Racing beyond sea level – Scuderia Ferrari Azerbaijan GP preview

After Monaco, the Formula 1 World Championship heads for Baku, making it two street circuits in a row, although the two tracks don’t have much in common. Monaco is slow and twisty, to the extent that overtaking is almost impossible, whereas the stage for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix features the longest straight on the calendar, at 2.2 kilometres in length and all the races held here have seen around 40 overtaking moves.

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The Baku circuit is 6.003 kilometres long, with 12 left-hand corners and eight to the right. One unusual fact about the venue is that almost all of it is below sea level, as indeed is much of the city of Baku, with only turns 13 and 14 slightly higher. The most startling point on the track is the sharp left between the old city buildings at turn 8, where the track is so narrow that only one car at a time can get through.

Efficiency and power. As regards the aerodynamics of the car, the engineers have to find a configuration that is quick down the main straight while giving drivers enough downforce for the twisty parts in the first two sectors. Aerodynamic efficiency is therefore particularly important. The track surface also presents a challenge, being low grip and graining is a factor that has affected car performance in all the Grands Prix held here. There are two DRS zones, one between turns 2 and 3, the other on the start-finish straight.

Programme. The fifth Grand Prix to be held at Baku will run over 51 laps, a distance of 306.049 kilometres. There are two one-hour free practise sessions on Friday, at 12.30 local (10.30 CET) and 16 (14 CET). The final hour of free practise takes place on Saturday at 13 (11 CET) followed by qualifying at 16 (14 CET). The race gets underway on Sunday at 16 (14 CET).

Azerbaijan Grand Prix: facts & figures

The furthest back on the grid from which the Baku race has been won and indeed produced a podium finish. This dates back to 2017 when Daniel Ricciardo won. Apart from that year, even though this race has always featured plenty of overtaking, it has always been won from a front row start, twice from pole and once from second on the grid.

The number of tracks that have hosted at least two Grands Prix with different names. In 2016, the race in Baku was known as the European GP, before switching to Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Two tracks share the record of four different race names – Imola, with Italian, San Marino, Emilia Romagna and Made in Italy e dell’Emilia Romagna, and the Nürburgring, with German, European, Luxembourg and Eifel. Eight other tracks have hosted two different races: Brands Hatch, the British and European, Dijon, the French and Swiss; Indianapolis, with the 500 Miles race and the United States GP; Watkins Glen, the United States and United States East; Jerez de la Frontera, Spanish and European; Sakhir, Bahrain and Sakhir; Silverstone, British and 70th Anniversary of Formula 1 and Spielberg, which will again this year host the Austrian and Styrian Grands Prix.

The non-permanent circuits that have hosted Formula 1 World Championship events to date. The newest on this list is actually Baku. The Vietnamese GP on a Hanoi street track was featured on the 2020 calendar, but the race did not take place. Towards the end of this F1 season, a Jeddah street circuit in Saudi Arabia will make its debut. Monaco is the non-permanent venue that has hosted the most races with 67 Grands Prix, followed by Spa-Francorchamps on 53, although, as from 2002, the Belgian track became a permanent facility and Montreal on 41.

The average number of overtaking moves in the Baku races. Helped by the very long main straight, overtaking is always on the cards in Azerbaijan. In 2016, in the first race, there were 62 passing moves, then 42 in 2017 and 50 in both 2018 and 2019.

1991. The year Azerbaijan became an independent state following the collapse of the Soviet Union, to be precise this took place on 25 December of that year. It is the youngest nation to host a Formula 1 race, equal with the Russian Federation, established on the same day.

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