Azerbaijan Grand Prix
Location: Baku, Azerbaijan
Course: Baku City Circuit
Course Length: 6.003 KM
Azerbaijan Grand Prix Race Preview
We're coming off a more eventful than usual race at Monaco, where Red Bull continued their recent run of dominance. That arguably had less to do with pace and more to do with Ferrari's poor strategic decisions – particularly harming Charles Leclerc. That should have the two top teams on relatively equal footing heading into Baku.
From there, we've had strong individual performances, but a lack of consistent team performances throughout the field. Lando Norris, George Russell and Valtteri Bottas have proven to be quick and should have the chance to contend for a podium if some luck falls their way. Their teammates have fallen behind, though Lewis Hamilton is always quick and a threat for a podium finish.
A few other specific storylines have emerged. Both Daniel Ricciardo and Mick Schumacher – while at distinctly different points in their careers – enter the race under a lot of pressure. Ricciardo has been severely outpaced by McLaren teammate Lando Norris for almost the entire season. Meanwhile, Schumacher has had a number of key errors that resulted in big crashes and the loss of both points and money towards the cost cap for Haas. Both will likely need to show improved form to keep their seats in 2023.
I'll also be keeping a close eye on Mercedes and Alpine. They have shown pace at various points of the season, but neither has had results that meet their preseason expectation. Red Bull continues to talk up the threat that Mercedes poses, but that has yet to translate to race weekends. Similarly, Alpine appears to have one of the fastest cars on the grid with little to show for it. The team has also confirmed that they have a few aerodynamic upgrades specific to the Baku City Circuit.
Key Stats at Baku City Circuit
Number of Races: 5
Winners from Pole: 2
Fastest Lap: 1:43.009 – Charles Leclerc
Baku City Circuit Track Preview
After consecutive races at traditional circuits that don't feature a lot of overtaking and are largely decided during qualifying, we will head to a track that always promises a massive amount of chaos. In 2018, we saw teammates Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo race each other hard throughout the grand prix, only to crash into each other and eliminate the chance for a double podium for Red Bull. That same year, Romain Grosjean crashed into a barrier while attempting to heat his tires under caution. After a one-year hiatus caused by COVID-19, we saw a tire puncture cost Verstappen a win in 2021, with rival Lewis Hamilton costing himself the chance for victory by having the now-infamous "magic" setting mistakenly on his car. Expect chaos.
As evidence of this idea, there have been no repeat pole or race winners across the five years the race has existed. The track itself is a street course, featuring both tight turns but also a pair of long straights. That combination demands a car that is both technically capable but also quick on straights, meaning the cars won't be fit for maximum downforce on this race weekend. Particularly this year, different drivers should excel on different portions of the track. Red Bull will look to make up time with raw pace on the straights, while Ferrari will have to build an advantage on the technical portions. Similarly, McLaren should do better in the faster portions of the track, with Mercedes better in the slower areas.
Pirelli is providing the three softest tire compounds for the race, citing the speed of the track to justify its decision. We've seen strategy in 2022 differ from past seasons, though teams have typically tried to employ a one-stop strategy in Azerbaijan, beginning on softer compound tires and transitioning to a harder compound after stopping.
DraftKings Value Picks for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix
DraftKings Tier 1 Values
Charles Leclerc: $11,400
Max Verstappen: $11,000
Sergio Perez: $10,200
Carlos Sainz Jr.: $,9800
DraftKings Tier 2 Values
George Russell: $8,600
Lando Norris: $8,000
Valtteri Bottas: $7,400
DraftKings Tier 3 Values
Kevin Magnussen: $5,800
Pierre Gasly: $5,200
Sebastian Vettel: $4,200
DraftKings Constructor Values
Red Bull Racing - $11,400
Ferrari - $10,900
Alpine - $5,000
Alpha Tauri - $4,100
Haas - $3,600
Formula 1 DFS Picks for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix
Captain – Carlos Sainz Jr. - $14,700
Valtteri Bottas - $7,400
Fernando Alonso - $6,800
Pierre Gasly - $5,200
Sebastian Vettel - $4,200
Constructor – Red Bull Racing - $11,400
This is one of the season's first races where it feels appropriate to really dig into game theory. Pole is so vital in most Formula 1 races that DraftKings' decision to lock lineups after the starting grid is decided means roster rates really condense around a few combinations of drivers. This is a week to avoid that because of the uncertainty, so don't be afraid to get creative and opt for different builds that may not typically be comfortable. That could mean it's another week for Perez, or perhaps Sainz. earns his first win of the season. This pair of drivers stand out because they are second drivers on their respective teams, yet still have the elite car to be competitive in pace.
For that same reason, I really like all of the drivers from Tier 2. Bottas stands out. He won the 2019 race and is one of only two drivers to win the race from pole position. Norris wasn't 100 percent after dealing with tonsillitis in Monaco, yet he still managed a sixth-place finish. Meanwhile, Russell has finished in the top five of every race this season.
Dropping down into the bottom tier of drivers, Gasly ran into tough luck after a misused red flag forced an exit of Q1 in qualifying in Monaco. He is priced way down as a result. Vettel looked like he was ready to call it the end on an illustrious career at the beginning of the season, though he's been far more competitive of late by finishing eighth, 8th, 17th (caused by a collision late in the race), 11th and 10th. Vettel is also among the strongest bets to beat his teammate, Lance Stroll.
Constructor will also be a key piece to get right this week because there's a stronger likelihood this weekend that a team's second driver ends up being their primary point scorer. Red Bull and Ferrari are obvious. Alpine is consistently competitive and just needs to put things together across all sessions. Meanwhile, Alpha Tauri has two competitive drivers in Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda and could be a darkhorse to emerge from the midfield this week.
Formula 1 Betting Picks for Azerbaijan Grand Prix (Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook)
Top-6 Finish – Fernando Alonso (+185)
Race-Winning Car- Ferrari (+150)
Like the DraftKings picks, I'm not laying odds on any bet in such an unpredictable race and I'm willing to get a little bit more creative while counting on chaos. The first theme is that Ferrari is underrated in its chance to overtake Red Bull for a win. Verstappen is -105 to win, while Perez is +550. Perez has undeniably shown better form than Sainz this season, but the gap between Verstappen vs. Leclerc and Perez vs. Sainz is massive.
We've covered my reasoning behind both Norris and Bottas in the DraftKings section. Both Mercedes drivers have better odds to finish on the podium. For Norris in particular, that confidence in the Silver Arrows seems misplaced.
Vettel is actually a fairly safe bet for a top-10 finish, having done so in half of his last four races. Schumacher is feeling all kinds of heat to produce after Haas team principal Guenther Steiner went public with criticism of his young driver. Schumacher has been on the cusp of points during several different races this season, so a breakthrough at those odds isn't a bad bet to take.