Hear from McLaren Honda drivers Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne as they prepare for Round Eight at the Baku City Circuit.
“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.”
“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.”
Circuit name: Baku City Circuit
First race: 2016
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.
What makes the race special?
For a street track, it’s very fast – and particularly the top speeds. During qualifying last year Valtteri Bottas topped 378km/h (235mph) along the pit straight, which was the fastest ever recorded speed by an F1 car at a race.
Bet you never knew...
Baku is located just 900km (560 miles) south east of Sochi, the host city of the Russian Grand Prix.
There was incident and accident aplenty during practice for last year’s race, including accidents for Daniel Ricciardo and Sergio Perez, but the race itself was relatively incident-free.
What we love
The Old City. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and the ancient walls form part of the backdrop to Sector One on the lap.
Last year, neither of the McLaren-Hondas scored points. But McLaren has a good record at races titled the European Grand Prix, as this was last year, having taken four such victories.
International GT racing first came to Baku in 2012, the same year that the city hosted the European Song Contest. Since then, the city has become increasingly recognised as a sporting hub: in 2015 it hosted the inaugural European Games; in 2016 the Grand Prix came to town and in 2020 it has been confirmed as a host city at Euro 2020.
At 6.003km/3.730 miles, the Baku City Circuit is the second longest track of the year, after Spa-Francorchamps.