The Formula 1 World Championship resumes this weekend with the first of a pair of back-to-back races that sees teams travelling first east and then west from their European homes. The action starts in Azerbaijan and on the following Sunday, 19 May, the sport makes a welcome return to Canada, having last raced in Montreal in 2019. As always, the Azerbaijan race takes place at the Baku City Circuit, running through the streets of the capital, including its historic centre and its infamous turn 8, only wide enough for one car to pass through at a time. Towards, the end of the lap is the very fast section where cars travel flat-out for 2.2 kilometres leading to the finish line. The circuit is 6.003 kilometres in length, with 12 corners to the left and eight to the right and it is almost in its entirety, below sea level, as is indeed much of Baku itself, with the exception of turns 13 and 14.
Efficiency and power. On the aero front, teams must find the configuration that allows the cars to be quick down the main straight while still giving drivers enough downforce for the slower corners in the first two sectors. Aerodynamic efficiency is therefore particularly important, as is the performance of the hybrid part of the power unit. The track surface offers very low grip which tends to lead to graining and that has always affected car performance in the races here. Look out too for appearances from the Safety Car, a common feature at this event, which can produce some unexpected opportunities and could have something to do with the fact that no driver has ever won more than once in Baku. There are two DRS zones, one between turns 2 and 3 and the other down the start-finish straight.
Programme. This will be the sixth Grand Prix run at Baku. On its debut in 2016, it was known as the Grand Prix of Europe, before switching to its current name from then on. Race distance is 51 laps, or 306.049 kilometres. There are two hour-long free practice sessions on Friday, starting at 15 local (13 CEST) and 18 (16 CEST). Saturday sees a final hour of free practice at 15 (13 CEST) followed by qualifying at 18 (16 CEST). The race gets underway on Sunday at 15 (13 CEST).
Three questions to...
NICOLA BARISELLI, PU TRACK OPERATIONS MANAGER
1. What type of track is the Baku City Circuit?
"Baku is a street circuit but unlike any other. It is definitely atypical because in addition to the expected 90 degree corners, it also has a very low speed section, as well as particularly long straights. In fact this track has one of the longest straights of the season. It is demanding for the drivers, but Carlos, and Charles in particular, both like racing here."
2. Why is this track considered particularly demanding for the power unit?
"Because the nature of the circuit means the power unit has to be versatile. The driver wants it to be nicely driveable in the tight and slow sections without however wasting energy, as it’s essential to be able to deploy it down the long straights. Outright power is also essential, especially when it comes to acceleration out of the many low speed corners, when going for a quick lap in qualifying as well as during the race".
3. The track is mainly below sea level and it is usually very windy. How do these two factors affect performance?
"The ambient conditions have a significant effect on optimising the car-power unit package. The changes in intensity and direction of the wind in particular can produce different operating conditions in terms of speed through the corners, which therefore impact torque and gear ratio settings and time spent on the straight. It’s clear that a tailwind or headwind down the last straight can have an effect of several tenths of a second".
Born on 17/1/1978
in Bologna (Italy)
Photos of Nicola Bariselli are available for download at:
GP entered 1037
Seasons in F1 73
Debut Monaco 1950 (A. Ascari 2nd; R. Sommer 4th; L. Villoresi ret.)
Wins 240 (23.14%)
Pole positions 235 (22.66%)
Fastest race laps 257 (24.78%)
Total podiums 786 (25.26%)
Ferrari Stats @Baku City Circuit
GP entered 5
Debut European GP 2016 (S. Vettel 2nd; K. Räikkönen 4th)
Pole positions 2 (40%)
Fastest race laps 2 (40%)
Total podiums 3 (20%)
Azerbaijan GP: facts & figures
5. The number of different winners in as many Grands Prix in Baku. The race is usually action packed thanks to the proximity of the walls and a very powerful slipstream effect, along with several appearances from the Safety Car; all these factors contributing to the fact that no driver has won here more than once. It has only been won from pole twice – in 2016 courtesy of Nico Rosberg and in 2019 when Valtteri Bottas managed it. In 2017, Daniel Ricciardo was victorious having started way back in tenth place on the grid. The remaining winners were Lewis Hamilton (2019) and Sergio Perez (2021), while Ferrari has never won here. The race was not held in 2020.
7. The number of combined points finishes for Charles and Carlos in Baku. The best of these is a fourth for Leclerc in 2019, his others being a fifth last year and a sixth in 2018, when he also scored his first Formula 1 points. A year ago, Charles also started from pole in Baku. As for Sainz, after posting a retirement in the first edition, he has always seen the chequered flag: fifth in 2018, seventh in 2019 and eighth in 2017 and 2021. The Spaniard’s best qualifying performance to date has a been a fifth place.
17. The number of cities twinned with Baku. The list includes two in Italy, Naples and Venice, as well as two that host or have hosted a World Championship Formula 1 Grand Prix, namely Istanbul and Jeddah.
162. The height in metres of the flagpole from which the national flag flew in Flag Square. On 2nd September 2010, this flagpole set a new record as the highest in the world. However, a few months later, in May 2011, Dushanbe, the capital city of Tajikistan claimed the record with a 165 metre pole. Not long after, the flagpole in Flag Square was taken down and the flag placed in a display case.
5813. The number of tiny books that reside in Baku’s Museum of Miniature Books. There are several books that are world record holders, such as the most valuable miniature book, the oldest and the rarest.
At Ferrari 75 years ago
It is 1st June 1947. After winning in Rome, Scuderia Ferrari, the 125 S and the ever dependable Franco Cortese are back in action. There are only six in the running for the win at the Vercelli Circuit, but Enzo Ferrari is determined to test the validity of his project, as well as seeing if his crew of six mechanics can deal with preparing for two races in such a short space of time. The development of the car is going well and the team is definitely up to the job in hand. Cortese takes pole from Nino Rovelli in the BMW 328 and the Italian goes on to totally dominate the race. Franco and the 125 S cross the line over a lap ahead of Renato Balestrero in the Fiat-engined Stanguellini 2800 SN and is almost two laps in front of Giovanni Battista Azzi in the Lancia Aprilia.