The 2023 F1 Azerbaijan GP brings the season back to life after a somewhat self-imposed four-week break in the calendar. The weekend is expected to feature a host of upgrades and to add to that, there’s going to be a modified sprint weekend format.

It does appear somewhat risky to have something like this on a track like Baku where the circuit is quite narrow. Having said that, it could lead to much better racing overall.

So, what can we expect from the 2023 F1 Azerbaijan GP? Let’s take a look as we share out the top five bold predictions for the weekend.

#5 Williams and Haas could be dark horses at the 2023 F1 Azerbaijan GP

Both Williams and Haas have shown in the first few races that when it comes to straight-line efficiency, these two cars are very close to the top.

It was this characteristic that helped both Alex Albon and Nico Hulkenberg crack the top 10 in qualifying in Australia.

In Baku, that straight-line speed is going to be crucial once again, and expect drivers like Albon and Hulkenberg to once again be the surprises of the weekend.

#4 McLaren and AlphaTauri are going to struggle at the 2023 F1 Azerbaijan GP

One of the major areas where teams like McLaren and AlphaTauri appear to have struggled this season has been their efficiency at top speed. Both teams have shown incapability when it comes to holding any sort of competitiveness in a straight line. Because of this, Lando Norris in particular has been one of the drivers who has struggled to overtake cars even when he’s quicker than them.

On a track like the one in Baku where there is a humongous straight, it is going to be critical to have a strong straight-line speed. If that is one’s major weakness, then one will be leaking lap time on the straights.

This is where both McLaren and AlphaTauri are arguably going to struggle a lot this weekend.

#3 Alpine will close the gap to the top 4 teams

Pierre Gasly’s performance at Albert Park was an eye-opener for many as it portrayed the somewhat latent potential that Alpine appears to have.

It’s safe to say that Gasly certainly benefitted from being a part of the DRS training but even if we look at teammate Esteban Ocon’s time in the clear air, he wasn’t too far behind either. Alpine is expected to bring new pieces to Baku and by the looks of it, the damage from the disastrous clash between the teammates was minimal.

The French team has been the turtle to Aston Martin’s hare as there have been incremental improvements that have proven to be their mantra for success. Even last season, Alpine started decently but only got stronger as the season progressed. The situation is similar right now as Alpine tries to close the gap to the front.

With the kind of foundation it already has in the first three races, we’re backing Alpine to mix things up with the frontrunners at the 2023 F1 Azerbaijan GP.

#2 The new sprint format is going to prove to be a success

The changes in the sprint format have had a lukewarm reception, with team principals from Aston Martin and Red Bull admitting there could be potential chaos.

Well, they’re not wrong. With two different qualifying sessions and the finishing position in the sprint holding no bearing on the race, drivers will have a sense of freedom.

To add to this, the Free Practice session on Saturday during a sprint weekend used to be a waste anyway, with a qualifying session in place of that one, it’s going to add further value to the running.

Overall, the sprint format will introduce a level of jeopardy that is going to make things far more interesting.

#1 Max Verstappen wins the 2023 F1 Azerbaijan GP

Multiple teams are bringing upgrades to Baku for the 2023 F1 Azerbaijan GP. Be it Ferrari, Mercedes, or Aston Martin, all these teams will be bringing sizeable upgrade packages with the aim of closing the gap to the front.

Having said that, it’s been clear as day that Red Bull’s advantage appears to be more than half a second. When you have such an advantage, then one major upgrade package is not going to be enough to close the gap to the front. Multiple upgrade packages will be introduced in due time to have realistic hopes of closing the gap.

To add to this, Max Verstappen has had a good run at Baku in the last two seasons. If not for the late-race puncture, he should have won the race in 2021 and dominated the race here in 2022.

In a straight fight between him and Perez, it’s hard to look beyond Verstappen at this stage. It might be a ‘not so bold’ prediction but we’re picking Max Verstappen to win the 2023 F1 Azerbaijan GP.