‘Well done Baku’? No, it was 2016’s worst race

2016 F1 season review

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One word seemed to sum up the 2016 Formula One season in the eyes of Formula One fans: average.

The results of F1 Fanatic’s Rate the Race poll bear this out. None of this year’s races stood out as being especially memorable, though few were thought of as being particularly bad.

‘Well done’? More like ‘must try harder’
The only exception to this was F1’s newest race in Azerbaijan. The optimistic slogan ‘Well Done Baku’ may have been widely spotted around the circuit but F1 Fanatic readers voted this the eighth-worst race since the beginning of 2008.

With Mercedes continuing to dominate the championship, the most popular races were the few in which the eventual winner remained in doubt until the latter stages. Max Verstappen’s breakthrough win in Spain was one example, followed by the last-lap drama between the Mercedes pair in Austria.

Despite frequent Safety Car interruptions the tense, soaking wet race in Brazil was the fourth most popular race of the year. However this was the third race of the year which started behind the Safety Car due to rain. This proved an unpopular development: there had never previously been more than one Safety Car start during a single season. New rules have been drawn up for next year which intend to tackle this, though it remains to be seen if they will work.

But the big test for 2017 will be whether faster and higher-downforce cars produce more exciting races. Several drivers have already suggested it will not, and these figures will make fascinating reading in 12 months’ time.

Best and worst races of 2016

Average Rate the Race scores, 2008-2016

YearAverage ratingHighest ratingLowest rating
20086.6518.756 (Brazil)3.977 (Europe)
20096.3168.309 (Brazil)5.276 (Turkey)
20106.7598.668 (Canada)3.740 (Germany)
20117.239.241 (Chinese)3.871 (Europe)
20127.3679.449 (Brazil)5.158 (Korea)
20136.6917.826 (Bahrain)5.017 (Abu Dhabi)
20147.1279.190 (Canada)4.064 (Russia)
20156.3329.115 (Hungary)4.566 (Brazil)
20166.8298.706 (Spain)4.728 (Europe)

2016 F1 season review

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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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53 comments on “‘Well done Baku’? No, it was 2016’s worst race”

  1. The very fact a grandiose circuit as Monza is next to Baku shows how little meaning the vote sometimes can have. I mean there have been many more votes on races on Monza and still it only is 0,21 higher. So whilst it may have been perceived as a bad race, the track isn’t all that bad at all. I’m pretty sure Baku one day will go through a Hungary phase as we’ve had in 2014 and 2015.

    1. @xtwl, How a race (weekend) is perceived is was the poll measures. The quality of the track can only influence that perception so much. A dull race is a dull race. Monza often delivers processional racing, drivers line up 2by2 on the grid in team-order and the winner once clear of the pack is never caught.

      Although the podium and atmosphere is great, I think there are good reasons to consider going elsewhere.

    2. @xtwl Monza is just history. As a race track it offers very little interest, the lowest turn count of all tracks. Even counting the chicanes as two corners each doesn’t help that fact.

      F1 is about braking, cornering and acceleration. Sure, Monza has a mighty braking zone, which F1 cars just brush off anyway. There’s not a lot else remains, apart from its illustrious history. Baku is in fact a far more interesting race-track, however it was a very dull race, in its right place, alongside Monza.

    3. Yep, these ratings are laughably irrelevant. They’re not even realistic reflections of an individual race at an individual circuit, because people give out ten out of ten ratings when they actually meant “It was a pretty boring race, but at least Merc didn’t win for a change”, and one out of ten ratings when their favorite driver didn’t do well in a spectacular race (well, they would do if there was such a thing as a spectacular race in F1 any more.)

    4. @xtwl Agreed. I actually liked both the race and the layout.

      IMO, It’s easy to label a track relying on whoever won or whether the race was actually exciting.
      I’ve always defended Bahrain as a good track for racing but likely because of “that 2010 race” and the fact the race is in Bahrain and quite “beige” the track only received some deserved merit by 2014.
      On the other end of the scale there’s tracks like Shanghai that generally get good ratings only to see that either a fluke won it or McLaren won it…
      Albert Park is great but it suffers from being the very first race of the season, so it ends up being victim of high expectations, disappointment and lack of comparison.

