Reports

Azerbaijan F1 Grand Prix

2017 AZERBAIJAN GRAND PRIX – SET UP

This is only the second Grand Prix to be run around the streets of Azerbaijan’s capital city, Baku. The track layout remains the same as last year, with its long pit straight along the edge of the Caspian Sea, but the event has been re-named for 2017. It’s no longer called the European Grand Prix; it’s now the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. 

NEED TO KNOW

Race title Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix 2017
Circuit name Baku City Circuit
First race 2016

TRAVEL

City Baku
Time zone BST +3
Population 2.1 million
Surprising fact Baku is located 28 metres below sea level, making it the lowest-lying national capital in the world
Local speciality Fisinjan, an ancient dish of Persian origins. It’s a meat stew (either chicken, lamb or beef) and it’s served in a dark sauce that’s made with plums, pomegranate molasses, walnuts, red onions, salt and sugar
Weather The weather in summer can be sweltering. The city enjoys an average of 300 hours of sunshine in June alone and, unsurprisingly, the forecast for the race is for 29 degrees and sunshine

Track

Track length 6.003km / 3.730 miles
2016 pole position Nico Rosberg - 1:42.758s
2016 winner Nico Rosberg, 51 laps - 1:32:52.366s
2016 fastest lap Nico Rosberg - 1:46.485s (lap 48)
Lap record 1:46.485s (Nico Rosberg, 2016)
Tyre choice Red Supersoft | Yellow Soft | White Medium
Distance to Turn One 202m / 0.126 miles
Longest straight 2.1km / 1.305 miles (on the approach to Turn One)
Top speed 370kmh / 230mph (fastest of the season)
Full throttle 56 percent
Brake wear Medium. There are six significant braking events around the lap, the hardest into Turn One
Fuel consumption 2kg per lap, which is high
ERS demands High, due to lots of full-deployment
Gear changes 62 per lap / 3162 per race

RACE

Laps 51 laps
Start time 17:00hrs local / 14:00hrs BST
Grid advantage Pole position is located on the right-hand-side of the track. That’s the same side as the racing line, where most of the grip is located, but Turn One is a left-hander and there’s an opportunity for the driver starting second if the pole-sitter makes a poor getaway
DRS There are two DRS zones, on the approaches to Turns One and Three
Don't put the kettle on... Last year’s race was won by Nico Rosberg on a one-stop strategy. He made that pitstop after 20 laps, changing from the red-walled Supersoft tyre onto the yellow-walled Soft tyre. Daniel Ricciardo was the first two-stopper home, in seventh place, and with this year’s harder tyre compounds it seems likely that one pitstop will prevail again
Pitlane length/Pitstops 295m / 0.183 miles. Estimated time loss for a pitstop is 22s
Safety Car Despite pre-race fears of incident and accident, there wasn’t a single Safety Car period last year. “Entering last year’s race,” says Fernando’s Race Engineer Mark Temple, “there was the feeling that just getting to the end would ensure a points finish. That didn’t turn out to be the case and we can expect people to be more aggressive in 2017, helped by the knowledge that the tyres can take it.”
Watch out for... The pitlane entry. Last year Valtteri Bottas clocked the fastest ever speed by an F1 car along the narrow pit straight, exactly where cars are peeling into the pitlane

THE DRIVERS

FERNANDO ALONSO

“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.”

STOFFEL VANDOORNE

“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.”

THE MANAGEMENT

ERIC BOULLIER

“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 fulfil 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

“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.”

2017 AZERBAIJAN GRAND PRIX – FREE PRACTICE

“WE TRIED SOMETHING A LITTLE DIFFERENT FROM THE NORM TODAY”

As predicted, the opening day of practice for the inaugural Azerbaijan Grand Prix (last year’s race was run under the label of the ‘European GP’) was frantic and busy – and punctuated by numerous off-track excursions, yellow flags, and a couple of red-flag stoppages. 

