PRIXVIEW – Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Features Prixview

Round eight sees the first of two flyway races as the sport heads back to Asia for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Since joining the calendar the streets of Baku have provided drama and controversy as drivers tackle the third-longest circuit on the calendar which features the narrowest section of the season, but also great overtaking opportunities.

The layout features some of the largest track withs for a street circuit and some of the fastest straights of the season with a blast from turn sixteen to turn one. It has one of the longest flat out sections between Turns Nineteen and One of any circuit of its nature, along the 1.4mi Neftchilar Avenue. It holds the unofficial top speed records at 378kmh or 235mph.

Drivers enjoy the challenge offered by its mixture of long straights, slow technical sections and no margin for error due to the proximity of the walls. It’s a race where drivers are likely to need to keep their eyes peeled so not to make mistakes though there are more opportunities to overtake than in Monaco

Overtaking is possible in the new town, but in the old town, many of the streets are traditional of street circuits. But as ever that comes with the risk of crashing into the barriers, the nature of the circuit punishes cars and lock ups are common forcing drivers to use escape roads.

However, in old Baku the streets are narrow and the narrowest section of track 7.6m on the calendar as drivers need precision as they drive up past the Maiden Tower through the old city. Get it wrong here you are straight in the barrier and that will bring out the red flag as it’s impossible to pass through that section.

It is also the only Grand Prix in the world to race around a UNESCO world heritage site but also the modern capital with the Flame Towers being part of the skyline.

Teams need to treat this weekend very differently to Monaco as it is a wide-open street circuit, similar to Jeddah which requires high speed and downforce. It means that any mistakes can be punished but the rewards are high, this is a very different circuit to Monte Carlo, designed like Jeddah and Miami to encourage overtaking, and that comes with its own risks and rewards.

Baku is a circuit which largely requires high speed and downforce, placing demands on the brakes, and with little runoff that can lead to cars crashing or being forced to retire. The final sector runs along the coastline making it a challenge between choosing between drag and straight-line speed.

The 2016 GP2 support race saw twelve of the twenty-two cars retire. This means the teams need to be careful not to overheat the cars, make mistakes or crash, that also means there can be big rewards if teams pull of good strategy.

Drama is often never far away and even with the previous regulations, 2017 race defined by two incidents. While heading for the first restart Sebastian Vettel ran into the back to race leader Hamilton, accusing the Mercedes of brake testing him, while a collision between the Force India’s of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon brought out the red flag.

That drama for Vettel and Hamilton earned the Ferrari a ten second stop-and-go putting Daniel Ricciardo into the lead. The Red Bull driver comfortable lead by twelve seconds, but was being caught by the Mercedes and Lance Stroll, ultimately they failed with the Bottas only managing second.

Hamilton took victory the following year but the defining moment of the race was when Ricciardo collided with teammate Max Verstappen. While Hamilton was comfortably leading the race through the pit stop phase the two Red Bull’s were trying to fight for fourth, which gave the rest of the drivers a free pit stop before Bottas managed to briefly lose the lead when he locked up.

Bottas, leading the race by more than one second over Hamilton, suffered a tyre puncture and was forced to retire. Hamilton then inherited the lead with three laps to go and took victory two seconds ahead of Kimi Räikkönen.

The 2019 race saw Mercedes go on to take their fourth consecutive one-two of the season, with Bottas holding his own against Hamilton, as Ferrari’s pace in practice failed to materialise with Vettel finishing the race ten seconds off the pace. Leclerc recovered from his crash in qualifying to finish fifth.

Last year’s race, saw Charles Leclerc take pole ahead of Hamilton and Verstappen in a session which was interrupted by red flags, his second consecutive pole position. The win however went to Perez who took the lead in the closing stages when a tyre failure sent Verstappen into a spin and brought out the safety car and the red flag.

Hamilton was in the lead, in scenes which would be repeated in Abu Dhabi when the race restarted from the grid with two laps to go, Perez made a slow start but Hamilton selected the wrong brake mode causing him to lock up and go straight on. That dropped him to last.

