Fri, Apr 27, 8:00am by Staff Writer
Daniel Ricciardo can theoretically take the Formula One championship lead if he can emulate last year’s performance and claim a second straight Azerbaijan Grand Prix title on Sunday.
The Australian moved to fourth on the standings after three races after he swooped in to take the chequered flag in Shanghai last time out.
A win on the winding track would see the red Bull driver leapfrog current leader Sebastien Vettel of Ferrari and Mercedes’ defending world Champion Lewis Hamilton on the standings.
After an all-conquering 2017, Mercedes are yet to win a race this season, while Ferrari has proved a genuine contender with Vettel claiming two victories so far.
Despite his win in China and an improving car, Sportsbet is paying an extremely tempting $10 for Ricciardo to win this weekend, paying the same as teammate Max Verstappen.
The bookies are tipping Mercedes to break its drought, installing Hamilton as the $2.30 favourite.
Vettel is paying $4.20 for a third win from four races, with Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas on $5.50 and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen at $6.50.
Ricciardo took advantage of a safety-car mandated disruption in Shanghai to pull off spectacular three-car pass into Turn 1 and win from 10th on the grid.
Should a back-to-back Azerbaijan wins elude him, Ricciardo still has a chance of earning Red Bull its 150th podium with a top-three finish.
Ricciardo is on just $2.50 to achieve the feat, with $1.30 for Hamilton, $1.40 for Vettel, $1.80 for Bottas, $2.40 for Raikkonen and $2.50 for Verstappen.
While Ricciardo is mathematically capable of snatching the championship lead this week, it is dependent on particularly poor performance from the current leaders.
That scenario is not too far-fetched given last year’s race when the Aussie scrambled for the win Vettel famously succumbed to “road rage” and clashed with Hamilton.
At just over six kilometres, the Baku street circuit is second longest track on the F1 calendar, beaten only Belgium’s Spa-Francorchamps.
Featuring a narrow track, twisting turns and long straight, Baku offers not only variety, but a serious challenge for unsuspecting drivers.
“Baku is different to other street circuits because there are places where you can pass. Actually, lots of places where you can pass,” Ricciardo said this week.
“With a street circuit you have to love it, but you also have to respect it and understand it.”
Last year’s Azerbaijan GP was held in the middle of summer, and while the switch to April promises cooler conditions this time out the weather should not be a factor in determining the race.
Forecasters a predicting a top of 21C for Friday’s qualifying, increasing to 24C for qualifying Saturday and Sunday’s race.
The Azerbaijan GP gets underway at 11pm AEST.
Suggested Bet: Ricciardo to finish on the podium: $2.50
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