Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Baku City Circuit, 2016

Baku: Fit for F1 or another tour-bus track?

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Formula One has completed its first practice session on the Baku City Circuit. Do you think it’s a worthwhile addition to the Formula One calendar?

For

Baku’s circuit is distinctive in several ways. It is unusually fast for a street circuit. It is also extremely narrow in one place, where the track winds its way past the Qosha gate.

These attributes set it apart from other tracks on the Formula One calendar, even if we wouldn’t want to see a track which is entirely made up of corners as narrow a the run from turn eight to eleven.

Against

Aside from a few novelties the Baku track is standard fare for F1. The rough challenge of real street racing has been replaced with manicured asphalt. Of its 20 corners, 11 are right-angles and most of the rest are acceleration zones.

Hermann Tilke has designed a scenic tour bus route of Baku, not a grand prix circuit. Worse, the pit-lane entrance and head-on barriers in places are unacceptably dangerous.

I say

The main positive about the Baku circuit is at first glance it looks distinctive compared to some of the other circuits F1 has introduced recently.

The wide, fast run to turn one immediately screams ‘Macau’ in this context, and that’s about as good as it gets in terms of street circuits. The cars looked spectacular through there during practice.

The opening sector, though, is Valencia-dull. And the run past the castle, which was surely only put there to satisfy the Baku tourist board, looks far too narrow for cars of this size (let alone next year’s wider models).

I also think some of the safety concerns drivers have expressed are reasonable. It’s surprising some sections of the track, particularly the pit lane entrance and the barrier facing drivers at turn seven, have been deemed safe enough for a modern grand prix track.

I’m going to hold off on passing judgement on Baku until I’ve watched this weekend’s races. However the fact I’m still giving it the benefit of the doubt at this stage means I already like it more than Sochi, and that’s something.



You say

Is the Baku City Circuit a good addition to the F1 calendar? Cast your vote below and have your say in the comments.

Do you agree the Baku City Circuit is a worthy addition to the F1 calendar?

  • Strongly agree (17%)
  • Slightly agree (25%)
  • Neither agree nor disagree (11%)
  • Slightly disagree (19%)
  • Strongly disagree (24%)
  • No opinion (4%)

Total Voters: 221

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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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46 comments on “Baku: Fit for F1 or another tour-bus track?”

  1. My initial reaction is it feels like a watered-down Macau, with hints of Pau, Cadwell Park and Valencia (the street circuit) mixed in. What irks me more than anything is that what is the longest flat-out stretch in F1 requires a DRS zone, and that some areas have run off areas which just feel unnecessarily excessive for a street circuit.

    Watching some of the onboards during FP1 left me pretty much on the edge of my seat with my heart in my mouth in the very quick bits, and I cannot remember the last time that has happened. This track does have some really, really nice sections to it, some really nice elevation change and areas which already seem to have a bit of character.

    I already like it more than Sochi, although that was hardly difficult. It seems like a breath of fresh air compared to many of the recent introductions onto the calendar. Sure, there may be a few areas where safety may be questionable, but I don’t see how it is any worse than certain street tracks that say IndyCar have visited in the last ten years or so.

    1. “My initial reaction is it feels like a watered-down Macau, with hints of Pau, Cadwell Park and Valencia (the street circuit) mixed in.”

      It seems like you’re describing a perfume but I agree :D

      1. @neelv27 LOL of the week :)

      2. Only fruity notes are missing, as they are banned in Azerbaijan

    2. However, I am currently watching the GP2 ‘qualifying’ and perhaps I was a bit premature with my comments.

    3. “Watching some of the onboards during FP1 left me pretty much on the edge of my seat with my heart in my mouth in the very quick bits, and I cannot remember the last time that has happened.”
      Exactly ! That’s the thrilling motor racing I fell in love 25 years ago ! Boring tracks are a major issue in F1 in general (it’s time that FIA realizes they are part of the show), but Baku is a exception.
      Now, I hope the race won’t be dropped after a couple of editions.

