5 Storylines For Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix (8 a.m. ET/ESPN 2)

The fourth race of the 2018 Formula One season is upon us as the drivers will take on the streets of Baku City circuits for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix (8 a.m. ET/ESPN 2). Through three races, Sebastian Vettel and the Ferrari’s have dominated the 2018 season. Will that continue this weekend in Azerbaijan?

Here are five storylines. 

Mercedes Struggles

With being shutout in the win column so far in 2018, this has been the longest winless drought during the hybrid turbo era (2014) that Mercedes has gone without winning an F1 races. They haven’t won since the 2017 season finale in Abu Dhabi and if you go back six races ago, they have just one victory to their credit. Plus, that win wasn’t even by Lewis Hamilton.

Hamilton, has a ton of struggles surrounding him in 2018. He was second in Australia, third in Bahrain and fourth in China so far. His finishes are getting worse. Last year, he was fifth in Baku. He’s only had three podium finishes in his last six F1 starts. His last win was back in October.

Prior to that win in Austin, Hamilton had five wins in a span of six races. His other finish in that same period was a second place run. But, he has zero wins since.

Can his No. 44 Mercedes overcome that and get back on track this weekend at the Baku City Circuit?

His teammate Bottas may though. Bottas, is ready to win. He was eighth in the season opener in Melbourne, but he’s been second in each race since. He finished second in this very race in Azerbaijan last year. In fact, out of his last six F1 starts, he has five top two finishes. He’s been in the top five in 17 of his last 18 races.

If neither can win the pole on Saturday, it will also mark two failed pole runs in three starts for 2018. They only had two failed pole runs in 2014, 2015 and 2016 combined.

Ferrari Eyeing Azerbaijan Pole

Entering this weekend, the Ferrari duo have started on the front row in each of the last two races. Their front row lockout in China was their second in-a-row this season. They also accomplished that feat the week earlier in Bahrain. The last time they managed that was in the 2006 US and French Grands Prix, which coincidentally enough was Michael Schumacher’s last two poles of his career.

Now, can they make it three straight?

Last year, Raikkonen and Vettel started third and fourth respectively.

A lot Riding On a Ferrari Win On Sunday

If either of the two Ferrari drivers can win on Sunday, they would have some significance. For Raikkonen, if he can win, it would have been 98 starts between victories. His last win was the Australian Grand Prix in 2013, some 98 races ago. That would be the second longest streak in the history of the series, as Riccardo Patrese went 99 races between his wins in South Africa in 1983 and San Marino in 1990. Raikkonen, has finished third in two of the three races in 2018 and has five third place finishes in his last seven starts. His last second place run came in Hungary last July.

But, if Vettel can win too, it would practically all but guarantee him the 2018 championship. A win on Sunday would mark three wins in the first four races for the German. Since 1990, 13 drivers have accomplished that same feat. All have won the championship in the seasons that they’ve done so too.

Alonso’s Strong Start

Fernando Alonso has finished in the top 10 in every race in 2018. In fact, you have to go back to last year to see that he has six consecutive top 10 finishes. His streak of six straight races with scoring points is his longest since rejoining McLaren in 2015. Furthermore, he didn’t even manage to finish three consecutive races in 2017.

He has 22 points through three races in 2018. That’s five more points than he scored all of last season.

Red Bull Going For 150th Career Podium On Sunday

Daniel Ricciardo’s season breakthrough victory in the last race at China was Red Bull’s 149th career podium finish. Now, they’re aiming for 150 on Sunday. Can that happen?

Last year, Ricciardo won the race in Azerbaijan and is looking to win Sunday’s race again. He started 10th and won a year ago on the streets of the Baku circuit and looking to take his No. 3 Red Bull entry to victory lane again.

Even his teammate Max Verstappen can too. While he qualified fifth in this race last year, he finished 18th. But, overall, he has eight top six finishes in his last nine starts in F1, dating back to last year. He’s had a drama filled year with run ins with Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton. Now, can he overcome that and land in victory on Sunday?

So far, it looks like this could be another Red Bull weekend.

 

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