Azerbaijan Grand Prix: Four Talking points

Richard Hazeldine Richard Hazeldine

The Formula 1 circus rolls into the weird and wonderful city of Baku this weekend for the fourth round of this year’s so far unpredictable championship.

FOX Sports Asia takes a look at some of the talking points ahead of the race:

Ricciardo relishing the attention
All eyes will be on the honey badger this weekend once again to see whether he can pull off a repeat victory here in the wake of his stunning performance in Shanghai two weeks ago. The attention is focused on the affable Aussie for more than one reason as potential suitors line up to secure his signature. Ricciardo is out of contract at the end of the year and unless Red Bull can deliver a car that consistently competes, it looks like he could jump ship to either Ferrari or Mercedes. His current employers will be hoping that a few more wins, starting in Baku, will make the decision all the more harder for him.

Hamilton in limbo
With the reigning champion expected to dominate 2018, it’s kind of hard to believe he is still looking for his first victory three races into the new season. Still, the work hard, play hard ethic of the flamboyant Brit doesn’t seem to have been affected by his less than stellar start to the season. Hamilton this week jetted across to the US to attend the Coachella festival before heading back to Baku in search of more championship points. Second in the title race and a mere nine points behind leader Sebastian Vettel, Hamilton will be looking for a repeat of his drive here last year, minus the crazy collision with his German rival. Miss out on a win again, however, and he might just start to wonder whether this is his year.

Back-to-Baku excitement?
Last year’s chaotic race was certainly a vast improvement over the snore fest that saw Nico Rosberg wrap up the maiden Azerbaijan Grand Prix in 2016. Ricciardo’s unexpected win, the infamous Vettel-Hamilton coming together, the Bottas fightback, as well as intra-team crashes between Force India and Sauber cars, Baku in 2017 had it all. F1 fans will certainly be hoping for a repeat of last year’s mayhem.

Can Bottas make the grade?
While teammate Lewis Hamilton has endured his fair share of (minor) problems this season, teammate Valtteri Bottas has been quietly moving into position. The unspectacular Finn has earned successive second places in China and Bahrain and now sits just five points behind the Brit in third place. Bottas is in a great position after three races to push on and make his mark on the championship race, but he really needs to find something extra. A win in Baku would be most welcome. Can he do it? His failure to put the pressure on Vettel down the stretch in Bahrain suggests that he doesn’t quite have what it takes. Should that prove to be the case then he could well find the honey badger sniffing around his seat come the end of the season.