Pérez won his second Formula One race, his first win for Red Bull, and the first Red Bull race win by a driver other than Verstappen since the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix, which was won by Ricciardo.

Race & Circuit Guide

Round 08 of 23
Race Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix 2022
Venue Baku City Circuit, Azadliq Square, Baku, Azerbaijan
Configuration 2016 Grand Prix
Circuit Length 6.003km (3.730mi
Laps 51
Race Distance 306.049 km (190.170 mi)
Lap Record Race 01:43.009 Charles Leclerc, F1, Ferrari, 2019
Outright 01:40.495 Valtteri Bottas, F1, Mercedes, 2019
Most wins drivers Nico Rosberg *

Daniel Ricciardo

Sir Lewis Hamilton (1)

Valtteri Bottas

Sergio Perez

Most wins manufacture Mercedes (3) *

*Including 2016 Grand Prix of Europe

Fast facts

  • Eighth on the grid has supplied as many podium finishes as the pole slot has. Both Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez took third place finishes after starting from eighth in 2017 and 2018 respectively.
  • From the five races held so far at the Baku City Circuit, Nico Rosberg in 2016 and Valtteri Bottas in 2019 are the only pole sitters who have gone on to win the Grand Prix.
  • No driver has won more than once in Baku despite Mercedes and Red Bull having more than one victory
  • During qualifying for the 2016 race, Valtteri Bottas of Williams set an unofficial record for the highest ever speed recorded in an F1 car at 378 km/h.
  • The 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix marked the first time that a Mexican driver, a German driver and a French driver shared the three podium positions in Formula 1.
  • 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.

Event timetable

Session

Local (AZT)

UK (BST)

Friday

P1 15:00-16:00 12:00-13:00
P2 18:00-19:00 15:00-16:00

Saturday

P3 15:00-16:00 12:00-13:00
Qualifying 18:00-19:00 15:00-16:00

Sunday

Race 15:00 12:00

What happened in 2021?

Charles Leclerc took back to back pole positions after going two tenths faster than Lewis Hamilton. The session was heavily interrupted and the final runs in Q3 were interrupted when both Yuki Tsunoda and Carlos Sainz both crashed at the start of the session.

Mercedes turned it around after they struggled in practice, after making steup changes to the car after switching to a low downforce rear wing. Red Bull looked to be the team to beat going into qualifying on single lap pace, but the disrupted session allowed Ferrari and Mercedes

The race drew to a dramatic conclusion when with five laps to go Max Verstappen speared of into the wall giving the lead to Hamilton and bringing out the red flag. The Red Bull driver suffered a puncher which sent him spearing off into the wall when he looked on course for victory.

That put his teammate Sergio Perez into the lead on the restart, when Hamilton tried to overtake he selected the wrong set-up on his Mercedes and went straight on at the first corner.

Sebastian Vettel was second having his best race since joining Aston Martin at the start of the year, after fending off the Alpha Tauri of Pierre Gasly. The four-time champion, ran long in his first stint, keeping his pace strong, to lead the race for five laps after the leaders stopped. Before on the restart managing to leapfrog pass Leclerc and Gasly before Verstappen crashed. Vettel appeared to rediscover his form from earlier in his career.

Race Result – 1) S. Perez, Red Bull – Honda, 02:15:33.686, 2) S. Vettel, Aston Martin  – BWT Mercedes, +00:01.385, 3) P. Gasly, Alpha Tauri – Honda, +00:02.762

What to watch for?

Baku is a high speed and downforce street circuit similar to Jeddah where Max Verstappen took the victory, however that race back in March saw a very close battle between the two title rivals. That race saw Red Bull beat Ferrari on strategy, which is likely to be very to be a factor because of the high speed and demands on the brakes its third behind Monza and Jeddah for speed.

Teams traditionally use a Monza style set-up for this weekend. You need to wonder if Leclerc can bring it back to Verstappen given the close race we had in Jeddah, Miami and Barcelona. This is the second street circuit in a row though its very different as we always say to Monaco and is I think going to be a good indicator for Montréal next weekend.

