Lewis Hamilton walks through the paddock at the Baku City Circuit yesterday.
Valtteri Bottas has a score to settle as he heads into Sunday’s Formula One Azerbaijan Grand Prix determined to make up for a lost win and regain the championship lead from Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton.

The Finn was leading around the streets of Baku last year when a puncture three laps from the end handed victory to Hamilton instead.

The Briton went on to win 10 more races on his way to a fifth title while Bottas ended the season demoralised and with zero wins.

The 29-year-old has come back from the winter stronger and looking more of a match for his teammate, even if Hamilton has returned to the top of the standings after chalking up his second win of the season in China on April 14.

“For sure I would prefer to still be leading but that’s the situation now and if I keep performing well I can turn it around,” said Bottas, who trails Hamilton by six points with 18 races remaining.

“So that’s going to be the goal for Baku,” added the Finn, who was on pole in China but dropped behind Hamilton at the start.

Mercedes head into Sunday’s race, the fourth since Azerbaijan joined the calendar in 2016, as favourites after three one-two finishes - the strongest start to a campaign since Williams in 1992.

They have also won two of the three races in Azerbaijan, even if it has not been a particularly happy hunting ground for Hamilton. Last year’s victory was his first podium appearance there.

Nothing can be taken for granted at a circuit that has served up some thrillers in the past, mixing ultra-long straights and tight corners with no margin for error.

Like Bottas, Ferrari will also be hoping to make a statement.

Already 57 points behind Mercedes in the overall standings, the pre-season favourites have a meagre haul of two third-place finishes from the first three races and cannot afford to lose any more ground.

New recruit Charles Leclerc, smarting from being ordered to move over for four-time champion Sebastian Vettel in China and denied a maiden Formula One win by engine trouble in Bahrain, will be especially fired up.

The circuit holds a special emotional significance for the Monegasque, who won a 2017 Formula Two race from pole position in Baku only days after the death of his father.

“Baku is a demanding track, but I can’t wait,” said the 21-year-old, who also scored his first Formula One points there last year with sixth place for Sauber. “I simply love it and I’ve always performed very well there.”

The unpredictability of the race means there’s always a chance for an unexpected podium finisher.

Since the 2016 race, Baku is the only grand prix on the calendar that has seen a driver outside of the top-three teams finish on the podium.

Mexican Sergio Perez, with two third places for Force India - now Racing Point - is the only driver to have stood on the podium more than once in Baku.

“It’s a big show,” said Max Verstappen who will pounce on any opportunity to snatch a win for Honda-powered Red Bull. “And hopefully this year’s race will make for a good story.”

Meanwhile, Formula One and local organisers have given up on plans to hold a race in downtown Miami because of the disruption for businesses and residents, the Miami Herald reported on Wednesday.

It said they were now looking into an alternative race location on land next to the Hard Rock Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins NFL team, to the north of the Florida city.

“We want to do something great for Miami,” the paper quoted Tom Garfinkel, vice chairman and chief executive of the Miami Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium, as saying.

“Unfortunately when we finally received the detailed report of what it would take to build out a street circuit each year, the multiple weeks of traffic and construction disruption to the port, Bayfront Park and the residents and businesses on Biscayne Boulevard would have been significant.”

Formula One had hoped to add the street race to the calendar for this year, but that was pushed back last July until at least 2020 as a result of emerging local opposition to the proposed harbourside layout.

The sport’s owners Liberty Media say they want to make sure Miami, which has been offered a 10-year contract, has long-term viability with maximum local support. Reuters