Sebastial Vettel and Ferrari will need to bring their A-Game to Baku this weekend to prevent another Mercedes one-two.
Sebastial Vettel and Ferrari will need to bring their A-Game to Baku this weekend to prevent another Mercedes one-two.
Image: Reuters

Will the real Ferrari stand up in Baku this weekend, or is Mercedes headed for another championship-winning season?

That’s the question Formula One pundits are asking now that the Scuderia have already fallen 57 points behind Mercedes in the constructors’ championship and Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc are respectively fourth and fifth in the drivers’ standings.

After the season’s first three races all unexpectedly produced one-two finishes for Mercedes, this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku is another chance for the red team to live up to its strong pre-season hype.

Ferrari has failed to win on the 6km Baku street circuit thus far, with victories going to Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) in 2016, Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) in 2017 and Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) last year.

Vettel was second in 2016 but placed fourth in 2017 after receiving a penalty, and fourth again last year after he locked a wheel challenging Valtteri Bottas for the lead.

Fresh from his win in China earlier this month, reigning champion Hamilton leads this year’s standings on 68 points ahead of team-mate Bottas on 62, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on 39, ahead of Ferrari drivers Vettel (37) and Leclerc (36).

Ferrari have drawn public ire for implementing team in China. Their plan to catch the faster Mercedes cars backfired when Leclerc’s race was compromised after moving over for Vettel, who failed to gain any advantage.

When is a bicycle a motorcycle?

E-bikes are already a divisive topic in cycling clubs around the world and many a Sunday morning warrior has cursed at the sight of one gliding effortlessly past on a lung-burning climb.

Now cycling's governing body the UCI and its motorcycling counterpart have become embroiled in a row over which organisation holds jurisdiction over E-bike competitions.

The huge rise in popularity of pedal bicycles with small motors, especially E-mountain bikes, led to the UCI integrating them into its competition regulations in January.

The first UCI E-Mountain Bike World Championships will be held in Canada later this year while several E-bike events have been registered on the UCI's 2019 mountain bike calendar.

However, the Federation of International Motocycling (FIM) — which runs the World Superbike Championship — potentially threw a spanner in the works by last month announcing a rival series, the inaugural FIM E-Bike Enduro World Cup that will take place in France in June.

The UCI said it was "surprised and disappointed" by the move, insisting E-bikes are one of the disciplines under its auspices, along with road, track and BMX.

Riders who take part in FIM-organised events could face disciplinary measures, the UCI said.

"The UCI means to develop this activity which, as with other forms of cycling, comes under its exclusive jurisdiction," UCI president David Lappartient said.

The UCI has strict regulations regarding the electric motors on E-mountain bikes which must not exceed 250W. Pedalling assistance is only permitted to a maximum speed of 25km/h.

FIM's Enduro 1 events allow motors to produce more than 250W with pedalling assistance allowed up to 45km/h.