This weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix will be the inaugural weekend for Formula 1’s newly released online fantasy gaming platform, F1 Fantasy.

Each Grand Prix weekend for the rest of the season, our journalist Luke McCullough will share with you the evolution of his team, as well as preview and review his drivers’ and constructor’s performances over the weekend. Click here to read our guide to playing F1 Fantasy this season.

As it is the first round of the season, I have the opportunity to draft my five drivers and one constructor for the first weekend with my fantasised $100 million. From this weekend on, I will only be allowed to make one change in my team per round.

For the opening weekend, I have chosen the following line-up:

F1 Fantasy - 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix picks

Our 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix selections for F1 Fantasy.

Starting with my constructor, I chose Ferrari as I felt they were a good valued team. Valued at $27.5M, they are the second-most valued constructor behind Mercedes at $30M. I believe that taking onboard Ferrari over Mercedes is a savvy $3M in savings as their performance in both Qualifying and the Race (the two sessions you score points from over the weekend) has so far matched or been slightly better than Mercedes this season.

The Qualifying performance has broken even between the teams. Yes, Mercedes’ “party mode” hit the ball out of the park in Melbourne, but front-row lockouts in Bahrain and China are promising for Ferrari to score a handful of points on Saturday.

As for Sunday, Ferrari race pace has matched, or even, has even been better than its German rival and already claiming two wins from three with Mercedes yet to triumph proves to me Ferrari is a better choice with a great value.

The only con to picking Ferrari is that their clumsy strategies and the Kimi Räikkönen strategy sabotage they sometimes place on the Finn in order to get the maximum out of Sebastian Vettel can his ability hamper scoring good points. Keep in mind, constructor points are earned off the points both of their drivers acquire throughout a weekend.

In most cases, players will pick either Mercedes or Ferrari to represent their team as they are really the only constructors to consistently rack in solid points. Others may also pick Red Bull Racing, however their engine shenanigans with Renault can also risk players scoring valuable points. Any team lower are just not competitive enough to challenge Mercedes or Ferrari but going ambitiously for a lower team means you can invest in better drivers.

I believe it is more sensible to put money towards a good team as putting it towards too many good drivers risks one of your drivers having a bad weekend costing you points along with your less competitive nominated constructor. Whereas a good team has the insurance of the other driver to still secure a good overall score for your team and the end of the weekend.

Onto the drivers, starting from the top, Fernando Alonso was my first pick. At a surprisingly low price of $11.5M, he was a no-brainer for me. Sergio Pérez and Nico Hülkenberg are the only two drivers outside the ‘big three’ that are pricier than the Spaniard. Remember that the values of the drivers and constructors change at the end of each round meaning that some of your selections may increase or decrease your budget for the rest of the season.

Alonso is consistent and competitive, beating his teammate Stoffel Vandoorne on a regular basis and can rack in mega amounts of points (as bonus points are awarded for beating your teammate). His value will no doubt increase and with this upcoming Spec. II MCL33 McLaren has been boasting about, he may be a force to be reckoned with on track and hot property on the F1 Fantasy market. I have also picked him as my turbo driver this weekend as I believe he is the strongest eligible driver on my team to score points. Remember, turbo nominated drivers cannot have a value higher than $19M (essentially excluding the ‘big three’ drivers).

Hülkenberg is the same. His pace is positive in the 2018 RS18 Renault and has been in the top ten on all three occasions this season placing him seventh in the Drivers’ Championship standings. He also has been beating his teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. for the majority of 2018 and I see him as a great points contributor weekend in, weekend out.

Nico Hulkenberg, Renault Sport RS18 - 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Nico Hülkenberg has outperformed teammate Carlos Sainz Jr so far in 2018. (Image via Renault Sport)

Kevin Magnussen is my cheapest driver in the team. He also has been quick and aside from Haas’ Australian Grand Prix mishap in the pit lane, the Dane would have also of finished in the top ten every race and potentially beaten Romain Grosjean in all three battles. I also see him rising in value over the course of the season with thanks to Haas’ dark horse pace revealed in pre-season testing earlier in the year.

Daniel Ricciardo was picked for my squad based on his stunning victory at the Chinese Grand Prix a fortnight ago. The Australian put on a truly masterclass performance in Shanghai and he will no doubt be a common pick in players’ teams around the world. He does risk losing out to his teammate Max Verstappen on a regular basis who is strong in Qualifying and on his days on Sunday.

Who’s to say how many players would have picked Verstappen over Ricciardo prior to the start of the season? He was clearly stronger than the 28-year old on several occasions, mostly in the second half of the 2017 season where he took two wins in Malaysia and Mexico.

If F1 Fantasy started back in Melbourne, Verstappen would have been traded off many players’ squads by now – and probably replaced by Ricciardo – with costly mistakes in Melbourne and China and a DNF in Bahrain.

Finally, Räikkönen rounds out my team for the opening weekend. Now some might say he risks being a liability in the team due to regularly being defeated by Vettel and – as mentioned before – having his race strategy compromised by Ferrari. However, I have included him in for a mathematical reason.

Kimi Raikkonen, Scuderia Ferrari SF71H - 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Kimi Räikkönen is a safe bet for our F1 Fantasy driver line-up given his consistent points-scoring to-date. (Image via Scuderia Ferrari)

As I already earn the points from both Vettel and Räikkönen through having Ferrari as my constructor team, including Räikkönen as a driver helps me essentially earn double points from the Finn every week along with Vettel’s points total at the end of each round.

I could have picked up Verstappen with my remaining budget over Räikkönen, however I feel the Dutchman is in a bit of a pickle at the moment with his performance either having bad races mechanically or making poor choices with passing opportunities etc., as we saw twice on Sunday in Shanghai.

Any driver valued lower than him I feel would not be good enough as I would have plenty of extra cash sitting around thus not making the most out of my budget. Räikkönen is a good filler for my team.

I am thoroughly happy with all my selections. The overall focus for my nominated constructor and drivers is on teammate performance, snagging bargains and increasing my team value past the $100M threshold barrier. The drivers may not benefit from the upcoming Azerbaijan Grand Prix on a track that features long straights and high-speed zones, but the long-term investment will pay off. I am painstakingly looking forward to how my team performs over the weekend in Baku!

Images via Luke McCullough, Red Bull Racing, Renault Sport and Scuderia Ferrari

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Luke McCullough

Melbourne Based - 17 Grand Prix attendances and counting in Australia, Singapore, Canada, France, Austria and Great Britain.