Race starts at 4 pm in Azerbaijan/8 pm in Malaysia
With the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping across Europe this time last year, the 2021 Formula 1 World Championship had to be suspended. Many venues could not be used due to health restrictions and Baku in Azerbaijan was one of them, so there was no Azerbaijan Grand Prix for the first time since 2017 when the city was included as a venue for one of the rounds.
Baku, like Monaco, is also on a coast, in this case that of the Caspian Sea. Its City Circuit, however, could not present a more different street race challenge compared to Monaco. With a long, high-speed section parallel to the seafront, it is one of the easiest street circuits for overtaking.
Two tracks in one
One of the best ways to describe the layout of the Baku City Circuit is that it’s two tracks in one: half Monaco, half Monza. The twisty Old City section has a similar vibe to the streets of Monte Carlo, while the long straights and big braking zones are a characteristic it shares with the Italian Grand Prix venue.
Most street circuits don’t tend to register the same level of maximum g-forces as traditional tracks and Baku is no different. Because of these lower forces, it isn’t a demanding race physically for the drivers, as there is less strain on their neck. There are also more straights for them to do switch changes and there is a bit more margin for error with the barriers, so it is less mentally demanding too.
But like street circuits, especially those in old cities like Baku, there are unforgiving walls of the old buildings and the surface has low grip. Unlike in 2019, Pirelli has made a decision to go one step softer on the compound range, providing the softest combination of tyres for this weekend. In 2019, the top three teams ran near-identical one-stop races, and no one used that season’s Hard compound in the race.
Because the corners don’t generate as much energy as other tracks, the drivers 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.
Related: Brembo talks about braking at Baku
The championship so far
After a forgettable time at Monaco, Lewis Hamilton has been overtaken by Max Verstappen who is now 4 points in the lead after 5 rounds. The two drivers each have almost double the points of Lando Norris, who is in third position. As for the Constructors Championship, the Monaco win also moved the Red Bull Racing team to the top but with just 1 point difference. 60 points further back from Mercedes-AMG is the McLaren F1 team.
Behind the wheels at the 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix
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