      Baku looks unique and interesting, some areas look exciting and frankly dangerous, and as shown by the race (first half) it actually had good moments especially considering that we’re talking of a street track, the tyre strategy then played it’s part as well.

    5. I’m pretty sure Baku one day will go through a Hungary phase as we’ve had in 2014 and 2015.

      @xtwl I was just browsing RTR stuff and that prediction of yours came pretty true, didn’t it? :P

  2. I honestly don’t get the hate towards Baku. The race wasn’t that bad and GP2 certainly proved Baku has a lot of potential. One gripe would be the DRS double activation but otherwise I love this circuit.

    1. Interestingly I thought I enjoyed the race, but I just checked and I only gave it a 6. It did have a few memorable moments which perhaps have overshadowed the overall monotony of the race in my memory.

    2. I agree. I certainly enjoyed Perez hunting down Raikkonen (as I’m sure you did), Hamilton and Rosberg’s problems made it interesting, the differing strategies when the Red Bull’s went onto the mediums, etc… I do enjoy the strategic side of it, which is why I generally enjoy every race seeing how different teams strategies play out. And the GP2 races were immense, Giovinazzi coming from the back to win in the sprint race.

    3. @lolzerbob
      I don’t get why is was voted so low either. I think people just expected more of it because of how nice the area looked or something strange like that. It was maybe because they got such a good impression from the first few sessions. Because several drivers crashed and spun in practice and qualifying made it interesting for some, does that mean the reason why the race was boring was because the drivers had learned from their mistakes and drove a very clean race. I can’t remember it being boring at all anyway. The location looked stunning and there were plenty of good overtakes. I really don’t know why it was rated so low.

      For some reason, I think I found Germany to be the most dull race of the season.

    4. I agree that the race wasn’t thrilling but the setting was visually amazing and it took a lot of driving skill to master the circuit. I love Monaco for the same reason: it looks fabulous and even if the racing is processional, it take real skill to master it and mistakes are very costly.

    5. +1. I thought it was a great circuit, the race wasn’t great by any means but there have certainly been far worse races. It’s definitely better than the bottom 8.

    6. @lolzerbob I liked it too. The first half of the season was more open than the latter, there was better racing overall. I’d put Baku on my top 10 rather than plum last. On the track I really enjoyed it.

  3. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
    29th December 2016, 12:34

    Valencia produced dull races for years until it pulled an absolute cracker out of the bag in its final race. Ditto Bahrain which produced possibly the best race of this entire hybrid formula to date in 2014. And yet we see historic circuits like Monza languishing second from last and Spa a couple of places behind Yas Marina!

    The point being, there are so many variables in drivers, cars and mechanical fortune in F1 that anywhere has the potential to produce an entertaining race on any given day.

    1. +2. The only way to tell how good a circuit is, is to see what sort of races it produces over time. Valencia had a one-off good race but it was reliably very dull on the whole. Canada is known for producing great races yet sometimes even those are boring. Give Baku a few years.

  4. The hype and the buildup made it look worse than it actually was. Still agree that it was one to forget.

  5. Could it be that the race didn’t fare well in the poles due that it was incident free. We saw so many, including Hamilton, brush that one corner in practice and qualifying. Yet the race was some how clean. Even the (American tv) commentators said as much.

    1. I remember qualifying was one of the best all season, but then the race just couldn’t live up to that.

  6. I’ve long been a fan of the actual spectacle of watching a formula 1 car, rather than whether the race is any good. As a result, the Monza result annoys me a little, nearly 20 cars have been driven around at an average of nearly 150 mph with corner speeds exceeding 180 mph. Whether there’s overtaking or not, that to me is impressive and a show of technological and mechanical sophistication. Take turn 1 at Silverstone, seemingly innocuous to most of the cars in the field, yet the head on shot of cars turning into that sequence was incredible, the camera shot caught every ounce of the strain and violence that comes as a by-product of trying to change direction at 180 mph.

