team operate on a tight budget and count the cost of every crash, agreed there could be ‘carnage’.

“The chances are high. We all know that,” he told Reuters. “Hopefully we are not the unlucky ones… because now with the budget cap if you have damage that will have an influence on your season because you have got less to spend on developments on the car.”

Williams boss James Vowles said the tight and twisty castle section in the old town was “going to cause a little bit of mayhem.”

Champions Red Bull have won all three races so far this season, twice one-two, and start as favourites while Fernando Alonso chases his fourth podium in a row with Aston Martin.

Can Red Bull be stopped from making it four wins from four starts?

Baku has yet to witness a repeat winner but that looks likely to end with Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez both past winners of the race and their car in a league of its own.

Mexican Perez has much the best record with victory in 2021, second in 2022 and third in 2016 and 2018. Verstappen won last year. Notably, Verstappen and his former teammate Daniel Ricciardo clashed famously during the 2018 race when battling for position, part of a power struggle the Dutchman won.

On the other hand, hunting an unlikely victory, Mercedes, with seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton still chasing his first win since 2021, are the only others to have won in Baku.

Chief technical officer James Allison returns to his role of technical director, swapping jobs with Mike Elliott, with the former champions ramping up car development. Several other teams will also bring upgrades, and plenty of spares.

“We are bringing a new floor to Baku amongst some other aerodynamic and mechanical items,” said Alpine technical director Matt Harman. “We then have a further development at the following race in Miami and something further for Imola after that.” (Reporting by Alan Baldwin)