Compared to last year, the selection of tyres that Pirelli brings to Baku are two steps softer, with soft, supersoft and ultrasoft nominated. One step comes from the actual selection, the next from the fact that all the compounds are a step softer than their 2017 equivalents anyway. That's not the only important difference. This year, the Azerbaijan Grand Prix is being held two months earlier than it was previously, meaning we can expect cooler conditions.
With the race starting just after 4pm, track temperatures cool rapidly as the sun begins to go down. None of the free practice sessions take place at exactly the same time as the race start though.
Because Baku is a street circuit tightly enclosed by buildings, there are many areas of lights and shade, making track temperatures even harder to assess.
The main straight is two kilometres long, which means that the tyres can cool down before the braking area at the end of it. After Spa, Baku is the second-longest lap of the season.
Last year's strategy was affected by safety cars and a red flag, which can play a prominent role on the narrow track – cars have often tangled in the tight confines of Baku previously.
The winning strategy involved three tyre changes last year, with the second one taking place during the safety car period and the last one under red flag conditions. Daniel Ricciardo won the race starting from 10th position on the grid with a supersoft-soft-supersoft-supersoft strategy.
One of the biggest challenges for drivers last year was warming up the front and rear tyres at the same rate. With cooler conditions, this problem is likely to be accentuated.
Mario Isola: "The Azerbaijan Grand Prix should have quite a different look to it this time, being held two months earlier and presumably presenting a contrast to last year in terms of weather conditions, when track temperatures peaked at more than 50 degrees centigrade. Last year, we felt that we were a little too conservative with the tyre nomination in Azerbaijan, in the first year of the new tyre regulations, as the medium wasn't really used. So, we felt that this year we had scope to be a little more aggressive with the nominations. This should lead to all three compounds being used as realistic race options, and some inventive race strategies, as we saw at the last two grands prix in Bahrain and China."