Sergio Perez has fond recollections of final 12 months’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix and this weekend the Mexican finds himself returning to the quick and livid streets of Baku as a viable contender for the world championship.
‘Checo’ arrives on the Caspian Sea shoreline contemporary from his Monaco triumph and with the ink barely dry on a two-year extension to his Purple Bull contract.
Monaco, following three second-place finishes, lifted Mexico’s most profitable F1 driver to inside 15 factors of his world champion teammate Max Verstappen.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc is barely six factors in entrance of Perez heading into this eighth spherical of the 22-race season which welcomes again followers for the primary time for the reason that Covid pandemic.
“He’s on this championship simply as a lot as Max is,” Purple Bull boss Christian Horner said within the aftermath of Perez’s third profession win after Azerbaijan in 2021 and in Bahrain the season earlier than.
Perez was helped in Monaco by his group’s pit cease prowess with Ferrari bungling theirs however Horner warned the Italian constructor’s sooner automotive might be laborious to cease “over the approaching races”.
Baku has a status for serving up the surprising, with vehicles hurtling down the Neftchilar Avenue, the longest straight on the calendar, at 350kmh, earlier than snaking via the sinuous previous city framed by Baku’s medieval metropolis partitions.
It’s unpredictable nature is borne out by the outcomes, with a unique driver successful every version since Nico Rosberg gained the primary Grand Prix held there, the European, in 2016.
Verstappen readily concedes it’s not considered one of his favorite weekend locations after final 12 months’s dramatic tyre blow out with the chequered flag his for the taking persevering with his sorry sequence of by no means making the rostrum.
The Dutchman needed to accept third in Monaco however nonetheless got here away glad at extending his title lead over Leclerc, who judged his residence race as “a freaking catastrophe” after ranging from pole to complete fourth.
The person from Monaco has seen the title momentum he established with wins in Bahrain and Australia disappear with Purple Bull on a five-timer after annexing the final 4 races.
“Every part went in opposition to us…we’ll come again stronger,” stated Leclerc, that sentiment echoed by his group boss.
“We’re fairly conscious: being aggressive is a truth; successful is one other job and it’s one other stage of problem. And I believe as a group we’re nonetheless progressing, studying, and perhaps it would take some extra time,” stated Ferrari principal Mattia Binotto.
Whereas Purple Bull and Ferrari are dominating the early season limelight Mercedes have struggled to unleash the complete potential of their automotive.
Upgrades in Barcelona final month regarded encouraging as Toto Wolff’s below stress group sought to iron out the ‘bouncing’ that has bedevilled their efficiency.
The Silver Arrows’ undoubted velocity ought to make deposed seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton and his astute new teammate George Russell a power to be reckoned with in qualifying.
However it’s maybe wishful considering to recommend they’re able so as to add to their three wins from the 5 races held right here on Sunday simply but.
Except for Perez final 12 months the opposite that escaped the mighty German producer was in 2017, when Daniel Ricciardo gained for Purple Bull from tenth on the grid.
The Australian’s trademark smile has been examined this time period as he struggles to make a mark in his McLaren, gathering solely 11 factors to 48 for his teammate Lando Norris.
At Monaco he kind of agreed with group boss Zak Brown that up to now his transfer to the group had failed to fulfill expectations.
“Nobody’s going to be tougher on me than myself,” he stated.
“I do know that I don’t need to be racing round in tenth, twelfth locations.
“I nonetheless consider I might be on the entrance and belong on the entrance, so it’s been a little bit bit extra, definitely, testing at instances, by way of us attempting to get