Our journey continues to the relatively new territory of Azerbaijan – and here’s how the tale unfolded…

  • THURSDAY: Lewis and Valtteri take on the F1.com 'Grill the Grid' challenge! Find out how they did very soon…

    Photo by Steve Etherington
  • THURSDAY: Full house for Lewis' media session - and he kept them entertained, as always!

    Photo by Steve Etherington
  • THURSDAY: Colleague, radio, phone… which one do you think he's REALLY listening to? ;)

    Photo by Steve Etherington
  • THURSDAY: Valtteri looking for his keys…

    Photo by Steve Etherington
  • THURSDAY: Memories to treasure… a proposal in the garage! She said yes, of course!

    Photo by Steve Etherington

Just a single visit, but already lots of memories: this is our Baku story...

  • What. A. View. Arriving in the Land of Fire - Azerbaijan hosted its first Formula One Grand Prix in 2016, around the historic streets of Baku

    Photo by Steve Etherington
  • Lewis was quickly up to speed in his new surroundings, immediately setting the pace on Friday around the unique circuit

    Photo by Wolfgang Wilhelm
  • A quick burst through the Old Town of Baku. There’s no circuit quite like it. Lewis picked up the pace again on Saturday morning, going quickest in FP3

    Photo by Steve Etherington
  • The defending World Champion looked set for pole heading into the final shootout...

    Photo by Wolfgang Wilhelm
  • But a brush with the barrier ended his pole chances, handing the initiative to Nico, who claimed top spot on the timesheets and pole for Sunday

    Photo by Wolfgang Wilhelm
  • LIGHTS OUT! Nico was quick off the line, while Lewis started his fightback from P10

    Photo by Steve Etherington
  • Out front, there was no stopping Nico, who cruised through the laps

    Photo by Wolfgang Wilhelm
  • It was a trickier Sunday afternoon for Lewis, as he battled with a car issue en route to P5

    Photo by Steve Etherington
  • It was a near-perfect day for Nico though, who took pole, victory, fastest lap and led every lap en route to his second career Grand Slam

    Photo by Wolfgang Wilhelm
  • A sweet victory... and then the even-sweeter post-race celebrations for the Silver Arrows!

    Photo by Wolfgang Wilhelm

The bond between driver and race car might be the most prominent in the paddock. But just as important a relationship is that between the cars, their tyres, and the black stuff below – the track surface. And it’s an important one too. It’s those chunky Pirellis that connect the car to the circuit, and the interaction between tyre and track surface that generates grip.

As time continues to pass, the surface becomes increasingly worn

Barely a Grand Prix media session passes without mention of track surface in relation to car set-up – usually in reference to the eternal quest for the perfect balance. Different track surfaces completely transform the grip generated by a tyre, influencing everything from set-up to strategy. So, naturally, it’s crucial for teams to understand how that interaction will develop each weekend.

On a particularly ‘smooth’ track (as seen in Baku or Mexico City, for example), the surface is less abrasive, tyre wear is expected to be lower and it’s generally a lot easier to look after the rubber – aside from under extremes of temperature – meaning that softer compounds are a viable option. This is due to the fact that, when the tyre is compressed into the track surface under load, there is no part of the rubber moulding into the ground.

When tarmac is laid, it contains stones and bitumen. Initially, the bitumen serves as a layer over the stones, making it very smooth. But, as time continues to pass, the surface becomes increasingly worn. This natural evolution of a track surface creates significant variations in tyre behaviours.

Extremes of temperature don’t always affect tyre performance in the same way

Bahrain and Barcelona are both examples of what engineers would term a ‘rough’ circuit, where the peaks and troughs of the aggregate on the surface can be seen. When a tyre runs over this surface it stresses the rubber, which not only has an effect on grip levels but also increases sliding – which in turn increases the wear rate of the rubber. Circuits which feature high-speed corners, high cornering loads and old tarmac are particularly aggressive on wear – Suzuka being a prime example.

Ultimately, Formula One engineers aren’t phased by either type of surface. What matters is that they understand what type of surface they’ll be racing on so that they can then set the car up to generate the right kind of grip. Even at two similar circuit configurations, running a car with an identical set-up would yield a completely different balance at each venue if the tarmac were different. And in terms of strategy, the nature of the track has a significant influence on wear and degradation.