    What isn’t impressive though and what I totally agree with in these polls, is something like the Baku result. F1 cars aren’t as fast in a straight line as a lot of other motorsports but their main draw is corner speeds. Put them on a grand tour of a supposedly historic city with long straights and clumsy 3rd gear corners (not to mention the horrific crawl around the castle) and all of a sudden, without overtaking, you remove what’s left of the spectacle.

    Surely the idea is to set a base level of excitement by watching one driver wrestle his beast around corners at mind bending speeds and then multiply that by 20 on race day, so even if there’s little overtaking or strategic variety, you can still experience the joy of watching a car change direction at 150 mph, or the ultra motion shots of the whole car vibrating as it goes over a kerb.

    1. @naz3012 I highly doubt many would agree with you that the actual racing comes second to the visual aspect of the driving. I’d much rather watch Bahrain 2014 than any 2004 race.

    2. “F1 cars aren’t as fast in a straight line as a lot of other motorsports but their main draw is corner speeds. Put them on a grand tour of a supposedly historic city with long straights and clumsy 3rd gear corners (not to mention the horrific crawl around the castle) and all of a sudden, without overtaking, you remove what’s left of the spectacle.”

      And yet, many would hold up the Monaco GP – a circuit with some of the slowest corners on the calendar and the lowest overall average speed – as being the most prestigious event on the F1 calendar.

      Equally, in terms of straight line speed, the current generation of F1 cars would actually surprise a few other series – for example, at Le Mans the current generation of LMP1 cars tend to top out at about 340kph in the speed traps as the teams have prioritised cornering performance and downforce over straight line speed (in fact, if anything top speeds at Le Mans have come down slightly, having been at around 350kph in 2007 – the increased power of the cars means that they’re actually carrying relatively high downforce packages for Le Mans by historical standards).

    3. F1 cars aren’t as fast in a straight line as a lot of other motorsports but their main draw is corner speeds.

      Wat? In terms of top speed there’s only indycar that’s faster cuz they race on ovals, and in acceleration they’re the fastest thing on track. Yes, faster than motogp or LMP1.

      1. @juzh, the Top Gear magazine, of all publications, stated that they were shown telemetry traces from the 2015 spec Porsche 919 and from the W06 around the Spa-Francorchamps circuit at the end of the 2015 season.

        With regards to acceleration, the telemetry data indicated that the Porsche 919 did out-accelerate the W06 in the initial acceleration phase in the slower speed corners – that was mainly because of the 4WD system that they effectively run with the hybrid systems in the WEC (so the car was not as traction limited as the W06), along with the sheer power which it developed and the fact that it deployed it all at once at low speed (as opposed to the approach in F1, where there is more of a blended approach). However, in medium to higher speed corners, the W06 was the quicker car.

  7. More like Baku – They did their best

    1. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
      29th December 2016, 14:11


    2. Willem Cecchi (@)
      29th December 2016, 20:01

      I had to go through the trouble to log in to salute this gem.

  8. I wish at times like this f1 had some kind of replay for full races. I would just have a look to see if it was really that bad as i remember it.

    1. @thetick Bittorrent download, or go back to your recording of it?

      I grab a lovely 60fps torrent of every race as the season progresses. I am a Sky F1 HD subscriber, so I tell myself I’m entitled to download them…

  9. The only reason ‘Well Done Baku’ was painted out all over the circuit was to celebrate the efforts of those who created the 6km circuit in a very short time frame. I’m sure one day we’ll get to say that about the race itself if the governing body decide to change the aero rules to favour closer racing.

    I’ll agree some races have been average. For me though the thing that hooks me to F1 is not just the wheel-to-wheel battles, it’s watching the drivers on edge at every corner. They could be correcting the slightest amount of oversteer, locking up, and so on.

    The FIA really have to therefore bring about aero regulations that encourage drivers to get right into a battle with the car infront otherwise we’ll keep seeing the same average races throughout the forseeable future. Like for example imagine how much closer the battles between Rosberg and Hamilton could have been, instead of seeing them finish a couple of seconds apart due to the dirty air giving the car behind every reason not to attack and protect their car.

