Baku: Slow lap, high top speed – and very narrow

2016 European Grand Prix

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The organisers of Azerbaijan’s first F1 race have revealed more details about the Baku City Circuit which will host this year’s European Grand Prix.

Baku will be just 7.6 metres wide in places
At six kilometres the track will be longer than all the other 20 circuits on the 2016 F1 calendar with the exception of Spa-Francorchamps. It will have 20 corners, more than any besides Singapore’s 23 and Yas Marina’s 21.

But the most striking feature of the track may be its slender width in places. The FIA International Sporting Code advises a minimum width for new permanent circuits of 12 metres, plus an extra 3m width at the starting grid. But Baku is a temporary circuit and it will be considerably narrower than this in places.

The circuit will measure just 7.6 metres wide at its narrowest point, Aziz Aliyev Street. At other points it will be over 70% wider, reaching a maximum of 13 metres. F1 cars are 1.8 metres wide and could increase to 2 metres next year. The FIA’s reference width for Hockenheim and Singapore is 9m, though as with most tracks their widths vary over the course of a lap.

The estimated average lap speed of 211kph (131.1mph) indicates a lap time of around 1’42.37. This would put the track towards the slower end of the current F1 calendar, but quicker than most street circuits plus the Circuit of the Americas and Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez:

2016 F1 track average speeds


2016 F1 track top speeds

It is also expected to have a high top speed, with cars reaching 340kph as they pass the pits and reach the braking zone for turn one on Neftchiler Avenue. This would be the sixth-highest on the current F1 schedule:

Based on fastest times recorded at speed traps and intermediate points during qualifying
**Data from 2014

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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54 comments on “Baku: Slow lap, high top speed – and very narrow”

  1. I like the idea of a fast but narrow track. Being a street circuit I’m expecting run off areas to be small, which is good. Like a fast Monaco, or a narrow Singapore. It’s different to other tracks, that’s for sure, so it’ll add some variety to the calendar and that’s great.

    It hits the right spots. If only it didn’t clash with Le Mans…

    1. It’s different to other tracks

      Exactly my thoughts. It just does not look as genegiс as Yas Marina or Sochi.

      1. If you ignore the politics then Baku is one of the most exciting new tracks in a long time. It has high speeds, fast corners, tight sections, it’s longer than usual and is different to everything else on the calendar.

        As always it’s the race that matters but it’s one of the tracks I’m most looking forward to this year.

        1. @fer-no65 @albedo @glynh
          Best case scenario: Macau for F1 cars.
          Worst case scenario: Another Valencia/Sochi.

          1. It looks like Macau and the length is very similar. Lets see if they can pull it off. What about bringing F1 to our Guia Circuit? Imagine that!

          2. What is wrong with Sochi? It’s no different from other tracks e.g Silverstone, as it’s a boring track in the dry only changeable weather makes it exciting!

          3. @sergio-perez

            I remember Ralph Firman driving the Jordan F1 car through the Guia Circuit over 10 years back…

          4. (@pt)

            Yes PT it was incredible, I was there. The noise of the car was incredible. Macau actually could host without a problem an F1 race, but in one corner, MELCO, which is similar to the after casino u shaped corners in Monaco. A small adaptation ( enlarging) of that corner and I think it would be fully compliant to F1.

            The Macau Guia Circuit could very well provide great overtaking specially in the “Lisboa corner”and the “Mandarin” section. i think it would be a great show for qualifying and race.

          5. @sergio-perez

            I saw it on TV, and I remember thinking that the F1 car unexpectedly looked so small in the straights. Macau could easily host an F1 race with the modifications you’ve suggested, but sadly Bernie never accepts any venue unless it can satiate his voracious appetite for green…

      2. It just does not look as generiс as Yas Marina or Sochi

        That’s probably because those two tracks were essentially blank-canvas Tilke designs. Ok so Sochi was designed around the Olympic park but the road layout was designed in conjunction with Tilke (faily certain that’s accurate lol!) so the layout is typical to Tilke circuits (hence boring).
        At least Baku is designed completely around exiting streets so hopefully the “natural” layout of the course will spring a few exciting moments…

        1. Nope, Abu Dhabi was not Tilkes layout. It was drawn before he got the contract to build it.

          1. Please dont bring facts into an F1 discussion.

        2. @pukktpie, on the contrary, the IOC took a very hostile line with Tilke over Sochi – the IOC made it very clear from the start that Tilke was not permitted to alter the layout of any of the roads around the Olympic village, given that it would impact on the functioning of the games.

