Despite being such a flat street circuit with 90-degree turns and long straights, the Azerbaijan Grand Prix (through the years) has served up the most bizarre races, earning its place in the calendar as a Formula One car wrecker.
Ever since it was first held in 2017, the race didn't miss a beat on claiming many retirements due to car failure and racing incidents. For unexplained reasons, the Baku street circuit is a track where drivers' chances of victory are never guaranteed until the checkered flag falls. That's backed up by the fact that up to now, no F1 driver has ever won in Baku twice.
This year, it was Max Verstappen who finally took the victory ahead of last year's race winner Sergio Perez. Meanwhile, George Russell earned his third podium of the season by finishing third.
There was no shortage of drama as F1 cars (and drivers) were put to the test in the 51-lap race. At the end of the 2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, here are the things we've learned throughout the Baku race weekend.
Ferrari's continued (mis)fortunes
At the start of the season, Ferrari looked like they had a head start with the 2022 regulations. They started Bahrain with a 1-2 finish exhibiting great mid-season form with the F1-75 and how the team is working, which gave them an early lead in the constructors' championship.
But since Imola, the guys from Maranello have choked on many race-deciding occasions, which cost them dear championship points, most especially for their driver Charles Leclerc.
Leclerc has already taken pole in six out of eight races this season including Baku, but his win total remains at two, as he retired from the race with an engine issue – his second retirement of the season. His teammate Carlos Sainz, didn't do any better as he also retired from the race due to suspected hydraulic failure. Together with the other Ferrari-powered cars of Guanyu Zhou and Kevin Magnussen, Ferrari had a week to forget in Baku.
From their operational mishaps in Monaco to their reliability issues in Baku, the Scuderia is now facing an 80-point deficit to Red Bull, who has gotten on top of their teething problems with the RB18. Maybe someone should remind Ferrari there are no points for pole position as it's really odd for a team that started the season so strong to be the one having problems lately.
Mr. Saturday becomes Mr. Sunday
It's not just Red Bull who is taking advantage of Ferrari's misfortunes, but also the constructors' champs Mercedes-AMG. Even though they are nowhere in terms of relative pace to the two frontrunners, the Silver Arrows are always there to pick up the pieces when one of the two leading teams hits trouble, particularly with the new Mr. Sunday, George Russell.
The Englishman has now scored his third podium and continued his run of top 5 finishes this season. Despite not scoring any pole position or race win, Russell has so far delivered a steady drive week in and week out, to the point where he's only 17 points behind Charles Leclerc in the standings. And so far, it's Mercedes who hasn't had any reliability issues yet this season with both cars always reaching the checkered flag in the first eight races.
Mercedes have serious porpoising issues
Despite a solid 3rd and 4th place finish for the Silver Arrows in Baku, they still need to address their porpoising issues, especially with Lewis Hamilton's car.
Yes, other teams may also be experiencing this, but the W13 seems to have it worse. Hamilton appeared to have difficulty getting out of the car after the race. And once he was able to climb out, the seven-time world champion was seen moving slowly while holding his back. The continuing issues of the W13 may lead us to believe that Christian Horner's right - it's easier to make a fast car reliable than to make a reliable car fast.
Latifi could be on his way out
Formula One is heading to Montreal next weekend for Round 9 of the championship. But for Nicholas Latifi, it could be his final home race as an F1 driver.
Latifi has had dismal results in the Williams this year compared to teammate Alex Albon who has already scored points twice. In this season's eight races, Latifi's best finish is 14th in the Miami Grand Prix. And in Baku, he only finished 15th. Not to mention, only he and Mick Schumacher are the two drivers who have yet to score points.
Like the German driver, the Canadian has been involved in several heavy collisions which have cost Williams hefty repair bills. If he doesn't improve in the next few races, then expect to see a new Williams driver by mid-season. Reports are pointing out Alpine's Oscar Piastri as the possible replacement on a loan-style deal.
F1 2022 – A throwback season?
For some reason, the current season reminds me of 2005. Back then, the defending champions Ferrari were on the back foot because of the new tire regulations. On the other hand, the resurgent McLaren had the fastest car on the grid, especially in Kimi Raikkonen's hands. However, their string of retirements caused by mechanical failures ultimately gave the championship to Fernando Alonso and Renault, who weren't always the fastest cars in qualifying, but was there when it mattered most – the Sunday race.
In 2022, Mercedes-AMG is the Ferrari of 2005, while the Ferrari F1-75 is the McLaren MP4-20. Meanwhile, Red Bull is turning out to be the Renault of old, with two drivers in contention for the championship – an experienced vet in Sergio Perez and of course, the young champion Max Verstappen.
The next race in Montreal is not just a power circuit, but is also, historically, the ultimate test for Formula One brake systems. Not to mention, the famous wall of champions is waiting for its next victim this coming weekend. So who's it gonna be this time?