F1 Raceweek: Drivers excited by the streets of Baku


The Formula One calendar makes its way to Azerbaijan for the eighth round of the 2016 season this weekend, and most of the drivers are eagerly anticipating racing around the streets of Baku.

The Baku City Circuit is the second-longest track on the F1 calendar at six kilometres, while its 1.2km straight eclipses Abu Dhabi's as the longest.

It begins adjacent to Azadliq Square, looping around the Government House and then heads west to Maiden Tower before it circles the Old City, providing a stunning backdrop. 

Most drivers seem excited to head around the supposedly 'fastest street circuit in the world' for the first time, except for double defending world champion Lewis Hamilton.

"I don't really know what to say about it," the Mercedes driver said. "It's just another new track. There's one very tight spot on it. It's got a very long straight... I don't really have a lot to say about it.

"Monaco is the street circuit. And they don't make them like that. I don't know why they don't, but why don't they just make street circuits like they used to? I don't understand.

"It's super wide in some places, as wide as a motorway almost in some places."

A wrong strategy choice by Ferrari saw Sebastian Vettel miss out on victory last week in Canada, but the four-time F1 champion is excited by the upcoming challenge in Baku.

"I've heard that the track is very exciting, with parts leading through the whole town and narrow in places. So, I think it should be exciting," the German said.

"I am a big fan of street circuits. Usually they are very tricky, bumpy, rough, very narrow places. So hopefully Baku fulfils these expectations and goes in line with other street circuit classics."

Fernando Alonso has been acting as an ambassador for Baku, and the Spaniard has been closely following the construction of the circuit. 

"I'm already really looking forward to getting out on track for the first time in Baku on Friday," the McLaren driver said. 

"In my role as Baku ambassador, I'm lucky enough to have already seen the plans in detail for the new circuit and watch the venue come together over the past few months."

Red Bull's Max Verstappen has not had the best of luck at street circuits in the past, retiring at Monaco two years in a row, and knows the car set-up will be crucial for Sunday's race.

"The track looks very interesting because it has such a long straight for a street circuit which will be difficult for the wing setting," the 18-year-old said.

"On a street circuit you want lots of downforce but with such a long straight you have to find a good compromise."

Daniil Kvyat says he has done some work on the track simulator, but that cannot fully prepare you for what is to come in Friday's free practice. 

"It's always interesting to go somewhere new. As it's a street circuit it will require plenty of work on the pedals and with the steering wheel and that's always exciting," the Toro Rosso driver said. 

"You are looking for new 'tricks' in your driving style on a street circuit, because this type of track means the driver has more freedom in terms of how he approaches the corners, experimenting with different lines.

"I've driven the track on the simulator, which can give you a rough idea of what to expect and it helps the engineers come up with a baseline set-up, but there is no substitute for driving it for real."