Round eight of the 2017 Formula One World Championship sees teams and drivers head east to the Caucasus and the city of Baku, home to the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
The long, Hermann “Hike-designed Baku City Circuit is something of an anomaly in terms of street racing. Through the Old City, it features the tight turns and unforgiving barriers common to the type, with the track closing to just 7.6m at its narrowest spot. However, sections in the new part of the city feature wide boulevards and long periods at full throttle and so it can be classed as a high-speed circuit. Indeed, unofficially, the fastest speed ever recorded by a Formula One car during a race weekend was attained in qualifying last year on this circuit.
Baku is a medium-difﬁculty circuit for brakes but a tough challenge for braking engineers: most of the circuit requires high levels of cooling, with many braking points and only short runs between them — but too much cooling will leave the brakes cold into Turn One after the long start-finish straight.
After two races at the softest end of the tyre spectrum, Pirelli have gone harder for Baku, with the Medium, Soft and Supersoft tyres on offer. As expected, most drivers have chosen to shun the Medium tyre, with 16 of the 20 taking only the mandatory single set. Everyone has at least eight sets of the Supersoft, while ﬁve drivers have taken nine and the McLaren pair each have 10.
At the top of the respective championships, the battles between Ferrari and Mercedes, and Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton make for fascinating viewing. Vettel currently leads the drivers’ standings with a 12-point advantage over Hamilton. Mercedes, by virtue of the one-two ﬁnish for Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas in Canada, have regained top spot in the Constructors’ Championship, leading Ferrari by eight points. While neither squad has a decisive pace advantage, in recent weeks Ferrari have prospered on the tighter circuits and Mercedes on high-speed tracks. The Baku City Circuit, with its mix of both, provides an intriguing battleground.