Will the Silver Arrows finally strike gold in 2018?

Having failed to win any of the opening three Formula 1 races in 2018 Mercedes is suffering its worst winless stretch in the V6 Hybrid era, but having regained the F1 world constructors’ championship lead after the frantic Chinese Grand Prix it gives strength to its fightback.

While Lewis Hamilton had victory in Baku snatched away by a broken headrest which enforced a late pit stop dropping him to fifth place last year, Mercedes tasted victory at Baku’s F1 debut event with Nico Rosberg clinching the win in 2016.

As has been the tale in recent seasons, unlocking the best tyre performance will play a key role in Mercedes’ chances for victory while also hoping any misfiring strategy calls won’t hurt its efforts to see the German manufacturer join the winners club in 2018.

Ricciardo’s opportunity to stake his claim

Daniel Ricciardo has become the man of the moment both on and off the track in F1 after his scintillating fight through the pack for victory in China followed by his ongoing future talks.

The Australia revisits a happy hunting ground after his dramatic victory almost 12 months ago, taken in similar circumstances to his Shanghai surprise last time out, and he’ll be hoping for a similar effect in Baku to boost his world title credentials.

It’s also thought Ricciardo’s strong results on the track will give him significant clout when it comes to deciding his F1 future with reports linking him to negotiations with Ferrari for a potential switch next year. Regardless of pay packets and bonuses, Ricciardo has repeated his desire of securing a drive to fight for the F1 world title in the future and if he is to move to Ferrari he’ll be eager for equality against Sebastian Vettel, something current teammate Kimi Raikkonen can’t claim having been used as a road block by Ferrari in China.

Baku bore or Baku bonanza?

The Baku City Circuit has been the highlight and lowlight in its opening two years with the forgettable 2016 swiftly succeeded by the frantic 2017 race.

The circuit layout is described as Macau meets Monza which in theory provides the best of both worlds for a street circuit but overtaking could be at a premium given the difficulties witnessed at Albert Park at the season opener. With unforgiving walls all around the track plus the huge likelihood of a safety car, opportunity and uncertainty should keep the action on edge up until the chequered flag.

Vettel vs Hamilton: one year on

The Azerbaijan Grand Prix may have been shifted forward in the F1 race calendar but the Baku event marks a return to the scene of the biggest clash between Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton when Vettel collided with his British rival before appearing to intentionally ramp into the side of the Mercedes car as a retaliation during a safety car period.

Aside from a big slap on the wrists from the FIA Vettel largely get away with his misdemeanour and questions will surely be asked to the pair on their ongoing battle for F1 supremacy with each striving for five F1 world titles.

Verstappen’s max attack

After a run of high-profile clashes in recent races, Max Verstappen has been warned to temper his aggression in battle, while others have asked the Dutch star to pick his moments but keep his all-out attack mentality.

With almost no margin for error around the tight and twisty Baku streets Verstappen will be watched closely as he looks to strike back after a frustrating start to 2018 which offered him an F1 title tilt.



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