BAKU, Azerbaijan – Fresh from a glorious season-saving triumph at one of his favourite venues, Lewis Hamilton sets out to tame his unpredictable and sometimes wayward "diva" of a Mercedes again as the Formula One circus endures sizzling heat at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
The three-time world champion’s victory at the Canadian Grand Prix earlier this month – his sixth at the Montreal track – hauled him back within 12 points of championship leader Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari and sharpened his appetite for a maiden success on the streets of Baku, the only venue on the current calendar where he has never won.
"I was very quick there last year, but I just didn’t deliver,” said Hamilton. “So, this time, the plan is to make sure I deliver.”
After an inconsistent opening to the season in which he and Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas have struggled badly at times, Hamilton bounced back to his best in Montreal to claim his third win in seven races as Mercedes produced a crushing one-two success.
He arrives in Baku with team boss Toto Wolff’s praise endorsing his behaviour and performances. “Lewis is in the best place I’ve seen him in any of the five years since I joined the team,” said Wolff.
“Not just because of Montreal, where he had a great weekend, but also because he is coping so well with the more difficult days.
“It’s what the best are made of – when the going is tough, they get over it. They maximise their opportunities. And it’s a long championship.”
Referring to this year’s ‘new era’ car, Wolff admitted it had posed challenges for the team and the drivers with its contrary and temperamental nature: happy and triumphant one week, sulky and unresponsive the next.
“We’ve joked about it, saying it is a bit of a diva,” he said. “I think it is the fastest on the grid and I wouldn’t want any other."