By Tom Mann
Photo: Oscar Piastri driving the MCL60 around his home Grand Prix in Melbourne, Australia Credit: Getty Images
After a three-week break, Formula One returns this weekend with the Azerbaijan Grand Prix which features the first sprint race of the season. After the Australian Grand Prix, we have seen numerous teams talk about upgrades they will be bringing to Baku with McLaren being one of the teams which supposedly have three major upgrades in the pipework which could supposedly be their B-spec car. Will upgrades from some of the teams around Red Bull’s level finally bring them into contention with the Milton Keynes outlet?
Three teams are expected to bring upgrades to this weekend’s grand prix and with two of the teams being these seasons front runners, Aston Martin and Mercedes. Over the past month, Mercedes have been working hard to ensure their major upgrades will be bought to the grand prix this weekend. Toto Wolff, CEO of Mercedes, has said “The team is consistently bringing upgrades over the next few races.” It is highly expected that the teams most important upgrades will be bought this weekend, primarily focusing on the downforce and drivability of the W14. Mercedes have also reshuffled their technical team with James Allison returning to the role of technical director and Mike Elliot moving to Chief Technical Officer. Aston Martin, another team around the same pace as the Mercedes at the moment, are looking to being in their first big upgrades. It’ll be a rear wing upgrade as they look to resolve the drag issues their car has under DRS as they tend to not gain as big as an advantage as other teams when they have DRS activated.
McLaren have endured a rough start to the season but scored double points in the Australian Grand Prix with Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri respectively finish P6 and P8. They look to continue to improve their results with upgrades being bought to the MCL60. It is rumored that the upgrades bought to this race weekend could be worth up to a few tenths of a second especially with the new floor upgrade which affects the aerodynamic flow on the car. Team principle, Andrea Stella, is reluctant to believe the car will instantly improve after the implemented upgrades due to the lack of practice sessions the team have available this weekend as it is a sprint race weekend.
Speaking on the sprint race, the FIA are testing out the new structure they have introduced for each sprint race on the calendar this season. Each Saturday on race weekend will be strictly dedicated to the sprint event. The new “Sprint Shoot-out” concept will involve the teams to use the hard, medium and soft tyre in the three qualifying sessions. The race will no longer determine the grid order for Sunday’s grand prix which has already faced a lot of backlash from fans as it won’t create a diversity of cars in different positions on the grid. There are also many concerns that the new sprint race structure could cause teams to have to spend a lot more on new parts and power units for the cars, instead of upgrades that could tighten up the competition.