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By John Floyd

Motorsport columnist

FLOYD ON F1: Mercedes resurgence on the cards in Baku

Russell thinks upgrades will help them close the gap on Red Bull, Aston Martin and Ferrari.

At last, we return to F1 with the Azerbaijan Grand Prix held on the streets of Baku this weekend and, of course, the first in the new sprint format.

I bet there are team managers, mechanics, accountants and possibly insurance agents in a cold sweat. Just the thought of a sprint race between barriers and walls is, to put it mildly, insane. One bad crash and your mechanics will break every curfew in the books trying to piece together a car for the Grand Prix the following day.

Mercedes resurgence

Most interest will be on the Mercedes F1 team following statements by George Russell regarding upgrades to the W14. According to the Englishman, the changes will be a positive step towards closing the gap to Ferrari, Aston Martin and, of course, Red Bull.

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During the enforced break, the media have been buzzing stories about how the Milton Keynes team can be reined in and how their dominance can be halted. I have to ask why such a question is being raised?

Surely the very essence of the sport is to design and construct a highly competitive car and then appoint drivers who can get the very best out of said machinery. But it would appear the very idea of one team dominating the season will probably deter the new fan base, created by Liberty Media’s new, improved format.

Too young to remember the days of Lotus, McLaren, Williams, Ferrari etc, I bet they remember Mercedes.
Some pundits have suggested an intervention by other teams with the assistance of F1 Management and the FIA governing body.

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Attracting new F1 fans

Such suggestions are concerning as it is set to once again possibly change the regulations mid season, or call for a full inspection of all cars to ensure they have not made any illegal upgrades.

Policing of the regulations is necessary, to uncover items illegally boosting performance through the power unit, aerodynamics or chassis dynamics. Cheating is not to be tolerated.

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But attempting to use such checks to limit a competitor’s performance is underhand. Sadly, such issues have become the norm in F1, not surprising with television series such as Drive to Survive demonstrating a degree of rancour between teams, team managers, drivers and the media, previously never seen.

It certainly boosts the entertainment value and attracts those new, younger F1 “fans”.

The sprint race starts at 10.30am on Saturday and the main race at 1pm on Sunday.

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