The Azerbaijan Grand Prix is scheduled for next weekend in the streets of Baku. Ho-Pin Tung, driver and analyst at NU.nl and Viaplay, looks ahead to the eighth race of the season.
Max Verstappen saw his race come to an end last year due to a blowout. What are the chances of something like this happening again this year?
“Remarkably, we have not seen any blowouts this year – unlike last season. It was relatively logical that something like this happened in Baku. The cars drive for a long time at high speed, where there is vertical pressure on the shoulder of a tire for a long time. When the race is interrupted by, for example, a safety car or a red flag, the tire pressure decreases and the risk of blowouts also increases, because tire pressure provides support to the structure of a tire and a lack of it more easily causes damage. “
“By the way, Pirelli said that Max Verstappen’s blowout was caused by rubble, although Verstappen did not believe that story. And to be honest, I don’t believe that theory either, since there are much more logical explanations for that blowout.”
“Are we going to see the blowouts again this year in Baku? I think there’s a lot less chance of something like that happening again. The construction of the tire has been changed a lot this year and the sidewall of the tire has also become a lot smaller. cars are stiffer, allowing more energy to flow through the carcass of the tyre. Pirelli has anticipated this by making the tire a lot firmer. Pirelli has tried that in previous years, but the tire maker encountered a lot of resistance from teams and drivers , because the driving behavior changed significantly as a result. But because the entire concept of the cars has now been changed, this is of course less noticeable.”
Last year, Max Verstappen’s race in Baku came to an end due to a tire blowout.
The street circuit in Baku has a very long straight. Top speed is one of the Red Bull’s strengths this year. Does this also mean that Verstappen’s team is automatically the favourite?
“That straight is certainly in Red Bull’s favour, but I don’t dare say that it immediately makes them the top favourites. The circuit also has a pretty twisty part, where traction and acceleration are very important and that’s where the Ferrari shines.” in out. Don’t rule out Mercedes either. Since they introduced the updates in Barcelona, their porpoising has been greatly reduced. As a result, they have been able to drive the car a lot lower than before, something which means a big increase in performance and top speed.”
“We see that Ferrari is relatively strong up to a speed of about 275 kilometers per hour. That has to do with traction, but also with the power source and the choices with which the hybrid system delivers its power. Between 275 and 300 kilometers per hour starts. for the Red Bull to make really big strides, that also has to do with the fact that they are aerodynamically more efficient.That’s exactly what you want in the race, because it makes it easier to overtake and defend. The teams will, as always, have a finding a compromise between top speed and downforce, which is even more difficult on this track, as you need both aspects.”
Timetable GP Azerbaijan
- Friday 1 p.m. – First free practice
- Friday 4 pm – Second free practice
- Saturday 13.00 – Third free practice
- Saturday 4pm – Qualification
- Sunday 1pm – Race
In the wake of Monaco, there is much talk about Sergio Perez, who is just 15 points behind Verstappen in the championship. Is he a threat to his teammate in the title fight?
“No, I don’t think so. With the exception of Monaco, Perez has finished behind Verstappen in all races this year if both had reached the finish. Personally, I find it more interesting to look at why Red Bull did not manage to win the balance of Verstappen’s car the way he wanted it.”
“That may have to do with the type of track and possibly also the way they had anticipated the expected weather conditions. In that regard, the conditions were somewhat similar to Imola.”
“Baku has even less grip than Monaco and the track evolution here is also a lot bigger during the weekend due to the composition of the asphalt. It was noticed that in Monaco all drivers suffered from understeer. Baku has many 90-degree turns, so it is possible to go We’ll see that again this weekend.”
“Verstappen is known to not like a car with too much understeer, while Perez does. At the same time, you also see that Verstappen is not too concerned about it. He knows that he is faster than Perez and in normal circumstances he will always stand for it.”
The Pérez contract extension may also be bad news for Pierre Gasly, who now seems to be at a dead end at AlphaTauri and Red Bull. How do you see his future?
“While I could understand that he wants to leave, options are limited for him. The top three teams are taken, so he needs to look at the teams behind them. He could be a serious option for McLaren if Daniel Ricciardo continues to underperform there, But he won’t be world champion with that team either.”
“The French link with Alpine could be interesting for him, although they also have a top talent like Oscar Piastri up their sleeve. In addition, they also have an ongoing contract with Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso may continue for a while.”
“Weighing all options, he may not be so bad at Red Bull after all. Perez has signed a two-year contract and although he is of course doing very well now, it could be very different next year. Red Bull often reacts impulsively when it is It’s about driver changes, so who knows, maybe his role within Red Bull isn’t over yet.”
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