The other notable multiplier in the mix is temperature. New tarmac is typically very dark in colour. And because it’s so dark, it reaches a very high temperature in direct sunlight. In Baku last year, for example, track temperature peaked at 55°C – approaching the point at which it starts to become extremely difficult to keep the tyres under control. As the surface became too hot, teams began to struggle with a loss of grip, which directly hurt wear and degradation and subsequently influenced strategy calls on the pit wall.

Extremes of temperature don’t always affect tyre performance in the same way on different track surfaces, however. In fact, even the fundamental science behind such calculations can’t explain every aspect of the relationship between temperatures, tyres and the track surface. It’s a constant learning curve for every team in the pit lane – and one which will need to be mastered for a successful weekend in Baku.

Battle continues with Round Eight of the 2017 season from the Baku City Circuit

'Success is a lousy teacher'

Seeing all the analysis that had been done after Monaco come together so well in Canada gave us great satisfaction. Now, it’s about maintaining that momentum.

That’s the nice bit and also the difficult bit in Formula One. The last race doesn’t count any more. You’re being benchmarked constantly on the current performance. Public companies issue reports four times per year. We do it 20 times, on a very public platform – the race track.

When you have a bad day, you can either be downbeat about it or pull yourself up and start to act on it. This is what we have done. We moved on – and these are the days that make you progress much more than the good days. Like the old saying goes, success is a lousy teacher. Every time we’ve had a difficult weekend we have come back stronger. And that speaks volumes for the people in this team.

'It’s about making the best out of it each time'

In this season, where it’s so close, you need to take it one race at a time and try to have the best package at each race – chassis, Power Unit, and drivers. This is how we are approaching it and that’s the only way.

It’s a long Championship. There will be weekends that are good and ones that are not so good. It’s about making the best out of it each time – maximising the points that are on the table during the difficult times and bringing the trophies home when everything does come together.

Lewis is in the best place I have seen him during any of the last five years since he joined the team. Not only because he had a great weekend in Montreal – but because he is coping so well with the difficult days. This is what the very best are made of. When the fight gets tough, they get over it quickly and maximise their opportunities.

'I believe our car is the fastest on the grid and I wouldn’t want any other'

Likewise, Valtteri is in a strong position. You would never think he joined the team very last minute over the winter and, after, seven Grands Prix, he has exceeded even our expectations. He’s been on pole, won a race and challenged Lewis on both Saturday and Sundays. For him, it’s now just about putting it all together every single weekend and I have no doubt he will do that.

In terms of the car, we’ve joked about it being a bit of a diva. But it’s a good car – though sometimes it can be difficult. This is something we have to accept so that we can understand and appreciate the many positive characteristics that it has. I believe our car is the fastest on the grid and I wouldn’t want any other.

It’s always interesting to discover new places and I really didn’t know what to expect going to Azerbaijan for the first time last year. They’ve done a great job with the circuit, the city centre is beautiful, the infrastructure works well and our hosts look after us well, so I’m looking forward to going back again.

DTM tests with Gary Paffett.

Meet the Mercedes-AMG Motorsport DTM Team at the Norisring.

The Mercedes-AMG Motorsport DTM Team invites fans to meet the Mercedes-AMG Motorsport DTM Team drivers in the VIP hospitality.

Meet the drivers.

The Mercedes-AMG DTM Team invites fans to meet the Mercedes-AMG DTM drivers in the VIP hospitality. On the Friday afternoon before the fourth race weekend of the season at the Norisring, the team will be giving 100 fans and one companion each the opportunity to meet its drivers. Refreshments will be provided.

Mercedes-AMG Motorsport DTM Team driver Edoardo Mortara.

A special present.

“Fantreff” Norisring
Date and time
: 30 June 2017, 14:45 pm CEST
Venue: VIP hospitality.

Would you like to be there yourself or to arrange it on behalf of a friend or loved one? Send an e-mail with your contact details (name, telephone number, e-mail address, postal address) to media@mercedesamgdtm.com and, with a bit of luck, you could be meeting our drivers in person. Last date of entry is 27 June 2017. If your name is selected for the “Fantreff”, you will receive a confirmation from us on 28 June 2017. Participants are responsible for making their own travel arrangements and for purchasing their own tickets granting access to the paddock.

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