The longer straights could play into Mercedes’ hands in the race with the Brixworth power unit seeming to have a performance advantage over the Honda unit Red Bull uses in race trim.
Bahrain and Portugal showed that in a straight line on a Sunday at least, the Merc engine is the powerhouse but over a single lap, the Honda might deliver the power more effectively.
Pole position might not be race-defining though. Over the last four visits to the Azerbaijani capital, pole has been converted just 50% of the time. Daniel Ricciardo’s 2017 win from 10th and Lewis Hamilton’s fortuitous victory in 2018 are the two from behind the top grid position.
Baku hasn’t been one of Hamilton’s happiest hunting grounds either. In 2016, he crashed out of qualifying as he clipped the inside wall at the top of the castle section. A loose headrest in 2017 deprived him of a win too while the 2019 visit was dominated by team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who’d been unfortunate to not claim victory ahead of Hamilton the year prior, suffering a puncture just a handful of laps from home.
In the Red Bull camp, Verstappen hasn’t once finished on the podium in Baku so far in his F1 career, but the same was true of Monaco a fortnight ago…
2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix session times
Free Practice 1: 09:30 – 10:30
Free Practice 2: 13:00 – 14:00
Free Practice 3: 10:00 – 11:00
Qualifying: 13:00 – 14:00
Race: 13:00 – 15:00