  2. Liam McShane (@)
    17th June 2016, 12:01

    I think we should all hold judgement until after the race. Difficult to form any ideas after P1.

    1. +1, will probably vote after if it’s still open

      1. +2. too soon to say.

    2. Having now watched the race, I am of the opinion that it is worthy. Yes, it wasn’t the best race but it is a remarkable circuit in a remarkable location. It’s easy to criticise the layout for the boredom, but don’t forget that Canada is probably the most exiting track on the calendar, yet even that wasn’t great, so I don’t think the race was representative of what it could be. The GP2 race was apparently good so the layout definitely has potential.

  3. Very underwhelmed. Growing tired of these streets circuits.

    1. Great scenery but I didn’t want to watch a tourist promo video. I switched off and won’t be Bak-u.

  4. We F1 fans are hard to please aren’t we. To a man, we hate it when identikit circuits with seas of tarmac runoff get added to the calendar. And yet we are loath to praise when presented with a circuit which has neither of those things and which is genuinely unique.

    Is the Baku City Circuit a classic? No, of course it isn’t. Is it a unique challenge in a calendar filled with ever more bland, copycat circuits? Yes it is. For that reason alone I think it is a welcome addition to the calendar.

  5. We can’t knock F1 for trying such a relatively adventurous track. To do so would impose more Tilke Cutter race tracks upon ourselves. Despite the long straights, I hope we see a great race with some old-school close quarters racing on what looks to be an old-school track.

    One final thought. I fear that final kink onto the main straight is yet to show us it’s teeth. Every time I see the cars go through there, it makes me think of another fearsome corner we have in Australia, Turn 8 at Adelaide… another street circuit that can show you who’s boss!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BL2vyqtsRlo

  6. I’d like to see a race for tour buses round it! That would be like Top Gear when it was worth watching.

    It has the fast bits and variety that Singapore and Sochi lack – but I just hope everyone walks away at the end of the weekend, there’s some big risks and crazy things like the dodgy pit entry.
    And it looks like they’ve rolled out a grey carpet (with kerbs along the edge) to race on. Sure, make the drain covers and loose cobbles secure but it should at least look like a street.

  7. Neil (@neilosjames)
    17th June 2016, 12:38

    Well, there’s nothing wrong with it and it certainly seems like a good challenge for the drivers, so at this stage I’ve got a positive view. But I’ll wait until I’ve seen racing on it before I form a proper opinion.

    1. Neil (@neilosjames)
      17th June 2016, 12:39

      And by ‘nothing wrong with it’, I mean the layout and the racing surface. Not so keen on the pit entry… and the exit, actually. Imagine taking that thing with slicks on a drying track.

  8. We might find this track a bit more interesting than other forced additions to F1 calendar in the past years, like Singapore, Russia or India. But i still can’t help but feel that every new addition is based solely on who gets Bernie more money.

    Sooner or later tracks like Monza or Spa, with ages of motorsport history, are going to be replaced by these boring, no-tradition racing tracks.

    1. ColdFly F1 (@)
      17th June 2016, 13:14

      “more interesting than () Singapore”
      That would be extremely welcome.

      And please stop the ‘non tradition’ complaints.
      Even Monza and Spa were ‘non tradition’ one day!

  9. All I’ve really seen all week is an old wall and a motorway, oh and the fake facades they put up for TV but we’ll forget about those, it will look great on TV. I think I’m sick of seeing the wall already though, other than this site it’s everywhere, a wall. I’ll be intrigued to see what the money shot during the race is though as they won’t be able to beat Sochi’s “The Boss (Putin) approves” shot and I’m hoping with their budget that they’ve got better than another angle of the wall.

    At least there’s a race in France this weekend…

  10. Slightly disagree. I’ll reserve final judgement until we’ve seen cars race in anger on it but I don’t envisage any real racing happening. Probably be some passes taking place down that humongous straight, some pit passes, a few bumps and some safety car action but it’s way to narrow for real racing.