Through it all, Stoffel Vandoorne had a few harmless offs down a couple of escape roads – but ended the day 17th fastest, having posted a 17th-quickest time of 1m46.174s earlier in FP2. 

Fernando was immediately quick in today’s second session, but didn’t get an opportunity to conclude his run-plan. His day was cut short by a suspected gearbox problem, which brought his MCL32 to a smoky halt on the inside of Turn 16. Nonetheless, his 1m45.515s best was still 12th overall.

FERNANDO ALONSO

#FA14 MCL32-03
FP1 1:47.551s (+3.141s) 20 laps 17th
FP2 1:45.515s (+2.153s) 15 laps 12th
FP3 1:44.741s (+1.999s) 18 laps 14th

“We tested a few things in FP1 and FP2, running with different levels of downforce, trying to get some useful information for tomorrow. Stoffel worked on tyres, running on high fuel, both of which will help us make some useful decisions about strategy. 

“The track was tricky today – the Prime and Back-Up tyres lose some heat on the long straights, so when you get onto the brakes they suddenly lock up and you go straight on. We saw many cars going off today, mainly because everyone tries to find their limit on Friday. I think we’ll see fewer offs tomorrow, and even fewer on Sunday. 

“I lost the last half hour of the second session, so I suppose tomorrow we’ll need to do some running on high fuel, to catch up with the programme. 

“We’ll have to start at the back of the grid anyway, so we’ll take things smoothly in qualifying.” 

STOFFEL VANDOORNE

#SV2 MCL32-02
FP1 1:47.446s (+3.036s) 22 laps 15th
FP2 1:46.174s (+2.812s) 28 laps 17th
FP3 1:45.143s (+2.401s) 17 laps 16th

“Today, we chose to concentrate on our long-run pace because we knew we’d be taking grid penalties for the race. 

“Still, I quickly got to grips with the track in FP1, and I think there’s a bit more to come tomorrow. The car feels pretty positive around here, which is good because you need confidence on a street circuit. I also think the preparatory work I did in the sim has paid off pretty well – I felt immediately comfortable with where I had to brake, so it seems like the work was really worth it. 

“The tyres are quite tricky again here; it looks like everyone is struggling to warm them up, with lots of people having lock-ups. It’s tricky – especially in the braking zones, because the tyres cool down on the long straights and then you have to brake very hard into the corners. The car’s really on a knife-edge in terms of extracting a good lap-time.”

THE MANAGEMENT

ERIC BOULLIER

“We knew coming into this race that it would be a tough weekend for the whole team. 

“Fernando had a nice little engine upgrade to try this weekend – but, unfortunately, we broke the gearbox in FP2. It was a Friday unit, with high mileage, but we still managed to see some progress, which was good. 

“Still, with both drivers facing grid penalties that would relegate them to either the back row of the grid or possibly a start from the pit-lane, we knew we’d need to do something a little different from the norm to get the most out of our weekend. 

“So we decided to treat today as a little bit of an intensive test session, running a different Friday programme to normal. Of course, that doesn’t mean we’ll overlook the grand prix – after all, we still have to deliver a race for our fans, our partners, and for everybody working hard in Woking, Sakura and Milton Keynes. 

“But we’ve adopted a different approach, trying some different ways of working to see if we can do things better or if we can learn something useful for the future.

YUSUKE HASEGAWA

“We came to Baku armed with an update for Fernando’s PU, which we ran during both practice sessions today. Working through our programme in accordance with today’s schedule, I can confirm that we were able to see the effectiveness of the update in the data. 

“It was disappointing that Fernando had to stop the car during FP2, and unfortunately for us it was before doing his timed lap, but we still saw certain progress with the power of the PU. Overall, I regard today as positive – we didn’t have any major issues with the new spec PU, and I feel that we’ve taken an encouraging step forward. 

“Although it was Stoffel’s first time at this circuit, he had a good first outing, and we were able to work through his programme in accordance with our schedule. 

“As this is a power-hungry circuit with long straights, tomorrow’s qualifying will no doubt be tough for us, but, as always, we’ll keep pushing to do our best.”

