Toro Rosso's Brendon Harley heads to an unfamiliar venue this week, and one that offers its fair share of challenges to an F1 driver of any status, let alone a rookie.
A main straight producing the highest top speeds of the year, treacherous technical sections demanding extraordinary precision, Baku's layout takes no prisoners. But the Kiwi goes to Azerbaijan well prepared.
"I’m looking forward to going to another new circuit. I don’t know how many different circuits I’ve driven in my career but I’m always excited to drive a new one,” said Hartley.
“I think it’s very unique, being a street track, some really interesting corners with no room for error, which is always something I enjoy - probably most of the other drivers do too so we’re all in the same boat.
“From driving it on the simulator, the bit by the castle almost reminds me of Macau, which is one of my favourite tracks. I think I’m going to enjoy it and I’m really looking forward to the fourth race of the season.”
Baku's demanding and uncompromising layout requires a wealth of skillful knowledge. While his lack of experience will represent a deficit for the Kiwi, abundant simulator work has more than made up for the information shortfall.
“Apart from all the sim work, plus looking at videos of past races, I’ll be doing as much study as I can, so that I’d like to think that within ten laps, you’re pretty much up to speed.
“A lot of the work we do on the sim is actually for the engineers to develop the set-up and a small part of it is for the driver, but when you’re going to a new track then a bigger percentage of the work done is for the driver as well so it serves two purposes.”
In addition to the basic groundwork preparations, Hartley will also rely on his own comparative analysis derived from his vast past experience to fast track his learning process.
“Obviously there’s always those last few tenths still to come from a track that’s new to you, where knowing every bump in the road, changing conditions, wind direction, all have to be experienced at the actual circuit,” he adds.
“But when you’ve driven hundreds of circuits in your life, you try and piece them together and look at one corner and compare that to somewhere else that you’ve been.
“Obviously experience counts for a lot when you’re learning a new track.
“You certainly expect that the sim is modelled as close to the real thing as possible but it’s always hard to know - is that kerb exactly the same?
“Does it get the same amount of grip? Are there other factors? Are there marbles?
“Therefore, it’s also useful to look at video of past races to see what lines the drivers take and you can also learn from that…and I can’t wait to have our track walk on Thursday!”