  11. digitalrurouni
    17th June 2016, 13:08

    I find the track intriguing but I also find it a tad excessively narrow and no run offs given the speed. I am actually preemptively scared we might see something nasty this weekend (potentially)!!! I am really hoping not but got this sense of foreboding.

  12. ColdFly F1 (@)
    17th June 2016, 13:10

    No Opinion (yet) – too early to judge, and surprised to see so many minds made up already.

    In reference to the long straight (I believe it goes from Europe all the way to Asia) and the additional DRS bonus. This might be the first time to see Rosberg overtake Verstappen, then spin out, and still be ahead at turn 1.

  13. Tony Mansell
    17th June 2016, 14:12

    Think I’ll rightly use one of Mao Tse Tung’s more famous attributed lines for this question !

  14. I don’t want to say it is a bad circuit to race on before I have actually seen any racing. Aesthetically, the bits next to the track look very pretty. The track meanwhile is a different question. It doesn’t look like a race track nor a street track. It all looks a bit too ‘temporary’. The lack of road markings may be throwing this for me, after all, it is meant to be a street. The layout of the track is a problem for me. If on a TV camera you cannot ascertain what part of the track the car is on then something is amiss. I don’t mean to sound too overly critical as we have only seen this track in a few sessions but it is easy to get lost in the maze of barriers. The safety aspect which has been brought up is a valid one which leads into the debate about danger in F1. Some parts of the track are tight and twisty by default (buildings and a castle) but some parts seem to be made tighter by having intrusive kerbs pushing the cars wide.

    Overall, the track has some promising aspects and as the drivers have stated it can be modified and changed. It isn’t the worst track on the calendar, far from it. However, it is nowhere near the best track, which personally, every new track on the calendar should be aiming to be.

  15. I have to say that I quite like this track so far based on FP1/FP2.

    Seems very bumpy in places & very fast for a street circuit. Turn 13 is a bit tighter than it looked on the track maps so its not easy flat & the 18/19 section at the end of the lap is flat but still a pretty fun section & there’s a bump on the entry to 18 that caused some to go a little wide & have to lift slightly.

    It also looks like its fairly challenging for the drivers which is nice.

    I fear that the DRS zone is going to prove to be too long & therefore too effective but I don’t think its fair to hold that against the circuit as its upto the FIA where the gimmick zones are placed & how long they are.

    1. I can’t believe after all these years the DRS zones are in the worst spots (Canada back straight) and some are just way too long.

      I would be VERY surprised if they chose a conservatively short DRS zones that prevents motorway passes.

  16. I put ‘slightly agree’, because the first sector is rubbish but the rest of it is good.

  17. We WILL see a good race, I know that for sure. But only because it’s a new track and the delta between cars is all over the board.

    The track? Not very interesting. I want Valencia back on the calendar. From what I can tell, there are very few demanding corners. The tight little chicane is only a little flick, albeit an unsafe one, but are we seeing the cars able to go over-under and pass cars in longer apex corners? The true joy of a street track is low-speed corners where mechanical grip triumphs and makes for good passing/racing.

    The venue? The city? From what I’ve heard it’s a terrible city to hold F1 for fans. 5 of of my friends who have visited Azerbaijan, each on separate accounts, all have said it’s an unsafe city where locals take advantage of tourist’s money unlike any other city they’ve been to. 3 of the 5 have had corrupt policemen threaten them for being a tourist, and asked them to leave the country. All they were doing was taking photos and enjoying a long roadtrip through Europe. I say this with great sarcasm… Thank you F1, for the tour of Baku.

    1. Correction: *policemen asked them to leave the country *AFTER* they paid them several hundred.

    2. @tweak, is it necessarily that much worse than Sao Paolo though? Remember how Rosberg had all of his luggage stolen a few years ago whilst he was travelling to his hotel? Or how, back in 2010, a group of armed robbers attacked Button’s car and attempted to hijack it?