  10. Yes (@come-on-kubica)
    29th December 2016, 14:03

    Feel like 2016 races were a bit overrated. There were more races this season that I have lost interest in than any previous season.

  11. People hate on Azerbaijan. These votings are often extremely biased in regards to the geographical location and the political situation in the given country.

    1. I don’t think those factors would have made much of a difference. However the absolutely dire display of ‘racing’ probably did have an impact. That, and an epic 24 Hour race held in France immediately before.

    2. the political situation is only important as there are no spectators as a result of it.

  12. For me, this year was thoroughly average and pretty much forgettable. Sure, for example the narrative of Rosberg versus Hamilton was interesting, but quite often the racing was simply lacking. Murray Walker sometimes said that F1 is never boring, you just have to know where to look for the exciting bits – this year you really had to dig deep to make things interesting and exciting.

    I do not know how to “fix” F1, or even if it needs much fixing, but hopefully next year will throw more surprises and be much more unpredictable than this one.

  13. I really enjoyed this season all the way through. Every race bar Hungary and Monza was at least midly interesting and some races were really gripping. The first six races were all good races and the end to the year and for me the final two races was a great ending.

    Here was all my scores for the entire season.

    AUS – 8/10
    BAH – 7/10
    CHI – 8/10
    RUS – 6/10
    ESP – 10/10
    MON – 8/10
    CAN – 7/10
    EUR – 7/10
    AUT – 10/10
    GBR – 9/10
    HUN – 3/10
    GER – 8/10
    BEL – 8/10
    ITA – 5/10
    SIN – 9/10
    MAL – 9/10
    JAP – 8/10
    USA – 7/10
    MEX – 6/10
    BRA – 9/10
    ABU – 10/10

  14. The fact that the Baku race sits next to Monza in the standings is a graphic illustration of the track layout having nothing to do with the quality of the races. The 2012 European Grand Prix at the Valencia Street Circuit of all places was pretty darn compelling…

    …I do however think the Baku race has plenty of potential, and the circuit has its better features which is something to commend given the space confinements imposed by the historic city that envelopes it. The straight is absurdly long though, and because it is in a city most of the corners are 90-degree junctions. The opening sector especially reminds me of the mirror-signal-manoeuvre corners that drags down the spectacle of Formula E.

    …however that is all minutiae compared with the fact that in fielding the Baku race, F1 is logrolling the nascent Western ambitions of one of the most brutally authoritarian regimes in the world. I might be a sobbing liberal, a re-moaner, a cheerleader for a utopian and naive standard of human decency, but in a world where Donald Trump is president, I would at least like my Sunday afternoon leisure time watching the Grand Prix not to be spent at the pleasure of another totalitarian despot.

  15. The Russian GP was worse from the racing point of view, but still, the Baku race got the lowest ratings.

    1. +1 this track never produced a good race

      1. @yes The 2015 race was good, though, so the Sochi circuit has produced one good race so far to correct you a bit.

  16. I attended the race at Monza and I did not find it dull in the least. I was quite surprised when I got home to see what a low rating it had on here. I completely accept though that attending a race is a very different experience from watching it on tv.

    On the face of it Monza is quite an unexciting track in its layout. There are not enough corners or overtaking opportunities and because of the speeds it is over quite quick. But there is still something special about it as a whole event. Even though I still wonder if it would be better to replace it with Imola or another circuit in Italy. I’m not sure if these would be much better though.

    I seem to recall that I thought the most boring races this year were Baku and Hockenheim.

  17. Bringing up Monaco is important, for me, it is the one true test of driving skill on the F1 calender. With the close confines leaving no margin for error, good camera coverage due to circuit layout etc, you really get to appreciate the speed of these cars. The tunnel section, especially during the V12 and V10 eras, always was one of my highlights.
    Fans, no matter what sport, want to be amazed and see something that is unique and different.
    F1 has survived up until now due to its famous slogan as being the ‘pinnacle of motorsports’. In other words, nothing comes close to it. I will always remember Nigel Mansell passing Nelson Piquet in 1987, in a race that up until that point had been pretty uneventfull, down the Hangar Straight at Silverstone. Probably one the best overtakes that circuit has ever seen, and I was no Mansell fan as a kid.
    We watch because we fear missing moments like these. Look at Spain this year, or the final lap in Austria, great moments!

