The oil-rich country of Azerbaijan became the newest fixture on the F1 calendar in 2016. The Baku City circuit, the second longest track of the season, combines twisting sections reminiscent of Monaco with flat-out straights like those at Monza.
|TRACK LENGTH||3.753 miles|
|NUMBER OF LAPS||51|
|NUMBER OF TURNS||20|
|MOST POLES||Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Valtteri Bottas, Charles Leclerc (1)|
|MOST WINS||Nico Rosberg, Daniel Ricciardo, Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, Sergio Perez (1)|
Baku itself is no stranger to motorsport, with the Baku World Challenge having been held on a street circuit between 2012 and 2014. Azerbaijan wanted a prestigious event to add to its list of honours, and followed in the footsteps of similarly oil-rich countries Bahrain and Abu Dhabi, and enticed Formula 1 to the area.
In December 2013, Bernie Ecclestone announced that a deal had been signed for F1 to visit the country for the first time, with the Azerbaijan Grand Prix to be added to the Formula 1 calendar from 2015 onwards. Ecclestone then suggested that the event would replace the Korean Grand Prix, with the organisers of that event being in breach of their contract. In July 2014, it was announced that the Baku race would in fact début in 2016.
A track design was submitted to the FIA in mid 2015. The Baku City Circuit, which was designed by Hermann Tilke, is the fastest street circuit in the world. It is also the second longest circuit on the current Formula One calendar – only Spa is longer. It runs anti-clockwise and passes through the oldest parts of the city, past government houses and out on to Baku’s promenade, with panoramic views of the Caspian Sea. The track boasts a mix of slow and tight twisting turns, along with the longest flat out section of track seen throughout the season, where the cars reach a mammoth maximum speed of 235mph.
Another unique feature of this track is that narrowest part is just 7.6 metres wide at Turn 8. On the apex of this corner, which is barely wide enough for two cars to fit side-by-side, you can find a medieval wall. This area of the city has cobbled streets, so temporary asphalt is laid over it in time for the Grand Prix.
The 2020 Azerbaijan Grand Prix was postponed in March 2020 and ultimately cancelled in June 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The event returns in 2021 behind closed doors. A new contract signed in May 2021 will see the Baku City Circuit host the Azerbaijan Grand Prix until at least 2024, extending the previous contract – signed in February 2019 – by a year.
- The first time a race was run here in 2016, it was given the title of the European Grand Prix. For 2017 onwards, the race has been known as the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
- There is a 202 metre run to the first corner, and the two longest straights on the track – the run to Turn 1 and between turns 2 and 3 – are where you’ll find the DRS activation zones.
- Fuel consumption can be critical here, with 2.1kg of fuel being used per lap.
- There were issues over the running of the first F1 weekend in Baku. The FIA reported that, following Friday Practice, 90% of the tyres used had been cut by loose bolts on the kerbing of the track. Furthermore, Valtteri Bottas was forced to sit out Free Practice Three due to hitting a loose drain cover.
- The track is situated 28 metres below sea level.
2021 AZERBAIJAN GP RECAP
Another eventful affair in Baku saw Max Verstappen crash out of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix with a tyre failure, handing the win to team-mate Sergio Perez.
Following a number of near misses throughout the practice sessions – and a session-stopping collision for Max Verstappen in Free Practice 3 – the red flags were out in force during qualifying for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, with multiple drivers finding their way into the barriers. Lance Stroll was first to crash in Q1, before another red flag-inducing crash from Antonio Giovinazzi. In Q2, Daniel Ricciardo crashed into the wall, while in Q3 the drivers’ final efforts were prematurely ended as Yuki Tsunoda made contact with the barriers and Carlos Sainz subsequently ran into the run-off area.
The Q3 melee resulted in Charles Leclerc recording a second successive pole position. The Ferrari driver led the opening two laps before being overtaken by championship protagonists Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. As one Ferrari dropped down the order, the other was slowed with Sainz taking another visit to the run-off area.
