Lewis Hamilton preparing for tough weekend in Baku

Azerbaijan, a new race a year ago, is the only grand prix on Formula One’s current calendar that Lewis Hamilton has yet to win and the Briton heads back to Baku determined to deliver this weekend.Bottas, on soft tyres, had been the early pacesetter, but a mistake on Turn Two saw Hamilton usurp him as practice leader, before the Finn bounced back and finished top of the classification with a time of 1.42.742.The 66th pole of his career has moved him above Ayrton Senna and into a standalone second in the all-time list.He improved from sixth to fourth but could not match team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, who will start third on Sunday, and finished more than a second adrift of Hamilton.Hamilton dominated practice in Baku previous year ahead of Azerbaijan’s first grand prix, but struggled on Friday and finished the second session in 10th place, 1.163 seconds behind pace-setter Max Verstappen.Max Verstappen was fifth for Red Bull ahead of the two Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon, Canadian teenager Lance Stroll who was eighth ahead of his Williams team-mate Felipe Massa and Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who crashed his Red Bull to engage the red flag and create the final drama. While his one-year contract allowed Mercedes the chance to assess his form at a leading team, Bottas has responded to the step up quickly, claiming both his maiden pole position and victory within just four races in 2017.Lewis Hamilton believes he can race on until he is 40 after rejecting his own suggestion that he could stun Formula One by retiring at the end of the season.”What was really important for me on this kind of track was to get confidence on every lap and every run”.The track has the longest full throttle section on the current F1, likely to favour Mercedes’ engine power, while overtaking is expected to be challenging around the tight Baku streets.”Red Bull seems surprisingly strong, it could be a three-team fight here”, said Bottas.”The result is Ok but I’m not entirely happy”, he said.However, beleaguered McLaren-Honda will be spared a back-row lockout by the luckless Jolyon Palmer, who was unable to take part in qualifying after an engine fire in his Renault in final practice.Alonso’s Honda engine conked out with 30 minutes remaining. Having not taken part in qualifying, Renault will have to seek permission from the stewards for Palmer to race, something which is a formality.”When I think about [Juan Manuel] Fangio, five titles sounds pretty good”.