      1. @anon, Certainly Brazil has a terrible track record for tourists. Azerbaijan is on the Top 5 most risky places for tourism. Same as Brazil, keep your camera and valuables out of sight. Holding cash out in public will put you at risk. And there is no freedom of media in Azerbaijan, so that explains why photography is risky. Violence against journalists is HUGE there.

  18. This track has the potential of having a big accident….too tight in places…poor run offs….loose kerbs….and too fast as well….could be more of a stock car race

  19. I like the track. 1st half is boring (like Singapore), but old city part is nice: it has character ! Tight & narrow, then very fast, and with no room for mistakes.
    Turns 8-12 are great and unique. Awesome turn 13 also: ultra fast on a bump.
    Turns 17,18,19 are a challenge, because flat out, blind and a bit narrow. It’s chilling, but that’s why I like it !
    It reminds a bit Macau, even if Macau is way ahead: for me the best street circuit in the world.

    Anyway I like Baku. It’s a bit dangerous, yes, but it’s part of motorsport. I’m happy to see such a track in F1.

  20. I get the impression this location wasn’t chosen for F1 racing, rather F1 racing was shoe horned into it.
    Looking at the satellite imagery of Baku, it looks like there is a lot of unused ground to the West and North of this circuit, where I think Tike could have had a ball. He could have come up something quite unique.

  21. Very strongly disagree. The track itself seems ok, but the reason it appeared on the calendar – to promote another oil-money driven dictatorship with a dismal human rights abuse record – doesn’t allow me to choose any other option.

    And calling it the European GP in this context is an utter tragifarce.

  22. DRS will spoil every overtake down the main straight.

  23. Another crap street circuit full of 90 degree corners followed by long straights, and almost nowhere for cars to go when they lock up, thus causing a shed load of stoppages to the action, but hey, there’s loads of catch fencing and concrete walls to look at.

    Already looking forward to the coming races at purpose built racing circuits.

  24. It’s far too early to say. However, I do wonder about turns 8-11. Very narrow, enough to stop an overtake attempt… Or enough to defend an overtake. Depends on your view point.

  25. Reminds me of a Formula E circuit. Especially the bit where the track runs parallel to itself.

  26. I think the safety concerns are, by far the most problematic. That pit entrance… I think any track we have, needs to be safe. That has to be condition number one.

    Even Monaco, which in fairness has had 50 or so years to work on it, feels safer.

  27. I would wait till the end of the race to pass judgement.

    The scenes reminds me of Schumacher vs Hakkinen at Macau

  28. Too early to say. This article was meant from Monday, not Friday.

    That being said, I think the naysayers are the same group of miserables who are never happy. This circuit seems fine, at the worst.

  29. This circuit is exactly what F1 needs. It looks beautiful. It is is different, even unique. It is unforgiving and seems to be able to produce hectic races. So yes, I declare it fit for F1 and I think it is a worthy addition to the calendar.

    Honestly speaking, I do not mind the lack of run-off areas at some places and the narrow parts of the circuit. That said, you have to ask why this circuit can apparently afford to ‘skip’ a few rules that others have to comply with. I guess it shows that ‘F1 gods may do what cattle may not’.

  30. It’s all very samey and hard to tell where the cars are in a lot of places.
    One thing I found a little frustrating is that the trees are blocking the action in at least half of the camera angles from above and to the sides.

    It has a dangerous feel about it, and though an element of danger can add to the enjoyment – it seems like a step too far for comfort.

    Baku might set a record high for safety cars.

  31. GP2 added so much spice, the action was non stop, but F1 tamed it, over taking was possible and mid-pack was exciting to follow.
    I’m sure all the kinks can be ironed out, (Trees , drain covers, etc), and with the 2017 regulations, it could be an even better race at an improved upon venue ?

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