Mercedes hope they have finally turned the corner

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Mercedes hope they have finally turned the corner
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain signs autographs for fans.

Baku - Back-to-back wins would be a real boost for Hamilton, who is 12 points behind Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel


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Published: Thu 22 Jun 2017, 5:26 PM

Last updated: Fri 23 Jun 2017, 1:08 AM

Mercedes hopes to have finally resolved the inconsistency issues hampering its drivers during the first seven races of an intriguing Formula One season.
 This weekend's Azerbaijan Grand Prix will offer a clearer idea if Mercedes has finally turned the corner, following Lewis Hamilton's superb win at the Canadian GP two weeks ago.
 That win in Montreal came straight after a terrible weekend in Monaco, underlining how unpredictable Mercedes has been after three years of dominance.
 "Now, it's about maintaining that momentum. You're being benchmarked constantly on the current performance," Mercedes head of motorsport Toto Wolff said. "Public companies issue reports four times per year. We do it 20 times, on a very public platform: the race track."
 Back-to-back wins would be a real boost for Hamilton, who is 12 points behind Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel in a thrilling title race.
 Bottas, Hamilton's new teammate and the only other driver to win a race, sits in third place and trails Vettel by 48 points.
 "(Bottas) has exceeded even our expectations. He's been on pole, won a race and challenged Lewis," Wolff said. "For him, it's now just about putting it all together every single weekend and I have no doubt he will do that."
 Whether or not Bottas can become a title contender remains to be seen, however. Most observers conclude that Hamilton - chasing a fourth world title - undoubtedly holds No. 1 status at Mercedes.
 "Lewis is in the best place I have seen him during any of the last five years since he joined the team," Wolff said. "He is coping so well with the difficult days. This is what the very best are made of."
 Vettel, who is gunning for a fifth F1 title, also appears to be No. 1 at Ferrari ahead of Kimi Raikkonen.
 Ferrari has been more reliable and might even be slightly faster than Mercedes. This bodes well considering that the 6-kilometer (3.7-mile) Baku circuit, which glides through the city's medieval walls and passes the Caspian sea, has F1's fastest top speed of 370 kilometers (230 miles) per hour.
 Ferrari is chasing its first drivers' title since Raikkonen in 2007 and its first constructors' title since 2008.
 Although Ferrari missed out on a podium place in Montreal, with Vettel finishing fourth, there was some bad luck because his car was damaged by Max Verstappen's Red Bull heading into the first corner.
 It would have been more worrying for Ferrari had Vettel finished fourth in a straight, trouble-free contest with Hamilton. Encouragingly for Ferrari, the way Vettel cut through the field following his early trouble showed the German driver is back to his very best.
 Vettel's previous title came in 2013, the last of four straight with the once-dominant Red Bull, and there are clearly shades of the confident Vettel of old this season.
 Verstappen, tipped to be F1's next big star, needs a strong performance in Baku.
 Last year, the 19-year-old Dutch driver became the youngest F1 driver to win a race and to qualify on the front row.
 But he has secured only one podium and failed to finish three races so far this season.
 Worse still is the misery two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso is enduring at McLaren.
 Although still widely considered the equal of Hamilton - and slightly ahead of Vettel - on pure ability, Alonso has not won since the Spanish GP in May 2013.
 He can hardly even finish a race these days, such is the unreliability of McLaren's Honda engine.
 McLaren is the only team yet to score a point. Between them, Alonso and teammate Stoffel Vandoorne have completed only four races, with a best finish of 12th by Alonso.
 Considering how demanding the Baku circuit is on engines, it promises to be another frustrating weekend for Honda amid growing rumors McLaren is considering a new engine supplier deal with Mercedes. An embarrassing, but realistic possibility, for beleaguered Honda.

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