Can Baku City Circuit Surpass The Glory Of Monaco?
Baku City Circuit is a temporary street course in the Azerbaijan’s capital which hosted Formula One World Championship Grand Prix event for the first time in 2016. It was the European Grand Prix. What is unusual is the fact that the city which is located in Asia hosted the European Grand Prix.
In 2017, the inaugural Azerbaijan Grand Prix took place in Baku. The race stays in Formula One calendar also in 2018.
F1 Grand Prix was perfect chance for Azerbaijan’s promotion
Azerbaijan’s economy is one of the fast-growing, so the establishment decided to promote the country with some world-class event and Formula 1, which continuously seeking for the new markets and opportunities, was one of the best possible choices, especially knowing that F1’s supremo Bernie Ecclestone didn’t care much where the money comes from. Ecclestone originally planned to bring F1 to Baku in 2015, but the inaugural race was delayed until 2016.
Video – Construction of Baku Circuit
First plans of Baku City Circuit were presented in 2012
However, the plans about making racing venue in the city center were made a couple of years earlier. In 2012, during the 24 Hours of Spa, the plan about GT race in Baku was presented and the organizers had a lot of work to do in relatively short time.
Obviously, Azerbaijan hasn’t racing history and lacks experience in preparations for such event, but they were ready to break piggy-bank and hire the most competitive people and best possible equipment with an aim to make perfect racing venue.
The first race track in Baku wasn’t good
The first race at Baku City circuit caused many traffic problems in the Azerbaijan’s capital, so the changes were necessary. Organizers of 24 Hours of Spa race were invited to build new track layout on the foundations from the previous year and to eliminate mistakes.
The new location was chosen, closer to Caspian sea and used more of modern wide boulevards. The new layout looked much better than the older one, but the Azeri organizers, due to the lack of knowledge and experience or because they poorly understood instructions, made the track surface more suitable for ice-skating than for the cars racing!
Not an easy task to create racing track with city’s landmarks
Anyway, in the unusual circumstances and a bunch of annoying troubles, the final round of 2013 Blancpain GT Sprint Series was held and everyone hoped that the lessons for the future were learned. In 2014 further on the track improvements were made and the drivers were happy with them, but when the contract with Formula 1 was signed, Blancpain GT Series had to cancel their race in Baku and move it to Zandvoort.
The new track needed to be designed for the Formula 1 Grand Prix and Hermann Tilke was called to find the best possible solution. The German architect had not only a task to create a proper track in the terms of racing, but also he had to include as many city’s landmarks in it as it was possible.
Second longest track in Formula 1 calendar
The result was a quite unusual counter-clockwise ran layout with a length of 6.006 km what is the second longest circuit on the Formula 1’s calendar, after Spa-Francorchamps. Baku City Circuit is the real mixture of high-speed straights and twisty sections with some slow corners.
As the organizers wanted, many landmarks are included in the circuit. For example, paddock and pits are near Government House, most parts of the track going through the old part of the city where is also Presidential Palace, so the fans could see much of picturesque city’s history but also how the country made progress and how it goes through the modernization.
Long and detailed preparations for the inaugural F1 race
During the early spring of 2016, the track’s layout was completely resurfaced and well-prepared for one of the biggest sports events in Azerbaijan’s history, after European Games held in 2015. There were some rumors about the possibility that the race could be canceled due to safety concerns, but those rumors proved to be unfounded.
The organizers expect that Baku City Circuit will become one of the best street circuits in the world and definitely one of the fastest. The first impression by the FIA officials and the drivers are very good so it will be interesting to see how they will cope in Baku, but it seems like Baku Street Circuit has the future in the most prominent competition.
Temporary stands were erected for the inaugural Formula 1 race with a capacity of around 30.000. The main, Absheron Grandstand, is located opposite of the teams garages and from there they have perfect view at start/finish lane as well on the action in pits. Other stands are located to offer a view not only the track action but also on some of the city’s attractions.
Unofficial speed record of Valtteri Bottas
The winner of the inaugural Formula 1 race in Baku was Nico Rosberg, ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Sergio Perez. Rosberg won the 2016 European Grand Prix after starting from pole but the main story of the qualifying session was the unofficial Formula 1 speed record set by Valteri Bottas. Williams team claimed that data was showing Bottas reached 378 km/h, breaking the previous record of Juan Pablo Montoya of 372 km/h in 2005 at Monza.
In 2017, the winner of the inaugural Azerbaijan Grand Prix was Daniel Ricciardo. He was joined on the podium by Valtteri Bottas and Lance Stroll. Sebastian Vettel set the lap record of 1.43.441 during the race while Lewis Hamilton was the fastest in qualifying with lap time 1.40.593.
Getting there and accommodation
Getting to Baku is not an easy task as you have to be prepared for a long journey. The capital’s Haydar Aliyev International Airport is located some 30 minutes drive from the city center and from there you can easily find a street circuit.
Accommodation won’t be a problem as Baku offers a wide selection of 3, 4, and 5 stars hotels within easy reach of the circuit and its facilities.
Baku probably lacks the luxury, glam and style of Monaco, but pretends to surpass the glory of the world’s best-known street circuit.
Video – Baku City Circuit, onboard with Nico Rosberg
Address: Zarifa Aliyeva 93, Baku, Azerbaijan
Phone: +99412 404 13 90