No one quite knew what to expect when we touched down in Baku last year for the first European Grand Prix since Valencia in 2012, and what we found was unlike anything else on the Formula One calendar.
Like the city itself, the circuit is a fascinating, thrilling blend of old and new. The sections through the modern part of the city feature wide boulevards, feeding into almost right-angled turns but dominated by the monumentally long main straight where top speeds were among the highest ever recorded in F1. By contrast, the Old Town features incredibly narrow streets – down to just 7.6m wide at its tightest point – that demand ultimate concentration and pinpoint precision.
As for the city – well, suffice to say that with the track dotted with hotels, there was little opportunity for exploration. But what we saw – again a really vibrant mix of ancient and modern – we loved. Now we're back for a second bite at Baku, this time appearing under its national title of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. So what can we expect? Max and Daniel reveal all...
Baku is quite a special street circuit.
Last year in Baku, you hit a maximum speed of 354.2 km/h across the finish line, the second highest speed of anyone in 2016. It's not your usual street circuit is it?
"Baku is quite a special street circuit in my opinion, it's really unique in terms of having quite wide sections but also some of the tightest parts of track on the calendar. Sector 2 is tighter than parts of Monaco, which has always been regarded as really narrow and challenging. When you drive up into the Old Town and past the castle it's fun and tricky but also amazing to watch as a spectator. That section of the track is my favourite, the straight is quick but seems to go on for a long time and gives you a chance to relax a bit."
Last year was a bit of a fact-finding mission for everyone. Did you manage to see anything of Baku?
"As the hotel is really nice and new - and situated right next to the paddock - I didn't manage to get out and have a look around last year. The old town is fun to drive so I think I should try and get up there one evening this year and see what else it has in store."
Max says he didn't get out and about in Baku much last year due to the hotel being right beside the track. Was it the same for you? Any plans to have a look around this time?
"This year I want to try and see the city more and get out to explore. The hotel is so convenient (being basically on the circuit) but it means you don't go out of that area too much and can become a bit complacent. The view from the top of our hotel was awesome; from the gym you could see the entire city and track which is pretty unique."
I'm looking forward to having another go on it.
You're an aficionado of street circuits and you were on the front row last year. It's clearly one you enjoy.
"The track was fun so I'm looking forward to having another go on it. Another street circuit is exciting for me as I really enjoy these types of tracks. It probably doesn't suit our car that much but there are a lot of opportunities for things to happen."
Is it as tight as it looks through the Old Town?
"Definitely - plus it has a lot of corners, unlike any others on the calendar. There are a few interesting lines past the castle which adds to its toughness and is definitely a section of track like no other. The straight is so long that it gives you time to think, which is nice as the corners are technical and you really need to concentrate."