Expectations were always going to be high for China to deliver a memorable grand prix.
Unfortunately for those who watched, race number 1,000 will slip quietly into the history books with barely a backwards glance.
Valtteri Bottas fended off Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton to secure his seventh career pole position in some notable pre-race action.
But when the lights turned green and the pressure cranked up, Hamilton eased to a comfortable win and a place at the top of the drivers’ championship for the first time this season.
The five-time world champion holds a six-point advantage over Bottas in the standings, with an even healthier 31-point gap over fourth-place Sebastian Vettel.
“We arrived here not knowing how we would measure against Ferrari – they were so quick in the last race,” Hamilton said in his post-race interview.
Yet as with the opener in Australia and again in Bahrain, it wasn’t Ferrari’s pace and dominance that had people talking by the drop of the chequered flag.
The phrase ‘team orders’ seems to be becoming a narrative throughout this season for the Scuderia, with Charles Leclerc ordered to let Vettel past during the opening laps in China.
Former Ferrari driver Gerhard Berger said the team should be allowing the drivers an “open game” to race, with no priority given to the more experienced Vettel as a four-time champion.
Monaco-born Leclerc has already thrown down the gauntlet by declaring Baku one of his “favourite tracks of the season”.
“I always enjoy driving on it, especially the castle part with all those tight corners,” Leclerc said. “It’s a unique track, you cannot find anything like it anywhere else in the world, so it’s pretty special.”
So, what better place for an all-out scrap than a circuit that has produced controversial upsets and back-to-back madcap races?
This article is from the BBC Sport website / bbc.co.uk – Azerbaijan Grand Prix: Can Baku deliver more surprises?
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