Formula One: Hamilton has eyes on first Baku win

Lewis Hamilton acknowledging his fans after winning the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal on June 11. The Briton intends to keep up the winning momentum by winning his first Azerbaijan race this weekend.
Lewis Hamilton acknowledging his fans after winning the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal on June 11. The Briton intends to keep up the winning momentum by winning his first Azerbaijan race this weekend.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • Azerbaijan, a new race last year, is the only grand prix on Formula One's calendar that Lewis Hamilton has yet to win, and he heads back to Baku determined to deliver this weekend.

After a dominant Canadian Grand Prix where he led a Mercedes one-two to regain momentum after a stinging defeat by Ferrari in Monaco, the Briton is on a high and with the praise of team boss Toto Wolff ringing in his ears.

"Lewis is in the best place I have seen him during any of the last five years since he joined the team," the Austrian said this week.

"Not only because he had a great weekend in Montreal, but also because he is coping so well with the difficult days.

"This is what the very best are made of."

Hamilton will be keen to banish the memory of a disappointing first visit to the anti-clockwise track running along the shores of the Caspian Sea and around the walls of the medieval old town.

"Last year I think I was very quick there; I just didn't deliver. So the plan is to make sure I deliver," he said in Montreal, after closing the gap between him and Ferrari's championship leader Sebastian Vettel (141 points) to 12 points.

Last year in Baku, he hit the barriers in qualifying, and lined up 10th on the grid. He then struggled with engine modes before eventually finishing fifth.

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  • This is the second time the Baku circuit has appeared on the Formula One calendar. It made its debut last year as the European Grand Prix won by eventual champion Nico Rosberg who has since retired.

His then team-mate and eventual champion Nico Rosberg, who retired after last season, won the race, which was designated the European Grand Prix but has since changed name.

That means that nobody on the current starting grid is a previous winner in Baku and only Vettel, who was a distant second that day, and Force India's Sergio Perez have stood on the podium there.

Mercedes struggled in Monaco with getting performance out of the tyres but, after a huge effort at the factory, were back to their best in Montreal. They lead the constructors' standings with 222 points to Ferrari's 214.

Hamilton will apply the lessons from both to the searing heat of Baku.

"You take each experience and you pile them up. What we learnt in Monaco will definitely impact Baku. It's a much longer circuit; I think it's very smooth, a lot more flat," he told reporters.

"Downforce efficiency is going to be important there."

Hamilton and Vettel both have three wins from seven races, with champions Mercedes ahead 4-3 thanks to Valtteri Bottas' win in the Russian Grand Prix.

Bottas had clocked the fastest speed recorded in a Formula One session during qualifying in Baku last year with Williams, hitting 373kmh on the longest straight of any race on the calendar.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2017, with the headline 'Hamilton has eyes on first Baku win'. Print Edition | Subscribe