          If you go back to the news articles of the time, the IOC stated that Tilke had to seek approval from them for the layout of his circuit – far from having a free hand, Tilke effectively had the layout of the circuit dictated to him by the IOC deciding what they would permit him to construct.

    2. Exactly. Really looking forward to this. It sounds like it could be an unforgiving track which are few and far between these days. The run from T16 to T1 will provide some overtaking for sure. Can’t wait to drive it on F1 2016.

      I wonder what the elevation changes are like around the track.

    3. I don’t see where’s the sudden interest in LeMans, nothing has changed, there’s just a familiar name back, it’s as farcical as it has been for the past 15 years. Sure the cars can be spectacular but you don’t need to watch the full 24 hours.

      1. But, you can if you really like motorsport… ;p

  2. I’ll be surprised if they don’t slow down T18-19 somehow, it looks pretty fast with very limited runoff at the moment.

    1. @kaiie i don’t think it looks like much of a corner really so armco should be fine. it ought to be easy flat, even in the wet. depending on the track width, turns 1 and 2 look the most dangerous/interesting. everything else will be slow and dull.

    2. Yep, that’s key.

      For once, Tilke agreed with me in that it takes a flat-out or near flat-out curve before a long-ish straight to make overtakes happen (see Silverstone’s Populous redesign). Of course, I doubt he read me specifically, but he somehow seems to have got the idea.

      I reckon T1 will become an excellent overtaking spot.

  3. Turns 2 through 7 looks a bit dull with those 90° corners, but after that it looks like a fun track. Turn 16 all the way up too turn 1 looks like a guaranteed overtaking spot (that will sadly be butchered by DRS) and looks very exciting (especially 16-20).

    Also, 12 through 15 looks like a cool part of the track especially with the track being narrow!

    I genuinely hope this track will be as good as its layout suggests.

  4. Seems pole might be worth shooting for here…

    1. Especially since the start seems to be just metres before turn 1 (see satellite overlay).

      I hope that turns 18 & 19 are challenging enough to separate the cars with good downforce vs those which only rely on a strong PU.

    2. I think I’d focus on just being at least three cars ahead of Maldonado going into turn 1.

      1. Still a bit risky……

        Not that I wish to cast aspersions on maldonados driving prowess.

  5. Irony mode on: Good, now we know where the next big accident in F1 will happen.

    1. Captain obvious mode on: no we dont.

  6. From the layout it looks like they might be flat out from turn 16 all the way through to turn 1. Or will 18 and 19 be tight enough to require braking?

    1. Turn 18 is on part of the road at least four lanes wide. Turn 19 will have to share part of the width with the track coming the other way at Turn 7, but there are left hand turns filter lanes there too as I recall. So unless the organisers want to restrict the speed coming onto the straight after Turn 19, I don’t think 18 or 19 will need braking. Mind you, the organisers could put up chicanes all over the place to slow the cars as they cross over the depressions in the tarmac caused by trucks and buses – unless they are planning to resurface the track before the race itself. Does anyone know if they are?

    2. @jmwalley and @nickwyatt
      I just checked Google maps. The entire flat-out section from T16 to T1 is a total of over 2.2 kilometers.

      1. Sweet Jesus! :D

        340 in the city… have they gonne insane?

        1. @jureo
          The longest DRS zone coming up. But the circuit itself looks better than Yas Marina or Valencia.

          1. They should remove DRS on safety grounds… Proper overtakes are in danger.

      2. @michal2009b
        A 2.2 km long straight does not need a DRS. It would be a downright disgrace if they used it on that.

        McLaren should be thankful that Baku did not join the calendar one year sooner. That 2015 Honda engine hurling them down that 2.2 km long straight… they might just end up side-by-side with a Williams in the braking zone, if the Williams was about 10 seconds behind them on the beginning of the straight.

  7. Not going to lie, sounds like safety is going to be an issue on this one. But assuming that’s above board, it seems like quite an interesting track.

  8. I think the circuit is not too bad, given what the rest of the Baku streets look like. Turns 7-16 look interesting, especially when you consider elevation change, notably the rise between turns 7 and 12 (see this video to get an idea). That said, it will probably be similar Sochi: lots of slow 90-degree turns and no fast, high G-force corners to balance that.

