Max Verstappen previewed the upcoming Azerbaijan Grand Prix, the first of six Sprint Race weekends with a new format, and predicted some chaos.
The Dutchman has repeatedly said he is no fan of Sprint weekends, but will have to endure six of them this season, the first being this weekend in Baku for the 2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Verstappen comes to Baku on the back of a long Formula 1 “spring break” leading the Championship from teammate Sergio Perez by 15 points while Red Bull lead the Constructors’ Standings from Aston Martin by 58 points.
Verstappen would be targeting his third win of the 2023 season, his second around the streets of Baku, a venue that has been the scene of much drama for the Red Bull ace, crashing out of the lead in 2021 after a Pirelli tyre failure, while also crashing out in 2018 when then teammate Daniel Ricciardo.
“It’s good to be back! It’s been a long break and I’m looking forward to getting back to racing,” Verstappen said in Red Bull‘s race preview.
“Baku is a challenging track to get right. As it’s a street circuit with long straights, it gives us multiple options on what wings we can run.
Targeting a solid FP1
“It’s also the first Sprint race weekend of the season so that might make it slightly chaotic,” he pointed out. “We just need to try and get a good start into the weekend with a solid FP1 session. Let’s see what we can do.”
The new Sprint weekend format means all teams would have just one hour of practice on Friday to get their cars dialed in before it gets serious with Qualifying for Sunday’s Grand Prix following, while Saturday will be a pure Sprint affair with the Sprint Race and its own qualifying session.
Perez commented: “The new weekend format is going to make things tricky when it comes to car set-up but every team is in the same position and we just have to make sure we are on it from the minute we roll out on Friday.”
Looking back on the previous race where he struggled with his RB19, crashing out of qualifying and racing from the pitlane to fifth, the Mexican admitted: “Australia wasn’t perfect for us, having the car and performance consistent is my aim this season.
“For two races we had that and now as a Team we must make sure that’s the standard we keep to for the remaining races of the season. We have five races in six weeks and after that, with the mix of circuits we are visiting, we are really going to see how good the RB19 can be this year.
“We had a great Team result in Baku last season and everyone knows I really enjoy a street circuit – winning is always the aim,” Perez, who won the 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, concluded.