Will anyone protest flexi-wings as F1 goes back to Baku?
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1. Will the flexi-wings row escalate further?Flexi-wings proved to be the talk of the paddock during the Monaco Grand Prix weekend as the saga heated up following initial suspicions that first surfaced in Barcelona.Red Bull, Ferrari, Alpine and Alfa Romeo are among the teams understood to be running flexible rear wings, with all four outfits admitting they will likely be forced to modify their cars in light of a new technical directive and the impending introduction of tougher tests on wings.But F1 bosses have decided to delay the more stringent tests until after this weekend’s race in Baku, meaning teams will be able to continue running their current wing configurations for one more race.This has angered Mercedes and McLaren, who believe Baku’s incredibly long straights will hand a significant straightline speed advantage to rival teams utilising the so-called “bendy” rear wings.But will anyone take the matter further by lodging a protest?2807132.0064.jpg accImages.createImage();Given Mercedes’ titanic title fight against Mercedes, a protest against its car to try and rein in any perceived advantage would not be out of the question.Indeed, Mercedes has refused to rule out a protest, though team principal Toto Wolff has warned that such action would likely lead to a “messy” legal battle. There is also a chance that any Mercedes protest could be met with retaliation from Red Bull regarding its own suspicions about flexible aerodynamics on the front wing of the W12.McLaren has remained coy about the prospect of a protest but will also be wary of losing any ground to its chief rival Ferrari in what is shaping up to be a close fight for third place in the constructors’ championship.Whether or not the flexi-wings saga escalates into an all-out war at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix will be one to watch across the weekend…2. Can Verstappen extend his lead over Hamilton?A maiden Monaco victory propelled Max Verstappen to the top of the F1 world championship for the first time in his career as he capitalised on Mercedes’ woes to turn a 14-point deficit to Lewis Hamilton into a four-point advantage.Whether the Dutchman can land a further blow in the title race by extending his inaugural F1 points lead over Hamilton will largely depend on how Mercedes responds to the setback of its miserable weekend in Monaco. 2791840.0064.jpg accImages.createImage();Hamilton and Mercedes will be determined to bounce back strongly but Wolff reckons Red Bull will once again prove to be the team to beat in Baku, with Mercedes expecting the street circuit to better suit the strengths of the RB16B. However, history shows that Mercedes has won three of the four editions of the Azerbaijan GP (or European GP as it was in 2016) to date, with a Silver Arrows driver only failing to win a crazy race in 2017. Curiously, there has not yet been a repeat winner in Baku. Verstappen will be hoping that record remains intact this year given that both Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas have been victorious before. If Verstappen were to add his name to the list of winners in Baku, it would also mark his first podium at the race, with his previous best result being fourth place in 2019. Related ArticlesaccImages.createImage(); Mercedes ‘more fired-up than ever’ to bounce back after ‘dissecting’ Monaco GPaccImages.createImage(); ‘Mental health is not a joke’ – Hamilton defends tennis star Osaka3. Will Mercedes boost McLaren back ahead of Ferrari?Ferrari’s resurgence in 2021 hit a high in Monaco as it secured its first pole position since the 2019 Mexican Grand Prix and scored its highest-placed finish of the season. Unfortunately, polesitter Charles Leclerc saw his hopes of winning his home race cruelly ended by a crack in his Ferrari’s driveshaft hub following a hefty at the end of qualifying.That left Carlos Sainz as the sole Ferrari in the race, but the Spaniard was able to convert the Scuderia’s impressive performance spike in Monte Carlo into its first podium of the season with an excellent drive to second. Related ArticlesaccImages.createImage(); Mercedes adds 13-year-old Chinese karter to F1 junior rosteraccImages.createImage(); Mercedes adds 13-year-old Chinese karter to F1 junior roster2807902.0064.jpg accImages.createImage();Ferrari outpaced McLaren on merit in Monaco, largely thanks to Ferrari’s performance in low-speed corners, but the form table could swing back towards McLaren in Baku. Mercedes power should hand McLaren the advantage on Baku’s long straights, but the tight and twisty segments is where the Ferrari is expected to shine. With just two points separating the two teams over P3 in the championship, it is set to be another fascinating weekend for the developing midfield scrap. 4. Watch out for slipstreaming tactics in qualifying With Baku’s 2.2 kilometre stretch along Neftchilar Avenue boasting the longest straight on the F1 calendar, the importance of having an efficient car in a straight line cannot be understated. “4Given that so much time can be won and lost on the main straight, teams will go to vast lengths in a bid to eke out any advantage. In the search for the best possible top speeds, expect some teams to try utilising slipstreaming tactics during qualifying with the knowledge that the tow effect in Baku can be incredibly powerful. Mercedes used this to great effect in 2019 as its unusual Q3 dummy helped put its drivers in a position to benefit from the best slipstreams at the back of the pack and subsequently go on to lock out the front row of the grid. “5SI201904270276_hires_jpeg_24bit_rgb.jpg accImages.createImage();5. A Baku breakthrough for Perez and Ricciardo? Could Baku be the weekend that Sergio Perez finally puts himself in contention to fight for his first podium as a Red Bull driver? The Mexican said he expected it to take him four-to-five races to get fully accustomed to the RB16B and a brilliant race in Monaco will have acted as a confidence boost following a difficult start to the season. Imola aside – where Perez sealed a stunning P2 on the grid – qualifying has proved to be his achilles’ heel. Should he be able to get on top of this area in Baku, Perez could set himself up for a podium shot at a circuit where he has notched up two previous rostrum appearances. Daniel Ricciardo is also in need of a breakthrough weekend for McLaren, having endured the worst performance against a teammate in his entire F1 career in Monaco. “6The Australian was over half a second slower than Lando Norris in qualifying and went on to be lapped by him in the race as his younger teammate secured his second podium of the year. Baku has largely been a happy hunting ground for 2017 Azerbaijan GP winner Ricciardo. He will be hoping to rediscover some of that previous form this weekend.”72808469.0064.jpg accImages.createImage();
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