Formula 1 Returns: How to Watch the Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Charles Leclerc has completed part one: After setting the fastest lap in qualifying, he will start the Azerbaijan Grand Prix from pole position on Sunday.

Now he has to do the part that has proved problematic for him this season: Finish the race.

In three starts this year, Leclerc's Ferrari has only raced at the end once. He was the victim of engine trouble in Bahrain and a first round crash in Australia. For now, however, Leclerc is in the right position.

He will start just ahead of the season leader, Red Bull's Max Verstappen, on Sunday, and one row ahead of his Ferrari teammate, Carlos Sainz, and another Red Bull, driven by Sergio Pérez. The qualification in front of them is very encouraging. Getting in front of them all on Sunday – around the tight corners of the Baku circuit which is notorious for causing chaos – will be much more difficult.

Time: The Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Sunday starts at 7am Eastern, ie 15.00 local time on Baku City Circuit.

TELEVISION: The race will air on ESPN in the United States, beginning with pre-race coverage at 5:30 a.m. Eastern. Not in America? The complete list of Formula 1 broadcasters, wherever you are, can be found here.

Ferrari and Red Bull were the fastest cars in qualifying. (Yes, that sounds familiar.) Lewis Hamilton will start fifth in his suddenly resurgent Mercedes.

Hamilton's team will be less than happy to see teammate George Russell come off the grid in 11th after a disappointing qualifying session. Verstappen preferred not to see Russell at all on Sunday after him and the Mercedes driver collide in the sprint race on Saturday.

Can anyone follow Red Bull? Yes, that's a story line every week. No, nobody has done that yet.

Are their pursuers starting to close the gap? Ferrari is in pole position and will line up first and third. Lewis Hamilton, sounding in good spirits after a month off, followed the podium in Australia with a solid qualifying race in his Mercedes. Aston Martin's ageless Fernando Alonso is right near the lead again. Red Bull's dominance – three races, three wins – has been the story of the Formula 1 season, but are the chasers making the most of their time in the garage? Not too soon, said Leclerc: “We will do it, but we also have to be realistic, and until now we have been behind in the race. Especially Red Bull seems to be one step ahead, so let's see how things go.”

Note the rust of the ring. Pierre Gasley And Nyck De Vries both fell in qualifying on Friday, and Yuki Tsunoda and Logan Sargeant do the same on Saturday – the day when the real spark came after Verstappen and Russell collided during the sprint race. Is that a reflection of the tight corners on the Baku highway, or the fact that this is the first race in four weeks? It's worth watching Sunday for those split-second moments, which can ruin the day—or change the race—in an instant.

The weekend's biggest talking point was the contact between George Russell and Max Verstappen on the first lap of Saturday's sprint race, in which Russell punched a hole in the Red Bull side and Verstappen Verstappen. sound as if he wanted to do the same to Russell.

The camera captures their brief conversation afterward, which begins with Russell appearing to ignore the crash due to cold tires and ends with Verstappen issuing a warning that he may return the favor one day.

The verbal debate continued in the driver's post-race interview:

  • Verstappen: “I have a lot of respect for all the riders, and what you did in the first lap also made sense. They lost pace and risking that much on Lap 1 wasn't really worth it, as I would have gotten it in a few laps anyway.

  • Russell: “He had enough experience to know that if you try to overtake someone outside, there is a risk that someone on the inside will run into you.”

  • Verstappen: “He told me, ‘Yeah, my tires are cold.' We all have cold tires. That's no excuse.”

  • Russell: “I am here to fight. I'm here to win. I'm not going to discount him just because he is Max Verstappen at Red Bull.”

Results of the third race of the season, Australian Grand Prix on April 2:

Sergio Pérez won the 17-lap sprint race on Saturday, picking up points that cut his deficit behind Verstappen, the season's championship leader. Leclerc finished second, a result that doubled his season points total. “One thing is certain,” he said of his performance on Saturday. “It shows how bad the first three races can be.”