Verstappen jumped Hamilton following a slow stop for the Mercedes driver. On Lap 31, Lance Stroll suffered a tyre issue which saw him clatter the barrier at high speed. The race resumed four laps later, with Sebastian Vettel taking fourth place from former team-mate Leclerc at Turn 1. Vettel was on the move again a few laps later, passing Pierre Gasly for fourth.
Five laps from the end, another tyre failure for Verstappen saw him crash out from the lead. A red flag period followed, leading to a five-lap shootout between the remaining drivers. Perez started from pole. Hamilton, alongside the Red Bull on the front row, locked up at Turn 1 and went deep into the run off area. The Mercedes driver finished outside of the points as a result. That left Vettel and Gasly in a fruitless pursuit of Perez. Perez claimed his first victory for Red Bull, while Vettel recorded Aston Martin’s first podium finish in Formula 1.
2019 AZERBAIJAN GP RECAP
Valtteri Bottas retook the championship lead with a win at the 2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix. The weekend was filled with bizarre incidents.
There was drama right from the start of the Baku weekend as the First Practice session had to be cancelled following a series of unfortunate incidents. Firstly, George Russell ran over a loose drain cover which destroyed the floor of his car. Then, the recovery vehicle which was transporting his stricken car was too big to fit under a bridge and the two objects made contact. The drain covers were welded and the recovery trucks put away, but Saturday’s qualifying was just as dramatic. Robert Kubica brought out the red flags in Q1 with a crash at the tight Turn 8, and Charles Leclerc did the same thing in Q2. After a lengthy delay, it was Valtteri Bottas who eventually took pole position. The Mercedes drivers went side by side into the opening turns, but Bottas maintained his advantage. The opening laps passed without much incident, Former team-mates Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat found themselves out-braking each other, and Ricciardo made things worse by forgetting to check his mirrors before reversing right into the Toro Rosso. Romain Grosjean and Pierre Gasly became the third and fourth retirements of the afternoon, each pulling aside with mechanical problems. Hamilton closed in on the back of his leading team-mate, but Bottas held on to take his second win of the season. The Finn reclaimed the championship lead with his victory. Sebastian Vettel finished third, while Charles Leclerc was awarded Driver of the Day.
2018 AZERBAIJAN GP RECAP
Just as in 2017, Azerbaijan served up a chaotic Sunday afternoon as Lewis Hamilton took an unexpected victory as his team-mate lost the lead in the final laps.
There was a close call in Qualifying as Pierre Gasly caught Brendon Hartley unsighted and narrowly avoided a huge crash between the pair. Kimi Raikkonen almost took pole but made a mistake in the final sector, leaving Sebastian Vettel to take a third consecutive pole. The Finnish driver’s weekend went from bad to worse as he collided with Esteban Ocon on the first lap, ending the Frenchman’s race. Fernando Alonso was also caught up in first lap dramas and miraculously made it back to the pits with two punctures. The Red Bull drivers battled each other throughout the Grand Prix, ultimately ending in a collision on the main straight. The collision brought out a Safety Car for the second time in the race, closing up the pack with Valtteri Bottas leading from Vettel and Hamilton after an extra round of pit stops. Under the Safety Car, Romain Grosjean crashed into the wall. The Safety Car re-entered the pits with four laps remaining. Vettel attempted an overtake on the Finn into Turn One but locked up, losing two positions. The next time around, Bottas ran over debris, ensuring Hamilton would take the lead and win the race. Sergio Perez finished in third, taking a second podium at the Baku track, while Charles Leclerc scored his first points in Formula 1 with a sixth place finish.
AZERBAIJAN GP WINNERS AND POLESITTERS
|Year||Polesitter||Team On Pole||Winner||Winning Team|
|2016||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes|
|2017||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull|
|2018||Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes|
|2019||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes|
|2021||Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||Sergio Perez||Red Bull|