  18. I may have overlooked them in all the season review articles but were there any articles about the result of the Abu Dhabi rate the race and driver of the weekend polls?

  19. Guybrush Threepwood
    29th December 2016, 21:16

    I think Baku is a pretty good track. It has character due to the close confines of the street section with trees and buildings close to the track while it also has a long straight to promote overtaking. For a street track it also has some medium speed corners and not just 90 degree corners.

    I like it.

  20. Baku was terrible….and I cannot see anything in the future to make it better…..We probably have to see out the contract for however many years they have signed for….after that we will not mourn its passing.
    Shall be away for the next one…..will probably have to fast forward the highlights progamme

  21. The criticism of the F1 race at Baku – which I did not watch – prompted me to go back and review the GP2 races, and they were absolutely brilliant. Lots of close racing and one or two brushes with the scenery, the races were exciting. I really do not think the Baku track is to blame, there was lots of passing. lots of incidents in GP2 . . . maybe it’s just F1 that has a problem.
    Giovanazzi for F1 soon?

  22. I reckon, the mainstream and “liberal” media wanted Baku to be a failure so they made up a failure out of a normal racing weekend. Unfortunately, such propaganda rubs of on the commoners. As it is inherently great to mock anything Russia or USSR, everyone joined the party. Azerbaijan admittedly hasn’t got the greatest reputation for transparency but people never cared about Turkey, why? the media didn’t care either, why? It’s the age old West vs East. One is one of us and the other is not.

    1. @peartree, I don’t know where you live, but I can say that there has been quite a bit of fairly negative media attention about Turkey and the way in which Erdogan has chosen to attack his political opponents.

      Equally, is it necessarily that the media doesn’t care, or is it because Erdogan has largely eliminated the media businesses that were not aligned with him? Some international media organisations have had their right to operate in Turkey revoked because Erdogan disliked the coverage he was given, leaving to them having to pull out of Turkey to protect their staff.

    2. @peartree That is utter nonsense. President Ilham Aliyev and his Yeni Azerbaijan Party is one of the most totalitarian dictators in the world, and is systematically repressing civil rights and citizen autonomy and arbitrarily arresting all those who oppose him politically.

      A decline in state-sponsored violence and enemy disappearances has gone hand-in-hand with Aliyev trying to attract foreign investment, and has been keen to shroud the naked brutality of his regime. The same is true of Bahrain and Russia, and frankly, I wish F1 wasn’t always the first brand to come knocking when dictators want a platform to attract foreign investment.

      1. + 1 William B.

        Personally I would have all three removed from the F1 calendar completely and replaced by countries that uphold democracy and basic human rights. This is one of the biggest stains on F1.

      2. @william-brierty That’s what I meant with “lack of transparency”. I didn’t elaborate because nobody cares but the people living in these states, all we care is for bickering.

  23. The whole package that BCE tries to sell us…….for example, Baku as the ‘European’ GP when anyone who
    can read a map and understand international politics knows perfectly well what Baku is, where Baku is, and even more, how that country and city is run….and that the whole set-up just stinks of corruption ! This so-called race was an ugly disaster.
    And then we think about the ‘vital’ races ( so called ! ) like Monaco, which is, for me, simply an excuse for a gathering of exceedingly rich people who know nothing of motor racing and aren’t remotely interested in motor racing. And the race in Monaco can usually be relied upon to deliver the biggest bore-fest of the F1 season. We need more Spa’s, we need more Suzuka’s, we need more races in the U.S. And Herman Tilke should be re-assigned to designing children’s play parks. He’d be very good at that !

  24. GP2 races were insanely entertaining in Baku, F1 got wrong with very conservative tyres, that freezed the race after the first stop.

    Next year should be a lot better.

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