Our F1 expert eyes a big Baku weekend for Force India and Williams

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The Azerbaijan Grand Prix would have been the hardest race to tip for a year ago as a new venue, but the Baku City Circuit proved itself to be a welcome addition to the F1 calendar.

A city full of character and a challenging circuit, the only thing missing was a dramatic race in 2016.

Perhaps this year will deliver more excitement with two teams fighting at the front, and as these three markets suggest, perhaps a surprise package.

Force India to finish on the podium @ 4/1

If calling three out of three tips right last time out in Canada doesn’t convince you, just look at last year’s podium in Azerbaijan.

Sergio Perez finished third having originally qualified in second place but a gearbox change – due to a crash earlier in the weekend – meant he started seventh.

His Force India was so competitive, though, that he still climbed back to finish on the rostrum.

While new regulations have changed matters slightly, Force India still believes Baku will play into its hands.

And having been so close to the podium in Canada it probably has its best chance of the year to finish in the top three this weekend.

Sebastian Vettel on pole @ 9/4

It may seem like the less obvious bet given Hamilton’s pace in Baku a year ago before his qualifying crash and his incredible performance in Canada, but this could be another Ferrari weekend.

With a car that works on every type of circuit, Ferrari should be strong in Baku, which is a mix of low and medium speed corners but also long straights that should test most aspects of the chassis.

Add in Pirelli’s choice of supersoft, soft and medium tyres (so not the softest possible compounds) and Mercedes may still struggle to get the same performance out of the rubber.

Both Williams to finish in the points @ 6/4

OK, this is a bit of an outside bet as Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll have yet to both finish in the top ten this season.

But Stroll’s maiden points – scored with an impressive drive in his home race in Canada – will hopefully give him additional confidence even on another new circuit for the 18-year-old.

The Mercedes-powered cars showed up well in Russia – the nearby semi-street circuit with long straights – and the Williams should definitely have the pace to score with both cars if the drivers can deliver.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing

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Chris Medland

Chris is F1 correspondent for RACER.com and magazine as well as a contributor for F1 Racing and AutosportME. When he’s not chasing F1 around the world he’s usually found in a less glamorous setting, keeping an eye on the fortunes of Yeovil Town.