Here’s what to look out for in Baku this afternoon as the 2021 Formula 1 season continues…

Can Leclerc hold on?

Since joining Ferrari, Leclerc has consistently shown why he is arguably F1’s best qualifier with some of his breathtaking laps.

While his effort in Baku was “quite a shit lap” - in his own words - a two-tenth margin over the rest of the field is still an impressive margin.

Ferrari wasn’t expected to be challenging at the front in Azerbaijan due to its deficiencies in a straight line, but Leclerc once again extracted the most from his car over one lap. 

The big question is… can Leclerc hold on to take Ferrari’s first victory since the 2019 Singapore Grand Prix? 

Red Bull enjoyed a significant advantage on the race runs in FP2, while Ferrari showed glimpses of promising pace, ultimately it struggled with tyre graining as its race stints progressed. 

After practice, Carlos Sainz expressed his concerns over Ferrari’s management of the rear tyres.

“It is graining a lot,” Sainz said. “Red Bull did particularly a strong long run, which showed us that they probably have something more to come tomorrow, while we were decent on the short run, but then on the long run, I think we still need to analyse how we can get those rear tyres to work a bit better in the window.”

Pirelli expects it to be a one-stop - soft to hard strategy - but given Red Bull’s superior tyre advantage and Hamilton renowned for his impressive tyre saving techniques, Leclerc will be needing a sizeable improvement in this area to hold onto the win. 

Tyre preservation aside, Red Bull and Mercedes often have a bigger advantage over their midfield competitors on pure race pace.

Verstappen will be keen to extend his championship lead and you can never rule out Hamilton on race day.

The seven-time champion was consistently fast in the final sector in qualifying, indicating he’s set up perfectly to overtake in the race.

Don’t rule out Perez

Sergio Perez looked to be finally at home in the Red Bull RB16B in Baku as he ran at the top of the timesheets throughout the weekend.

After Verstappen’s shunt in FP3, pole position looked to be his for the taking, but once again, Perez couldn’t deliver when it mattered.

Due to the red flag stoppage in Q3, Perez was unable to improve on his seventh-fastest time, although he will start from sixth thanks to Lando Norris’ three-place grid penalty.

Perez had the best race pace of anyone during Friday practice and historically, he’s always fared better on a Sunday. 

Overtaking is very possible in Baku and given that Perez tends to be a master at looking after his rear tyres, I’d be surprised if he wasn’t a serious contender for the podium. 

Will Baku deliver another chaotic grand prix?

Qualifying gave us a taste of what could happen in the race with five crashes causing four separate red flag stoppages. 

There are a number of other factors which could lead to a chaotic grand prix.

The wind

Baku is known as the 'city of winds' for its gusty conditions and forecasts suggest northerly winds of over 40-50km/h are expected to hit the race.

The wind has two knock-on effects. As we saw in Bahrain and Portimao, strong winds will play havoc with the handling and balance of the cars, leading to even more mistakes and potential carnage. 

Depending on the wind direction, if there's a headwind down the start-finish straight, the slipstream/DRS effect will be even more powerful and lead to greater overtaking opportunities. 

Safety Car restarts

The positioning of the start-finish line in Baku on such a long straight means Safety Car restarts may result in further chaos.

The leader of the pack will have to leave it as late as possible before ‘bolting’ leading to a potential concertina effect further down the field as we saw in Mugello last year.

While it may not be as dramatic as then, it’s another chance for drivers to make overtakes and with tyres naturally cooler under Safety Car conditions, it could lead to further drama.