2017 AZERBAIJAN GRAND PRIX – QUALIFYING

“OUR EMPHASIS IS ON TOMORROW”

With significant engine penalties for both drivers, and on a circuit not best suited to the strengths of our car, today’s qualifying session was always going to be somewhat disappointing.

Fernando Alonso set the 16th-fastest time in Q1, but will start from 20th position. His team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne lines up 19th.

The team has placed extra emphasis on race performance, and with the weekend so far littered with incident, we’re hopeful of making progress in what promises to be a long and eventful race around the streets of Baku.

FERNANDO ALONSO

#FA14 MCL32-03
Q1 1:44.334s (16th) Option tyre
Starts 20th due to 40-place penalty

“We did a good job today in terms of preparing for the race: we only used one set of tyres, put in low fuel and did some checks.

“We know we’re not competitive around here, but the race is going to be long and demanding. We’ve seen many mistakes from almost every driver, and we need to avoid making any of those tomorrow.

“In these kinds of grands prix, we need to try and finish the race, get some data for the team, and keep developing the car.

“We need to make sure we keep away from the walls tomorrow. Let’s also hope we can end up in the points.”

STOFFEL VANDOORNE

#SV2 MCL32-02
Q1 1:45.030s (19th) Option tyre
Starts 19th due to 35-place penalty

“I think I was always destined to start 19th this weekend!

“There were no big surprises for us in qualifying today. Our focus this weekend has always been on the race – today doesn’t mean too much, really. We always expected to struggle a little bit around here, we’ve not been on the pace all weekend, so let’s just see what happens tomorrow.

“This is a tricky circuit – the long straights mean the brakes and tyres get cool, so the braking zones are very difficult to get right. There are definitely some opportunities to be had out on track – we’ve seen drivers going off in every session, so we’ll be looking to benefit from those.”

THE MANAGEMENT

ERIC BOULLIER

“This afternoon’s result was particularly disappointing – we always knew that we’d be towards the back due to the engine penalties both drivers have taken this weekend, but it’s never satisfying to be right at the back of the grid.

“Our focus has primarily been on developing a car for the race. While we wanted to go out and put on a decent performance for everyone this afternoon, we knew that the emphasis was always on tomorrow.

“We’ve seen spills and incidents in every session so far this weekend, so we’ll be aiming to capitalise on every opportunity to move up through the field. We are still racers, and we’ll be giving it everything tomorrow.”

YUSUKE HASEGAWA

“We expected qualifying to be a challenge today as Baku is a power-hungry circuit with long straights. It was doubly tough for everyone in the team as we knew we’d be starting at the back of the grid with penalties whatever this afternoon’s result.

“Despite this, we thought we had the potential to get in to Q2 here; therefore it was disappointing that both cars were out in the first session. We’ve reverted back to the spec-two engine after Fernando’s issue in FP2, but we saw some positive PU power improvements yesterday so I think they would have put us further up the grid.

“We will start from the back of the grid tomorrow but I’m sure that both of our talented drivers will continue to push and do their very best. Also, this is a tricky race track through narrow streets, which might give us the opportunity to capitalise on any opportunity to collect some points.”

2017 AZERBAIJAN GRAND PRIX – RACE

“A COMPLETE SURPRISE”

Fernando Alonso steered his way past chaos, collisions, debris, penalties, multiple Safety Car periods and even a mid-race stoppage to finish ninth and score McLaren-Honda’s first points of the season in a memorable, incident-packed Azerbaijan Grand Prix today.

The Spaniard ran as high as fifth as the leaders encountered problems in the heat of the afternoon, then looked set for eighth until being overtaken by countryman Carlos Sainz Jnr in the closing laps.

Stoffel Vandoorne finished 12th after driving an equally strong race. A flat-spot towards the end prompted a late stop for fresh tyres, and, while he was able to close a 17-second deficit to the two Saubers ahead of him, he couldn’t quite get a pass to stick along the track’s long final straight.

