Carlos Sainz Jnr, Renault, Baku City Circuit, 2018

Sainz says Baku rivals Monaco as a driving challenge

2018 Monaco Grand Prix

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Carlos Sainz Jnr says the Baku circuit in Azerbaijan rivals Monaco as one of the hardest tracks for an F1 driver to master.

The Renault driver said the combination of Baku’s unusual configuration, long layout and the difficulty of getting a clear lap in practice adds to its challenge.

“[In] Monaco you do many laps during the weekend and it’s such a short track that you can actually get very well into a rhythm,” said Sainz. “[In Baku] with the yellow flags, with the low grip, low downforce, after every braking zone, after every lap you feel you could have gone two or three tenths faster.”

“In Monaco you get to a point where you say ‘OK I cannot push more than this I’m really at the limit’. [In Baku] you always have that feeling that you could have always gone a bit quicker.”

Sainz finished fifth in this year’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Team mate Nico Hulkenberg crashed out when his handling was affected by a gust of wind. Unpredictable conditions add to the difficulty of driving in Baku, Sainz said.

“It’s a bit of a lottery ticket, because sometimes you go into a corner there’s a gust and there’s no way you can turn the car in,” he said. “It really affects [the car] a lot.”

“It is something that is a lot more difficult than people can imagine because of the inconsistent-ness. It is throwing another variable in to a Formula One car in a street circuit which is particularly difficult.”

Sainz likened the Baku circuit to the Macau Guia street track which he raced on in Formula Three.

“The infield is probably not as [much] fun as Macau, but it is very similar. There is very little downforce on the cars, you still need to brake very late into a lot of corners, you still need to drive at 100% with very low downforce between the walls and that long straight with slipstreams reminds me of Macau.”

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Chris Turner
Being pelted by rain on his first visit to an F1 race at the 1998 British Grand Prix wasn't enough to dim Chris's passion...

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11 comments on “Sainz says Baku rivals Monaco as a driving challenge”

  1. Well done Baku!

    1. Well done Sainz jr, stroking his ego just like a Sainz. Sainz jr the best worst driver on the grid.

  2. I still love Monaco. I know many don’t because of the ‘racing’, but I still look forward to this race more than most. It’s just special.

    1. Agreed, there’s something special about Monaco. Even a race without many overtakes or incidents is impressive to watch.

      1. What is so special about Monaco?

        The track layout isn´t particularly as it is very narrow, doens´t have overtaking spots and it has no particularly interesting corners or flowing sections whatsoever. Sure, it has barriers, but so do other street circuits like Baku and Singapore and at least those are wide enough to allow overtaking. The surroundings are severely outdated and I personally don´t see the glamour of rich people living in tiny apartments that look like they were build in the freaking 70´s.

        To me Monaco, along with Spain, Austria, Hockenheim, Hungary, Monza, Mexico, Russia, Abu Dhabi and Melbourne are all boring and should be replaced. I´m pretty sure Paul Ricard will fit on this list as well.

        Why doesn´t F1 go (or not anymore) to cool tracks like Algarve, Brno, Nurburg, Mugello, Magnycours, Istanbull, Kialamy, Pyong Yam, Watkins Glen, Road America, Fuji and Sepang for example?

        1. Fair enough. Personally I love seeing the cars through the swimming pool section. Barriers do catch out drivers more than Baku and Singapore, I think it’s more of a test for the driver. Sure the surroundings are a little tacky, but it’s still an event that feels unique compared to other races, other street circuits included. But ok, I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea… and yes, I would take Magny Cours back in a heartbeat!

        2. @glynh Perhaps you don’t see the historical value of the circuit, which is pretty significant. The challenge on the drivers is special to watch on TV. Every overtake, albeit few of them, is spectacular. The setting is also incredible, by your description I assume you’ve never been to Monaco. Yes, it’s mostly older apartments and rich people everywhere, but it’s not just that. It’s a city-wide party in Monte Carlo during the weekend. It’s the best event in Formula 1 bar none. Regarding those circuits you mentioned some are good suggestions, others are gone precisely because they were terrible events (even if the racing was good). Istabul has an incredible track, but they were not selling half the tickets, it was depressing and crucially expensive for everyone. Sepang was not dropped, the Malaysian government made an executive decision on that. Watkins Glen… that’ would be another american dud like Indy. Fuji, Nurburgring, Kialamy, Magny Cours? Sure, all great tracks.

          1. @ajpennypacker I’ve watched F1 since 94 and been to Monaco (altough not during a GP weekend). I used to a apreciate it as a historical event, but as the town got more and more outdated and the racing even worse as the cars got faster and outgrew the circuit, I don’t anymore.

    2. Monaco is more of an event than a race. An F1 season needs events as well as ‘races’. I’m always surprised at its popularity, because you really need to understand just how big a challenge it is to thread a near 1000bhp car through these tight and twisty streets, at the razors edge for 78 laps; as a demonstration of the skills of the drivers, there is no other.

  3. Monaco is about driver skill, it’s the battle between those really close barriers and the machines that make it interesting for me.

    Sure overtaking is difficult, but it’s the one race that I recall that has more chance of a leader (or front running car) falling foul of a milliseconds loss of concentration resulting in no points.

    Once the helmet goes on, it’s all about the driver, not the team, not the pit wall, and mostly, not even the car.

    That’s why Monaco is and always has been one of my favourite tracks.

  4. I don’t like Monaco, but it fits right in the variety the F1 calendar must be, that’s why we don’t need Miami, as Baku, Albert Park and Singapore together with Monaco present every challenge a street circuit could have.

    I’d much rather see another thrillingly fast track being added.

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