(Photo credit: REUTERS)
Ferrari is the team to beat
Based on what we’ve seen from Ferrari this season, they have built the best car overall. This is why the Baku Street circuit should work well for them with its long first/last straight and tight 90 degree turns. The top speed of the Ferrari engine has often lifted its customer teams Haas and Sauber near to the top of the speed trap standings, and Azerbaijan shouldn’t be any different. Now for the order of the two Ferrari drivers. From what we saw in China, it should be Sebastian Vettel ahead of Kimi Raikkonen. Unless the flack the team received from fans and the Italian media has had an effect.
Mercedes can strike with mental strength
So far, Mercedes' cars and drivers have both drastically under-performed this season. In Australia, Bottas had a shunt while Hamilton lost the race thanks to an error in the strategy department. Since then, Bottas has taken the lead in the team while Lewis has fallen into the twilight zone. Every single person wearing the German team's uniform must get back on form, and I believe they will.
The disappointments the team has suffered this spring should galvanise them as they look to reclaim superiority. I predict Mercedes will take the fight back to Ferrari in Azerbaijan with both drivers tasting blood. Lewis will hope to get his mojo back to lead the charge, but Bottas will be hungry after losing the win in China through no fault of his own.
Who could surprise us this year?
The Azerbaijan GP (European GP in 2016) has already offered two somewhat surprising podium combinations. Sergio Perez brought his Force India to the chequered flag in third two years ago, and who could forget last year when Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull won after starting tenth while Valtteri Bottas snatched second place from Williams’ wonderkid Lance Stroll just inches before the line. This, despite the Finn being a lap down after a messy start. This year, if we’re looking for surprises in the top three, our sights should be shifted towards Haas. The American team have upped the ante this season and are strong contenders for fourth place in Constructors' championship.
Kevin Magnussen has got his confidence and speed back, making him one of the most likely candidates for a podium upset this season. However, we shouldn’t forget his teammate Romain Grosjean. The Frenchman has scored podiums before (driving for Lotus) and this season he has the most competitive car he has had in years. However, both drivers will need luck on their side if they are to snatch a place in the top three.
Okay, now it is time to be bold and make a prediction for the outcome of this race. I expect Ferrari to be strong again but Mercedes will throw all their weight behind Hamilton to get his championship defence back on track. So, I predict a win for the Brit with the two Prancing Horses making up the numbers.
- Lewis Hamilton
- Sebastian Vettel
- Kimi Raikkonen
Let us know your own podium predictions in the comments below. Are you going for a safe bet with the Ferraris and Mercedes, or are you backing a surprise candidate?