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    INSIGHT: Bonus Storylines from Baku From ghastly gusts of wind ...

From ghastly gusts of wind to backgammon with Bernie, here's a few tales from the Land of Fire that you may have missed...

Lewis says to win this year would be the 'greatest achievement'

He may have taken an 11th hour victory in Baku - the last circuit on the F1 calendar at which he'd previously raced but not won - but before the action commenced Lewis left nobody in any doubt about the scale of the task facing Mercedes the team in its quest for five successive Drivers' and Constructors' Championships.

In response to a question about which Red Bull driver he thought offered the greater threat over the season, Lewis said this: "Everybody has definitely stepped up. Red Bull is close to their best and Ferrari is at their best, so to win it this year would be this team's greatest achievement."

Only the brave challenge Bernie to a game of backgammon

Former F1 supremo and current chairman emeritus, Bernie Ecclestone, has been a paddock visitor in both Bahrain and China- during the former of which there was considerable speculation about future F1 budget caps.

So, it was perhaps timely that Mr. E arrived in Baku carrying a red brief case, just like the UK's Chancellor of the Exchequer on budget day.

"What's in there, the budget cap gory details?" someone quipped.

"No," he replied. "It's my backgammon set to play Sebastian (Vettel).

Taking on Mr. E at backgammon is probably not a sound plan but Toto gave it a go in Baku, and lost...

Baku, can quite literally, blow you away

Lewis spent most of the opening stint trying to stay within striking distance of Vettel before suffering a lock-up into Turn 1 that flat-spotted his tyres and required an earlier than planned lap 22 pit stop to go from the SuperSoft to the Soft compound Pirellis.

"Something's wrong, guys!" Lewis radioed immediately after his lock-up.

Baku is known as "The city of winds" and Lewis had fallen victim to the strong gusts just off the Caspian Sea that were exceeding 50km/h at times. It wasn't surprising that he was caught out: on the previous lap there had been a 25 km/h head wind as he headed into Turn 1 but, next time around, he was pushed on by a 15 km/h tail wind.

"I was completely baffled by what had happened", said Lewis. "Normally when I go upstairs they would say it was just a mistake or something like that. I had a 25 km/h head wind and then 15 km/h tailwind straight after. It was really strange. I hit the brakes, the car was working obviously and then out of a sudden the wheels just locked. The car must have unloaded or whatever.

"It was probably the most challenging race that I can remember having with wind. It really made it tough. Close to a wet race, for example. And you know how tricky those conditions can be. It was very close to that in dry conditions today."

The particular problem of Baku's Safety Car restarts

The layout of Baku City Circuit presents some real problems in trying to protect a lead at a restart - and the best methodology had prompted much pre-race discussion.

"We've been privileged many times to be on pole with a fast car, so in 2016 / 17 we spent hours reviewing how best to restart things in Baku and there's no one good way of doing it" said James Vowles, Chief Strategist.

"You can go the Vettel way and leave it late, which is what they did in F2 as well - but that is high risk and often ends up with another Safety Car period ensuing straight afterwards. You normally end up with cars three-wide behind you because it's not a short enough run into Turn 1 and you don't get enough disparity between the cars. It can end up with another shunt, so we erred away from that.

"The best option is what Lewis did in 2017, when you back way off and let the Safety Car get way ahead and then push out of the exit of 16, because it's just not possible to get to you there if you do it in the right way.

"But the problem here - and it's only particular to Baku - is that the Safety Car basically lets you go at the sector two line, which is the entry down into the hill. That's nowhere near enough time for it to get all the way around into the pit lane again - and that's why last year you saw Lewis slowing all the way down. It makes it very difficult to do, especially when the tyres are cold."

Lewis, this year, was not happy with the restart tactics employed by Vettel after an opening lap Safety Car.

"The rules say you can't gas it and then slow down, which he did three or four times. Obviously, if you are allowed to do that, everyone would, so we need to speak to Charlie (Whiting, F1's Race Director) because it sets a precedent, not just for F1 but all other formulae too."

A different kind of battle emerges...

The practice and qualifying days in Baku highlighted a shift in F1's competitive picture this year compared to 2017.

Last year, the W08 tended to be nip and tuck with Ferrari in practice, with a slight edge in qualifying that often allowed the team a wider range of strategic race options.

This year, however (Melbourne apart, when it seems increasingly evident that Ferrari did not maximise its car), the team has often found itself on the back foot on Friday, facing a tougher task to get the car operating to the drivers' liking. In Baku, big changes were made on Friday night after the team found itself lacking race pace compared to Ferrari and Red Bull.

"It's definitely three teams battling for wins," Valtteri said. "It's all about fine details and, although we've had a car that could have won all four races, it's not easy. Our priority is to extract the performance from the softest compound tyres and they are extremely sensitive to the working window. It's everything: keeping and getting rid of the heat from the brakes, suspension setting, camber angles, working the inside and outside of the tyres. Ferrari and Red Bull are hitting the peak more often but we are learning."

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