By Formula 1
The F1 paddock heads back across the Atlantic to its third street track in a row for this weekend’s 2017 Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Baku, which has turned into a circuit of legendary corners seeped in history with cars running through the capital's streets, is preparing to hold another exciting car show with the Formula 1 European Grand Prix family on June 23-25.
Those involved look ahead to competing around the spectacular Baku City Circuit
“Baku is a great city, and after the success of last year’s inaugural grand prix I’m really looking forward to going racing again in Azerbaijan. As a Baku Ambassador, I’ve spent more time there than a lot of my peers and colleagues, and it’s a really cool location to host a Formula 1 race. We literally drive straight through the centre of the historical old town and the old city walls make the perfect setting for this race in a new territory for the sport.
“After getting so close to scoring our first point in Canada and suffering another retirement, we go to Baku with even more determination, but it’s no secret that we expect to find this weekend tricky. After the power unit issues it’s likely we’ll need to take penalties, and the nature of the narrow, fast straights and tight corners means overtaking is generally tough. However, it’s certainly not impossible, and we’ll keep fighting as we always do.
“Baku City Circuit is the fastest street track on the calendar, so from a driver’s perspective it’s really exciting to be racing at such high speeds with the walls closing in on you either side. As usual, the starts are always one of the most crucial points of the race for us, so getting the set-up just right on Friday in time for qualifying on Saturday will be the most important thing.”
“I’m excited about racing in Baku for the first time. I’ve spent quite a lot of time in the simulator driving the track already – and I did last year too, to help the engineers prepare for a new circuit – so it doesn’t actually feel too unfamiliar.
“The circuit is a real mix of great characteristics from other tracks – high speeds and long straights but also close racing and heavy braking for the tight corners on the infield section of this street circuit layout. It has a bit of everything so there’s a lot for our engineers to work on. It’s heavy on fuel consumption and puts high loads on the ERS, so we’ll need to try to optimise our package to adapt to the demands that the weekend will throw at us.
“Canada was a disappointing race for the whole team, and we don’t expect Baku to offer us any particular surprises in terms of performance, but we’re learning all the time and working hard to get on top of our issues. We’ve already regrouped and we continue to look forward, and we’ll approach next weekend the same way we do every race weekend – fighting hard and trying to extract everything we can from the package beneath us.”
Eric Boullier, Racing Director
“After the frustrations we felt in Montreal, we move to what is another fascinating city in Baku, for the second race in the city’s history at the newly renamed Azerbaijan Grand Prix. In Canada we were unable to fulfill any potential we showed during the weekend, and we anticipate that in Baku we will face a similar challenge due to the demands this circuit’s characteristics place on the car.
“Nevertheless, in the midst of our current struggles, we aren’t standing still. Quite the opposite, in fact, and the team’s hunger and determination are stronger than ever to move us forward and into the hunt for more positive results. Rather than focus on the negatives, we need to turn our attention to solutions and work together to get the best out of our situation.
“Although we know this weekend won’t be easy, the backdrop of the stunning old town and medieval walls of Baku offer a dramatic arena for more great racing. The atmosphere during our first visit there last year was incredible and the support we received from the fans was fantastic. In terms of location, it couldn’t be better: the team stays at the Hilton situated downtown – indeed precisely overlooking the start-finish line – and places us on the doorstep of the stunning city centre, where we hope we will be able to make the most of an enjoyable weekend.”
Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda R&D Co. Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer
“This season will mark just our second visit to Baku, and after a disappointing end to our Canadian Grand Prix weekend we’re looking forward to moving on to the Azerbaijan capital.
“The race is not back-to-back this year so we’re fortunate to have extra time back at the factory to analyse and understand the data collected in Canada. However, we’re under no illusions that this weekend will be straightforward for us – Baku City Circuit has one of the longest straights of any Formula 1 track at over 2km (1.243 miles) and is a notoriously power-hungry circuit. I think we can expect another tough challenge for the team.
“We’re going through a difficult time at the moment, but we’re doing all that we can to rectify the situation. We must continue to concentrate on development as one team with McLaren and turn things around as soon as we can.”