    1. Thanks for the link. That video makes me want to start a company to revolutionize the barrier industry. Cities that host these events should get together and figure out a way to make sure their beauty is captured on TV.

      Safety barriers are an absolute necessity but need to evolve.

  9. Looks like a very interesting track, and quite unique given the complains about F1 circuits becoming too generic. Unfortunately the fact that it’s not in Europe means it’ll be reviled no matter what happens

  10. The circuit will measure just 7.6 metres wide at its narrowest point

    Just for comparison, does anyone know the width of the narrowest point in Monaco?
    I know at the start/finish straight 3 cars barely fit side by side but don’t know which is the narrowest point.

    1. I would imagine that Monaco is probably at its narrowest at the points where the track effectively drops down to the width of two lanes of traffic (I would guess that the tunnel is perhaps one of the narrowest points). In that case, Monaco is probably fairly similar in width, if not possibly narrower at those points.

    2. @mantresx
      Monaco is about 6.7 m at its narrowest point.

  11. I’m quite looking forward to this race. This one actually looks like a new track rather than a combination of existing corners. Even Austin is that to some extent. It’ll be after Le Mans though.

  12. Elevation changes are crazy also.
    From T7 to T 12 is uphill, with cobblestones in T11.
    Than it is slightly downhill, a fast section that will be spectacular to watch T12 – T15.
    From T15 to T16 is even more steep, big downhill run there.

    Than that 2.2 km (!!) “curved” straight. We’re going to see insane speeds for a city track, expect more than 340.

    I look forward to this.

  13. Also GP2 & GP3 will compete there in the weekend.
    I fear that we’ll see tons of crashes, dangerous ones.

  14. Actually, I think Baku may have roughly the same characteristics as Macau in that it will be blindingly fast on the waterfront but narrow and twisty inland. It’s just that there is a lot less ‘inland’ in Baku than there is in Macau.

  15. I hope they get the DRS balance right on this one. If it’s allowed to have too much influence, I can forsee some passes that will be impossible to defend down that long straight.

    Hopefully, it can be tweeked to get cars side by side in to turn one. Probably better to turn it off all together, but here we are.

  16. Coming up next year: African Grand Prix in France…

    1. Actually Baku is just 80 kilometers from the European border, @andae23 looked that up. Yes, the name European GP is weird, but can we move on?

  17. T1 to T4 the layout is pretty bland, but T5 to the end of the lap seems really interesting. A unique set of turns from T7 to T10 with very unusual changes in direction compared to normal racing lines. Great to have such a long straight with the kinks on Turns 18,19 and 20. Should be a really exciting run down to Turn 1 every lap. Hopefully this circuit shouldn’t have a lot of runoffs. It could have the feel of a high speed Monaco is armcos were present throughout the lap.

    Definitely look forward to this race

  18. Compared to the first public draft, there is a modification already: on the article image, the circuit turns left for T2 (and for T3) one street “lower” than originally planned.

  19. I’m baffled by any preference for narrow tracks. The biggest single complaint we hear about F1 is the the lack of overtaking. Narrow tracks make overtaking much more difficult and sometimes make it impossible. One of the reasons that there’s been a bit more overtaking in F1 over the last two years has been that the narrower front wing (brought in from when it was stickikng outside the tires). Understanding that it’s might be difficult or impossible to widen many tracks (esp. street circuits, I suggest that one the best ways to enliven F1 races would be to make the cars as narrow as possible, taking into consideration safety, etc.

    For those who doubts my premise, I suggest you watch Indy Car races at Long Beach and Baltimore. Or any MotoGP races.

  20. Race isn’t going to happen.

    – Track is too dangerous. 340km/h on a narrow street circuit, I mean, seriously.
    – Slot in calendar is only 7 days after a fly away.
    – Host country is political nightmare.

    Bernie is just doing all he needs to contractually to cash his cheque.

  21. Agreed I think is finally a decent modern F1 circuit. Good blend, character and the long straight will be see stunning speeds.

    Apart from Austin, which I believe Tilke had a part hand in, Tilke tracks have been terrible and he’s wrecked some classic circuits. No memorable corners and ridiculous run off, bad for fans for viewing and driver challenge alike

  22. Andy Bunting
    17th June 2016, 15:34

    Lifelong F1 fan. 63 yrs old now.
    Baku will kill or maim a driver this weekend. Most dangerous F1 circuit ever. Totally ridiculous.

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