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Trackdays takes a look at 5 talking points before the Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Five talking points ahead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix

21 June 2017
Trackdays

Lewis Hamilton will arrive in Baku for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix with his championship challenge firmly back on track after he reduced the title deficit to Sebastian Vettel with victory in Canada.

The 32-year-old Englishman is now just 12 points behind his Ferrari rival with four rounds remaining before Formula One's summer break.

Here, we look at five talking points ahead of Sunday's race at the Baku Street Circuit.

CAN HAMILTON MAINTAIN MOMENTUM?

While Hamilton has hauled himself back into the title race following his third consecutive Montreal triumph and his third victory of the season, the Briton will be keen to lay to rest the demons of his last outing in Azerbaijan. The triple world champion started last year's inaugural race on the streets of Baku in emphatic fashion as he led the way in practice. But he then hit the wall in qualifying before crossing the line only in fifth after spending much of the race in the wrong engine mode setting. Hamilton has proven this year that when he is on it from the get-go - as was the case in China, Spain and Canada - he is largely unbeatable. The Briton needs another strong weekend to keep the pressure on Vettel with four rounds left before the summer break.

2018 TRIPLE-HEADER TO AVOID WORLD CUP FINAL CLASH

The Formula One schedule will be extended to a record-equalling 21 grands prix next year with the return of races in France, at the Paul Ricard Circuit, and Germany's Hockenheim track. The French Grand Prix, back on the calendar for the first time in a decade, will kick off an unprecedented run of three consecutive races and five in six weeks. F1 chairman Chase Carey explained that the hectic schedule was due, in part, to avoiding a clash with the football World Cup final, which takes place on July 15. "Part of the schedule of having three races in a row was because we did not think it was ideal for a promoter to have an event go head to head with the World Cup final," American Carey said.

GRID PENALTY FOR ALONSO

Fernando Alonso is braced for another difficult weekend behind the wheel of his McLaren as he faces a grid penalty following his engine failure on the penultimate lap of the Canadian Grand Prix. Alonso, 35, was due to score both his and McLaren's first point of the season only for his Honda engine to conk out. McLaren are looking to break away from the Japanese manufacturer following three years of pain with a return to Mercedes power said to be in the offing. Williams, meanwhile, have distanced themselves from a partnership with Honda following a report in Swiss media suggesting they were keen on a deal.

PRESSURE PILING UP ON PALMER

Jolyon Palmer is under growing pressure at Renault after his boss Cyril Abiteboul told the Briton he must start scoring points. The 26-year-old is yet to open his account this season while his team-mate Nico Hulkenberg has finished in the top 10 at four of the last five races. "F1 is not an environment where anyone can say loudly, 'I'm safe'," Abiteboul told Autosport. "The fact is that Jo has a car which is a points-scoring car, and he has to enter into the points. Full stop. Right now I feel that it's a bit almost unfair to Nico, who has to do a lot. The team is clearly very dependent on him."

LOOK WHO'S BAKU IN TOWN, LEWIS

And finally, Nicole Scherzinger, Hamilton's former long-term girlfriend, will be in Baku on Saturday night for a three-day concert put on by the circuit's organisers. The American singer was a regular on the Formula One tour before her split with Hamilton nearly three years ago. Indeed this will be her first presence at a grand prix weekend since she she flew to Abu Dhabi to watch Hamilton clinch the second of his three world championships in November 2014.

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