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    Racing below sea level

    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.

    Maranello 02 giugno 2021

    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. 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 on 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 practice sessions on Friday, at 12.30 local (10.30 CET) and 16 (14 CET). The final hour of free practice 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).

    Ferrari Stats

    GP contested 1013
    Seasons in F1 72
    Debut Monaco 1950 (A. Ascari 2nd; R. Sommer 4th; L. Villoresi ret.)
    Wins 238 (23.49%)
    Pole positions 229 (22.61%)
    Fastest laps 254 (25.07%)
    Total podiums 774 (25.47%)

    Ferrari Stats Baku City Circuit

    GP contested 4
    Debut Europe 2016 (S. Vettel 2nd; K. Räikkönen 4th)
    Wins 0
    Pole positions 1 (25%)
    Fastest laps 2 (50%)
    Total podiums 3 (25%)

    Azerbaijan Grand Prix: facts & figures

    10. 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.

    11. 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, 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. 

    25. The non-permanent circuits that have hosted Formula 1 World Championship events to date. 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.

    51. 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.

    This week in our history

    2/6. In 1996, Michael Schumacher took the first of his 72 Grand Prix wins with Scuderia Ferrari. It came in the Spanish Grand Prix in Montmelo, in a race run in atrocious weather with low clouds and heavy rain. It was the German’s seventh race with the Maranello team and, at the wheel of an F310 the German was unstoppable, as he easily passed Jean Alesi in the Benetton, followed by Jacques Villeneuve in the Williams, to stamp his authority on the race. Even though his engine occasionally lost power with an engine misfire caused by water ingress, Michael finished 45 seconds ahead of the Frenchman and 48 ahead of the Canadian. All the other drivers were lapped.

    3/6. In 1956, the Belgian Grand Prix was held at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, which then measured over 14 kilometres. Juan Manuel Fangio qualified his Ferrari D50 on pole, but with heavy rain falling at the start, the Argentinian had a poor getaway, dropping to fifth. He then climbed back up the order passing one car each lap to lead again on lap 5, followed by Stirling Moss in a Maserati and Peter Collins in the second D50. The track dried out and Collins moved up to second. On lap 24, Fangio’s transmission failed, allowing the Englishman to take his very first Formula 1 World Championship win. Ferrari still managed to celebrate a one-two finish as well as its 22nd win,  because second place went to the Belgian racer and journalist Paul Frere.

    4/6. In 1988, Pope John Paul visited Ferrari. Unfortunately, Enzo Ferrari was in poor health and did not meet Karol Wojtyla, whom he admired, for having been a labourer in an earlier life. The two spoke only by phone, while it fell to his son Piero Ferrari to do the honours on the visit, along with the Scuderia’s Formula 1 drivers, Michele Alboreto and Gerhard Berger. Even the Pope was enthused by the Ferrari atmosphere and abandoned his usual “Popemobile” to go round Fiorano and wave to the crowds from a red Mondial, driven by Piero Ferrari.

    5/6. In 1928, Umberto Maglioli was born in Bioglio, then in the province of Vercelli, now part of Biella. He began as a co-driver but soon came to the attention of Enzo Ferrari who, as from 1953, put him in a 375MM for a few endurance races. He won the Pescara 12 Hours with Mike Hawthorn and his best year was 1954, when he won the Buenos Aires 1000 Km, paired with Giuseppe Farina and contributed to Ferrari winning the World Championship for Makes. He also made it to the podium in Formula 1, finishing third in Monza and again in Argentina in the first race of the following year. His last major victory was the 1964 Sebring 12 Hours, sharing a Ferrari 275P with Mike Parkes. Maglioli died on 7 February 1999, aged 80.

    6/6. The engineer and designer Giotto Bizzarrini was born in 1926 in Livorno. He started off at Alfa Romeo and at Ferrari he headed up several design projects including that of the famous 250 GTO, which would become one of the most prized cars in the world. Bizzarrini’s time at Ferrari came to an abrupt end in 1962, when he followed the engineer Carlo Chiti and manager Romolo Tavoni to the ATS team, financed by Conte Giovanni Volpi di Misurata.