Hamilton not impressed with new track

Workers fixing fences at the Baku street circuit in the Azerbaijan capital. The European Grand Prix returns after a three-year break as the former Soviet republic makes its debut on the F1 calendar.
Workers fixing fences at the Baku street circuit in the Azerbaijan capital. The European Grand Prix returns after a three-year break as the former Soviet republic makes its debut on the F1 calendar.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

BAKU (Azerbaijan) • Lewis Hamilton heads to Baku for this weekend's European Grand Prix, the first to be held in Azerbaijan, frustrated at the stereotypical nature of the new street circuit.

The 31-year-old Briton, who is seeking a third straight race victory that could put him back above Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg on top of the drivers' championship standings, said he had tried the track in his team's simulator.

"It's just another new track," said the three-time world champion of the controversial addition to the F1 calendar.

"There's one very tight spot on it. It's got a very long straight... I don't have a lot to say about it. I don't know what I can say.

"Monaco is the street circuit and they don't make them like that... why don't they just make street circuits like they used to?"

"I don't understand. It's super wide in some places - as wide as a motorway almost, but, hopefully, it will be fun."

Just days after his second win of the season at the Canadian Grand Prix had trimmed his German rival's lead to nine points, Hamilton has the incentive he wants and the momentum to deliver a result.

However, as his team chief Toto Wolff has warned, Mercedes can no longer rely on outright performance superiority and he recognises that Ferrari may, in some conditions, have the power to out-pace them. "You could see the top speeds of Red Bull and Ferrari are pretty much where we are," he said after the Canadian race.

"It is what we have been saying all these years - just leave the rules alone and performance is going to merge. It is happening right now."

Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel demonstrated that in Montreal, where he took the lead at the start and might have won if Ferrari had not switched him, errantly, from a one-stop to a two-stop strategy.

Like Hamilton, however, Vettel has found early sightings of the Baku street track an elusive one to evaluate. "It was a bit difficult to find my way round to be honest," he said, after testing the track in the Ferrari simulator. "So, I don't think it's fair to judge yet. It looks exciting in some parts and others a bit more straightforward."

Wolff added that Mercedes were not standing still, but had upgrades of their own on the way, to match the updated engines now in use by Ferrari and Red Bull.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 17, 2016, with the headline 'Hamilton not impressed with new track'. Print Edition | Subscribe