Baku ‘a step into the unknown’ for Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton says that he is relishing the challenge of heading into a race weekend without any of the usual preparation that Formula One drivers get to do.

With the Grand Prix of Europe being held for the first time on the brand new Baku City Circuit in Azerbaijan, no one has any idea what’s in store for them in Friday’s practice sessions – and that’s just fine as far as the reigning world champion is concerned.

“I quite like the idea of going out tomorrow and not knowing, seeing it for the first time. I’m kind of excited about that,” he said.

“I was thinking of riding a bicycle around tonight which I might do,” he mused. “I’ve walked around circuits from Formula Renault to probably my third or fourth year in Formula One but it made zero difference to my weekend performance so I’ve not walked a track since 2010.

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“Walking round the track or riding round the track you might see a kerb, but it looks a lot different when you’re driving round it. It might work for others but for me it didn’t, so I will go round tomorrow and that first lap is like you’re taking pictures with your mind and you’re learning as you go around.”

Many drivers have been putting in hours trying out the circuit in team simulators, but Hamilton said that he didn’t find that appealing or effective and as a result he had minimised the laps he’d spent in the Mercedes simulator ahead of this weekend’s race.

“Eight,” he replied when asked for a number of simulated laps around Baku he’d done. “It took me five or six to learn it and then I already did the best time and I couldn’t beat it after that. I don’t drive the simulator a lot because it’s not at its best at the moment. We’re working on trying to get it better.

“It’s a very bad computer game basically so it doesn’t say much. I don’t know if it’s bumpy, I don’t know if it’s smooth, I don’t know if it’s difficult for braking, the kerbs are harsh, I don’t know anything. It’s just a layout on the track so I know which way it goes at least.

“There’s a difference between driving the simulator and driving the real thing. You have no motion, so when you get in the simulator you have to adjust yourself to the simulator.

“When you get in the Formula One car you don’t have to adjust to anything, you drive it. When you get in the simulator you have to adjust all your feelings because you don’t get the same feelings, you don’t get the movement, you don’t get the same bumps.

“You drive the same track the day before and then on the Monday you drive the track on the simulator and the bumps aren’t there, the kerbs are different, the speed is different. You don’t feel the speed, you don’t feel the physicality part of it.”

So how quickly would he be able to get a feel for Baku once he finally got to go out on track?

“Tomorrow after the first few laps I’m pretty sure I’ll know if it’s difficult or not.”

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