Daniel Ricciardo has said he believes the narrow, technical sections of Baku City Circuit should give him and teammate Max Verstappen plenty of optimism for this Sunday’s Grand Prix, despite the Azerbaijan track’s emphasis on top speed favouring Red Bull’s rivals.
Speaking ahead of the race, Ricciardo said “[Baku] doesn’t suit our car that much but there are lots of opportunities for things to happen. I think the circuit is definitely as tight as it looks and…there are a few interesting lines past the castle which adds to the toughness. The straight is so long that it gives you time to think, which is nice as the corners are technical and you really need to concentrate.
“Another street circuit is exciting for me as I really enjoy those types of tracks. I’m looking forward to having another go on it.”
Last year’s race in Baku was something of a mixed bag for Ricciardo: after crashing in first practice the Australian went on to qualify third ahead of both Ferraris, but in the race the RB12 fell behind the Mercedes power of Force India and Williams and Ricciardo could only finish in seventh.
His teammate fared little better, qualifying ninth and improving to just eighth behind Ricciardo after 51 laps, but Verstappen has also expressed his eagerness to return to Azerbaijan despite his struggles last year.
“Baku in my opinion is quite a special street circuit,” the Dutchman said. “It’s really unique in terms of having quite wide sections but also some of the tightest parts of track on the calendar. Sector 2 is tighter than parts of Monaco which has always been regarded as really narrow and challenging.
“When you drive up into the old town and past the castle it is fun and tricky but also amazing to watch as a spectator. That section of the track is my favourite.”
Realistically, Red Bull’s duo should be facing many of the same battles in Azerbaijan this year as in 2016, as the circuit’s long straights lift Williams and Force India up into the frame for the top six. However, thanks to a string of podium finishes from Ricciardo in the last three races, Red Bull currently enjoys a buffer of 41 points back to Force India in fourth, and is almost a hundred clear of Williams in sixth.
James Matthews, Deputy Editor