Azerbaijan GP: Can the old and new of Baku keep F1 fire alive?

Hamilton and Vettel

The F1 history books were already open this season, the pen poised to write Vettel or Hamilton's name as a five-time world champion.

Then the Chinese Grand Prix happened and what could have become a predictable title fight has now become a box-office hit for the masses to relish.

Fearless overtaking, Hamilton lost in "no man's land", Max Verstappen's mistakes, Vettel on the receiving end of said Verstappen mistakes. If the sport needed a blockbuster event to showcase its spontaneity, this was it.

A recurring theme has been running through the narrative of these early races: who can get their tactics right in the safety-car period?

Ferrari and Vettel came out on top in Australia, with Hamilton and Mercedes ruing miscalculations. In Shanghai, Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo charged down the field on a set of new tyres and raised a champagne-filled shoe for the first time since Azerbaijan 12 months ago.

Daniel Ricciardo
King of the castle: Ricciardo is aiming for back-to-back wins this season at the Baku circuit

Let's rewind to that Ricciardo win in Baku last year. Hopes for a cracker were low following the inaugural race's cautious snorefest.

A promise of thrills and spills at the fastest street circuit on the calendar never materialised and the 'European Grand Prix' was quickly labelled a dud.

However, second chances deserve to be given and, like a phoenix rising from the flames, Azerbaijan produced one of the best races in the modern age - several crashes, three safety cars and F1's most talked-about incident: Vettel v Hamilton road rage.

The cries of "Vettel is a disgrace" and "F1 just got nasty" rang out from all quarters and debate about rivalry and sportsmanship raged, but in the midst of the drama it allowed a relatively fresh podium to emerge - Ricciardo was also joined by Canadian Lance Stroll in third place after the day's mayhem.

So, after the fireworks in China, can Baku (once again) deliver a grand prix that is the must-watch spectacle of the year?

Previously in F1... round three, China

Chinese Ferrari fans
Forza Ferrari in qualifying: The fans go crazy for Sebastian Vettel's pole position - Ferrari's first in China since Rubens Barrichello in 2004 - snatched from team-mate Kimi Raikkonen at the last second
Daniel Riccairdo P1 sign
Ricciardo race delight: The Australian overtook five cars on his way to podium glory. Although Raikkonen salvaged a third-place finish for Ferrari, Vettel was not so lucky after Red Bull's Max Verstappen sent the pair into a spin on lap 43. "I don't think I need to say anything here," was the German's icy response

Baku predictions

Have you correctly predicted who will finish in the top three for each race of the season so far?

Well, don't stop now. Give us your Azerbaijan selections from the list below.

Who will win in Baku?

Choose your top three drivers from the list below

The track

track graphic of the baku city circuit in azerbaijan

Back pocket facts

  • If you love a savoury pancake, then Azerbaijan is the culinary destination for you. Kutabi are stuffed pancakes bursting with anything from meat to veggies, sprinkled with herbs and enjoyed with a side of fresh yoghurt.
  • Speaking of food, Baku is home to the largest KFC in the world, spanning multiple floors and looking like a religious temple from the outside.
  • Which F1 driver do you think would be best in arm wrestle? It's a tough call but Baku could certainly stage the match, as the Azerbaijan arm wrestling league headquarters are based in the city.
  • Ask a citizen of Baku to smile - especially some of the older generation - and you'll be met with a dazzling sight. A gold tooth is common in these parts and is treasured by many as a savings investment.

F1 social

Max and Jos Verstappen
Throwback Thursday on Twitter always brings up some great pictures from the archives. First up, Max Verstappen wrote this tribute to his dad, former F1 driver Jos Verstappen: "Tag someone who has your back at all times."
Lewis Hamilton as a young child
A few hours later, up pops four-time world champion Lewis Hamilton with this classic photo and an inspirational message for the fans: "A kid with a dream. Never let go of your dream."
Romain Grosjean
F1 drivers love their bikes. Haas' Romain Grosjean showcased more stunning scenery in his native France. "Climbing the Col du Grand Colombier, 18km of pain."

How to follow on BBC Sport

BBC Sport has live coverage of all the season's races on BBC Radio 5 live, BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, plus live online commentary on the BBC Sport website and mobile app - including audience interaction, expert analysis, debate, voting, features, interviews and video content.

Azerbaijan Grand Prix coverage details
DateSessionTimeRadio coverageOnline text & audio commentary
Friday, 27 AprilPreview21:00-21:30BBC Radio 5 live
Friday, 27 AprilFirst practice09:55-11:35BBC Radio 5 live sports extraFrom 09:30
Second practice13:55-15:35BBC Radio 5 live sports extraFrom 13:30
Saturday, 28 AprilThird practice10:55-12:05BBC Radio 5 live sports extraFrom 10:30
Qualifying13:55-15:05BBC Radio 5 live sports extraFrom 13:00
Sunday, 29 AprilRace13:05-14:00BBC Radio 5 live sports extraFrom 11:30
Race14:00-16:00BBC Radio 5 live

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