“It’s going to be pretty exciting. I think some parts of the circuit are going to be very tight for the wider cars, but some other corners are going to be really nice to drive. Straight-line speed is going to be a bit down. I think it’s going to be a really cool track to drive with these cars – braking late and carrying a lot of speed in the corners, and playing around with some pretty fast corners through the walls.
“I believe there’s always a lot of things you can bring from the past, even when the cars are different. We’ll look at what we did last year, what our setup was like, and what we could’ve done better in the race. I think we’ve got some ideas and we’ll apply that with the deltas of this year. There are always things we can learn and improve.
“It was a really good race (last year). It’s a beautiful city and a beautiful track. The only downside we noticed was the plastic bags flying around – they actually cost us points in the race as one got caught in the radiator intake. Hopefully, that’s improved. For me, that was the only downside of what was a really good weekend.
“I would say (the track’s most challenging part) was the back end – going around the castle, up the hills, then going back down and the two last corners, which were actually pretty tricky. It’s the most challenging one. It’s pretty high speed and you’ve got to get the right balance in those corners as well as the braking. It’s pretty exciting when you get it right.”
“I never tried the Baku City Circuit in a simulator before actually racing there. It was a cool experience to just go on a track you don’t even have 100 percent idea which way the corners are going. I really had to learn the circuit from scratch. It was a cool experience and the track was really cool. I’m looking forward to going back again.
“It’s going to be fun. The corners are going to be faster this year because of the increased downforce. We’re going to be a bit slower on the straights, so I suspect Baku might be one of the tracks where we’re not going to be that much faster than the old cars, but it’s still going to be massively fun and challenging in the corners.
“Now I know the track, and I learned which way the corners are going, coming back this year will be easier to adjust to the track. A couple of corners might be easy flat now, maybe even turn 13 will be flat now, which it wasn’t last year. That will be a cool experience.
“It was a pretty cool race (last year). Baku offers good opportunities to overtake. There’s a lot of action in the race – that’s always good. The most challenging part was sector two. It’s very low speed, very narrow. It’s easy to make a mistake.
“I guess (the Baku City Circuit is) a mixture of Monza and Monaco – which is pretty unusual. I’m looking forward to it.”
Guenther Steiner, team principal
“Like all the circuits, we have to see where our time will be. The times improve more on a slower circuit with the new car than on the fast circuits because the top speeds are not much higher than last year. So, I don’t know how the surface looks this year in Baku. Last year it was pretty slippery, and I don’t know if the asphalt is still slippery. We’ll really only know until after FP1.
“You can use all the (2016 Baku) data again because now, having done seven races, we can translate the data from last year’s car to this year’s car pretty easily. It all helps, and we’re able to come in to this race as well prepared as we can.
“It’s a fantastic place. Everybody did a good job there last year. The organizers were good and the race track was good. They knew what to do and they were well prepared.”
“Baku in my opinion is quite a special street circuit, it’s really unique in terms of having quite wide sections but also some of the tightest parts of track on the calendar. Sector 2 is tighter than parts of Monaco which has always been regarded as really narrow and challenging. When you drive up into the old town and past the castle it is fun and tricky but also amazing to watch as a spectator. That section of the track is my favourite, the straight is quick but seems to go on for a long time and gives you a chance to relax a bit.
“As the hotel is really nice and new as well as being situated right next to the paddock I didn’t manage to get out and have a look around last year. The old town is fun to drive so I think I should try and get up there one evening this year and see what else it has in store.”
“This year I want to try and see the city more and get out to explore. Our hotel is so convenient being basically on the circuit but it means you don’t go out of that area too much and become a bit complacent. The view from the top of our hotel was awesome, from the gym you could see the entire city and track which is pretty unique.
“The track was fun so I’m looking forward to having another go on it. Another street circuit is exciting for me as I really enjoy those types of tracks, it doesn’t suit our car that much but there are a lot of opportunities for things to happen. I think the circuit is definitely as tight as it looks and has a lot of corners unlike any others on the calendar. There are a few interesting lines past the castle which adds to the toughness and is definitely a section of track like no other. The straight is so long that it gives you time to think, which is nice as the corners are technical and you really need to concentrate.”
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