Mercedes made a step forwards in Barcelona but struggled in Monaco, I think that they will need to find somewhere in between the two performances to have a good weekend. George Russell has appeared in my view to be getting more out of the car although porpoising could once again be an issue on the straights as they are high speed.

McLaren has I think made a big step forwards to where they were in Bahrain, the question is at a thirds distance in this season are they going to along with Alpine make that jump towards McLaren and Mercedes along with Alpha Tauri. They both had good races recently and will look to build on that this weekend because there could be huge opportunities given the fact we often get safety cars and mistakes in both the race and qualifying.

Baku also marks the third distance in this season, these points could be key in what the teams believe will be another season when we get to the latter stages of this tight championship will count

2019 vs 2021 Race Data

P1 Fastest

P2 Fastest

P3 Fastest

Q1 Fastest

Q2 Fastest

Q3 Fastest

Race Time

Fastest Lap

2021

01:43.184 01:42.115 01:42.595 01:41.545 01:41.625 01:41.218 02:13:36.410 01:44.481

Diff

-04.314 -00.717 -00.991 +00.119 -00.237 +00.723 +41:24.530 –01.472

2019

01:47.497 01:42.872 01:41.604 01:41.426 01:41.388 01:40.495 01:31:52.942 01:43.009

2021 Lap time comparison

FP1
FP2
FP3
Q1
Q2
Q3
Race
Team
Fastest Time
Gap
Fastest Time
Gap
Fastest Time
Gap
Fastest Time
Gap
Fastest Time
Gap
Fastest Time
Gap
Race. Time
Gap
Inter
Mercedes
01:43.898 +00.709 01:43.156 +01.041 01:42.697 +00.446 01:41.545 +00.000 01:41.634 +00.009 01:41.450 +00.252 02:13:47.674 +00:11.264 +00:02.977
Red Bull
01:43.184 +00.000 01:42.115 +00.000 01:42.595 +00.344 01:41.760 +00.215 01:41.625 +00.000 01:41.563 +00.345 02:13:36.410 +00:00.000 +00:00.000
Ferrari
01:43.227 +00.043 01:42.243 +00.128 01:42.778 +00.527 01:42.121 +00.576 01:41.659 +00.034 01:41.218 +00.000 02:13:40.238 +00:03.828 +00:01.066
McLaren
01:43.732 +00.548 01:43.018 +00.903 01:43.080 +00.760 01:42.121 +00.576 01:41.813 +00.188 01:41.747 +00.529 02:13:41.164 +00:04.754 +00:00.926
Aston Martin
01:45.234 +02.050 01:43.812 +01.697 01:43.585 +01.334 01:42.460 +00.915 01:42.224 +00.599 N/A +00.000 02:13:37.795 +00:01.385 +00:01.385
Alpha Tauri
01:43.757 +00.573 01:43.130 +01.015 01:43.244 +00.993 01:42.288 +00.743 01:41.654 +00.029 01:42.211 +00.993 02:13:42.792 +00:02.762 +00:02.762
Alpine
01:44.77 +01.593 01:43.020 +00.905 01:43.080 +01.043 01:42.426 +00.881 01:42.195 +00.570 01:42.322 +00.883 02:13:41.164 +00:06.382 +00:01.628
Haas
01:46.899 +03.715 01:45.563 +03.448 01:44.434 +03.031 01:44.158 +02.618 N/A +00.000 N/A +00.000 02:13:50.651 +00:14.241 +00:02.977
Alfa Romeo
01:44.943 +01.759 01:42.941 +00.826 01:13.826 +01.733 01:42.923 +01.378 01:42.587 +00.962 N/A +00.000 02:13:45.986 +00:09.576 +00:00.702
Williams
01:45.452 +02.268 01:46.095 +03.980 01:44.054 +01.803 01:42.728 +01.183 01:42.758 +01.133 N/A +00.000 02:14:18.789 +00:42.379 +00:24.711

Tyres

White Hard (C3)

Yellow Medium (C4)

Red Soft (C5)

Jack

Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.