FERNANDO ALONSO

#FA14 MCL32-03
Started 19th
Finished 9th
Fastest lap 1:45.168s (lap 49) +1.727 (6th)
Pit stops Two - lap 12 (3.17s) & lap 22 (under red flag) Option > Prime > Option

“Starting 19th because of our penalties, on one of our least competitive circuits, yet still scoring our first championship points is unreal; a complete surprise.

“The race really came to us through the many retirements and a lot of action. I managed to stay away from the walls, just brushing them here and there.

“Nevertheless, I think we could have fought for a podium finish today – and perhaps even the victory. We were behind Daniel Ricciardo during the first Safety Car period; then Lewis had a problem with his headrest and was forced to pit; Sebastian had a penalty; Kimi (briefly) retired; the two Force Indias touched each other, so we automatically found ourselves in a decent position.

“We missed out on further opportunities because we weren’t quick enough in the race and couldn’t hold on to that position. Still, we got our first two points of the season today, so let’s just take that.”

STOFFEL VANDOORNE

#SV2 MCL32-02
Started 18th
Finished 12th
Fastest lap 1:46.648s (lap 45) +3.207s (13th)
Pit stops Three - lap 5 (3.56s), lap 22 (under red flag) & lap 33 (2.71s) Prime > Option > Option > Option

“I made a decent start – there was a lot of mayhem, a lot of debris – and I had to avoid a couple of slow cars on the run down to Turn Three, but I managed to keep my nose clean. 

“Then the team did a great job to cover Romain Grosjean, I switched to the Option tyre and came out ahead of him. I had good pace on that tyre, but then the red flag came out and that took away my advantage as it meant everybody on the Prime could now get effectively a free tyre-change.

“After my final stop, I was catching the Saubers by 1.5s per lap, but once I’d caught them it was impossible to overtake. They were saving all their energy until the last corner; I was trying to do the same, in order to get the maximum boost available, but I just didn’t have the pace in the car to make it past them.

“Apart from that, our pace was strong today. It’s great for the team to score our first points of the season – we deserve it.”

THE MANAGEMENT

ERIC BOULLIER

“The two world championship points we scored this evening are a validation of all we’ve worked towards in Baku this week. Since practice started, I’ve said that we’d need to take advantage of every opportunity that came our way in the race, and we did just that today.   

“Both drivers raced with their customary vigour, but were also wary about getting caught up in any unnecessary incidents. Fernando drove a fantastic race, taking advantage of every opportunity, and I don’t feel ninth position is really a fair reflection of his achievements today.   

“Stoffel also posted an extremely mature drive, and, while he had the pace to close down on the two Saubers – and the chance of a point-scoring position – they were able to keep just out of reach along the long straight that offers the best passing opportunity around this tricky circuit.

“For the strategy team, the engineers and our hard-working mechanics, today’s points are a welcome relief after an extremely tough weekend. They’ll have put a spring in our step as we prepare for better fortunes at the next race in Austria.”

YUSUKE HASEGAWA

“Despite the chaotic sequence of the race with so many incidents including the red flag, I think it was a successful day for the team. The drivers both drove faultless races and kept out of trouble to cross the finish line, and to top it off Fernando took home our first points of the season.

“Fernando showed off his impressive skill throughout the race, overtaking several cars on his way to the top 10. Stoffel also pushed hard, and almost managed to join Fernando in the points but just missed out in finishing P12.

“In addition to the drivers’ skill behind the wheel, the team executed a brilliant strategy today, fully utilising every opportunity of Safety Cars and the red flag, so thank you to them. 

“Although we still saw a big gap to the front-runners, it was a great result if we consider that we started from the back of the grid on what is a very power-hungry circuit where we had expected a challenging weekend.

“For the next round in Austria, we are scheduled to bring our updated Spec 3 PU for both cars following the successful test here in Azerbaijan. In the meantime, we will continue our development with our best efforts in order to continue closing the gap.”