Heading to round six in Baku as the World Championship leader, Max Verstappen knows his record there “has to change” if he is to continue being a title contender.
The Dutchman has already put right some previous wrongs to his Formula 1 career this season. At the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, he ended his Italian race curse with victory at round two of the 2021 campaign.
Fast forward to Monaco and he ended his podium drought at Monte Carlo with a dominant win which ensured both and Red Bull sat top of the respective World Championship standings ahead of title rivals Mercedes.
And now the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku represents another obstacle for Verstappen to overcome as he goes there with another patchy record to improve upon.
Verstappen has never finished on the podium in Baku and is perhaps best remembered there for his role in the catastrophic double DNF for Red Bull when involved in a team-mate tangle with Daniel Ricciardo back in 2018.
— Formula 1 (@F1) April 29, 2018
As he prepares to enter the ‘Land of Fire’, Verstappen is all too aware of his chequered past in Baku.
“In Monaco I was never on the podium before 2021, then I won,” Verstappen said.
“My previous record in Baku is not that good either, that has to change.
“If you don’t make it to the podium at a certain race for so long and then you win, it’s a special feeling.
“Of course, it was nice to take the lead in the drivers’ championship, but I’ve always said: I don’t want to be ahead in the fifth race of the season, but at the end of the season.
“We can be proud of the first part of the World Championship, but we can’t let up now. In order to hold our own in the battle for the title, we have to get even better in all respects. We can’t afford to make mistakes either.”
Verstappen is also wary of a fierce response from Mercedes after their well below-par weekend in Monaco.
He said: “The circuit [in Baku] is okay, even if it’s not my favourite track now.
“I expect Mercedes to be very strong after a difficult Monaco weekend.”