Your A-Z Guide to the 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix
We have back to back street races but the historic Baku City Circuit is a world of a difference to Monaco...
Baku, Azerbaijan - Welcome to your A-Z Guide to the 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix! This week, F1 hits the streets of the historic medieval city of Baku for a track that has the speed of Monza and the narrow corners of a Monaco. In today's video, we'll look at all the circuit info that makes up this unique track and the short Grand Prix history that will give us a clue as to who will take victory this weekend. We've also got your usual weekend notes and race predictions so let's dive right into your guide to the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Of all the recent new circuits in Formula 1, Baku has been the most unique in its layout and the racing has kept fans and drivers on the edge of their seat ever since 2016. The anti-clockwise 6KM circuit winds its way through the historic Baku city with 20 corners overall, 12 to the left and 8 to the right. Baku is described as two circuits, the old city section like Monaco, and the blasts past the modern skyscrapers like Monza. This leads to a low downforce setup as top speed is crucial down the 2.2KM full throttle main straight. Because of this, you end up taking your lap at full throttle 65% of the time with the help of two DRS zones which can be found in Sector 1. Track position isn't all that important in Baku which we'll talk about in a minute but pole is located on the right hand side of the track with the distance to turn one being 137 meters. And if you're thinking this street track will make overtaking difficult keep in mind this stat, the 2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix contained one of the highest numbers of 'normal' overtakes (non-DRS assisted) as any race that year, with 37!
Its quite easy to look back at the history of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix as their have only been 4 races in Baku since its debut in 2016. Just for reference, although the first Grand Prix in Baku was called the European Grand Prix, that race has been included in the general Azerbaijan GP stats.
So far, only two Constructor's have taken victory in Baku with Mercedes owning 75% of the total wins with 3 all together. Red Bull is the only other team to triumph in Baku thanks to a win back in 2017 and it's safe to say they've got plenty of good and bad memories of this circuit. Out of the current drivers on the grid, Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas share one victory each with Bottas being the most recent winner in 2019. And the most infamous win in Baku came from Daniel Ricciardo back in 2017 in what was a race for the ages. These historic streets have seen plenty of safety car action in its history as their is a 50% chance of seeing a deployment this weekend. Because of the high speeds and general crazy nature of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, track position is not as important as other street circuits like Singapore or Monaco. 50% of race winners have started on pole while another 25% have won from second. Ricciardo's 2017 victory came from all the way down in 10th so it really can be anybody's race come Sunday afternoon.
Starting off the weekend notes, we have the predicted weather forecast for Baku.
Weather - It is looking like a beautiful and warm race weekend with highs of 25 degrees all the way through. Keep an eye out for the track temperatures on Saturday and Sunday and which teams the warmer conditions will favor the most.
Tyres - For the second week in a row, we've got Pirelli's softest compounds with the C3, C4, and C5 tyres. The streets of Baku don't demand a lot of energy from the tyres and the surface is not very abrasive. Because the corners don't generate as much energy as other tracks, teams are more dependent on brake heat to keep the tyres warm. However, because of this, the softer tyre compounds are more sensitive to overheating and breaking apart, so it's a tough balance to find between keeping the tyres warm and not overheating them.
Anytime Mercedes has an uncharacteristic awful weekend, they usually make it a point to bounce back strong in the next race so watch out for them this weekend. If we try to gauge their confidence heading into this race, it's a mix of the usual downplaying of chances but also high motivation to correct the wrongs of Monaco. "On Monday morning I saw the same energy as when we returned from the Bahrain test and that pleases me, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says. We dissected the weekend, asked hard questions of ourselves, and learned some crucial lessons." This circuit has actually been one that Hamilton hasn't favored all that much with only one victory here and that was handed to him thanks to a devastating puncture for Bottas in 2018. On the flip side, Bottas has enjoyed this circuit with a podium in 2017 and pole and the race win back in 2019 so this might be Valtteri's last chance to keep his championship hopes alive.
Of course this weekend is also significant as for the first time in his career, Max Verstappen enters a Grand Prix weekend as the championship leader. I do believe this track will suit the traits of the RB16B as they are solid is the low speed corners and pretty slick in a straight line as well. Since the stricter bendy wing load tests don't start until next race, maybe that will be a good helping hand for Red Bull down the 2000 meter full throttle main straight. Baku is all about compromise as you want a high downforce setup for Sector 2 and a low downforce setup for Sectors 1 and 3 so whichever team can find the sweet spot will have a strong car for both qualifying and the race. The important battle this weekend in Baku will be on the pit wall as we have plenty of chances for overtaking and safety cars. The 21 second time lost in the pitlane is one of the shortest on the calendar and the step softer tyres for this race will make the team game all that more crucial.
Outside of the top two teams, this circuit can offer the chance for a surprise podium finish like in 2017 and 2018. Teams like McLaren and Ferrari can be in great positions to pick up the pieces if the drivers at the front make mistakes. I wouldn't be surprised to see Lando Norris on the podium once again this weekend as he's in great form and the McLaren will be competitive around the Baku streets. Ferrari might not be as strong as they were in Monaco but their power unit gains in 2021 will help them keep up with McLaren in that battle for third. Let's also see whether Aston Martin can build off of their best race of the season in which they scored a double points finish in Monaco. This is another track in which the driver can make the real difference and Sebastian Vettel showed us that with his P5 in Monte Carlo. With both of their drivers having good success at this circuit, this could be another great chance at a decent haul of points before moving on to some tracks that might not suit the AMR21.