This is where the competitive shape of the season changed again, where the narrative of the fight up front between Mercedes and Red Bull took a further twist.
Up until Monaco the storyline had Mercedes gradually overhauling Red Bull’s initial advantage, starting behind in Bahrain and Imola, drawing level in Portugal and pulling away at Barcelona. Monaco was never likely to continue that sequence. Drag and tyre deg – the two crucial areas of Mercedes’ advantage – are close to irrelevant at the race around the streets where it becomes all about how much downforce can be loaded onto the car and aero efficiency be damned. That’s Red Bull territory.
Baku was less certain going in; like Monaco it has a low-grip street surface and its picturesque old town middle sector is very Monaco-like in its low-speed downforce demands. But there is that super-long Caspian stretch which forms the final sector, 1.4 miles of flat-out running where aero efficiency is very important, a combination which presents some difficult wing level choices (see F1 tech panel).