Baku - the world's fastest city race track

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Azerbaijan, Baku Street Circuitaz

2016 saw the inaugural race of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. It took place in Baku, in the capital of Azerbaijan. The city circuit established itself as one of the most exciting tracks on the calendar with its never-ending straight, incredible speed through narrow sections and the picturesque scenery.

History

The race is hosted in Baku, in the capital of Azerbaijan. Baku is the largest city of the country with its 3,2 million habitants. It is also the largest city on the Caspian sea region. With its location of 28 metres below the sea level, Baku is the largest city located below the sea level.

The city is the heart of Azerbaijan as it is the scientific, cultural and industrial center of country.

Baku is wearing the nickname "City of Winds" as it is renowned for its harsh winds. It can make the life of engineers and drivers particularly diffciult as the quick changes of wind direction and speed can have a massive affect on the setup of the cars.

The track was designed by the team of German architect Hermann Tilke. The German was tasked with the challenge of designing a track which can conquer the motorsport community quickly, but it can represent the unique territory of Azerbaijan.

"Our brief to Tilke Engineering was simple - create a circuit that is unique, one that will help the Grand Prix in Baku quickly establish itself as one of the most exciting, thrilling venues on the F1 calendar, and one that the fans and teams alike are excited about,” said Azad Rahimov, Azerbaijan's Minister of Youth and Sport.

“Most importantly, we wanted a track that would showcase the best of Baku, our capital city, and I am delighted that the circuit has achieved exactly that aim.”

Tilke managed to create a layout where cars blast past the historic city centre, the beautiful seaside promenade and the impressive government house. The track features enormously long straights and technical, narrow sections which urge the engineers to make sacrifices and compromises while setting up the racing machineries.

Track of two faces

The track is 6.003 metres in length. It means the race distance covers 51 laps. Drivers travel counterclockwise to cover the distance of 306.153km. The track consists of 20 turns, twelve of them are left-hand corners and eight of them are right-hand corners.

Corners of the middle part of the track are dominantly low-speed turns, there are nine corners which are taken under 100 kph. Four corners are driven with speed of about 250 kph. There are nine braking zones, five of them pose a challenging time for the brakes which leads to a relatively high brake useage.

Drivers reached top speeds of around 340 kph. Top speeds are expected to drop significantly for the second Baku race weekend because of the aerodynamic changes of this year which led to significant increase of drag.

The average speed is around 198 kph. Drivers spend 49 per cent of the lap on full throttle and change gears 78 times during a lap. The longest full-throttle section of the track is the start-finish straight where drivers are relentlessly on the throttle for 22 seconds.

Pirelli will bring the trio of medium-soft-supersoft to Baku. Drivers faced warm-up problems in 2016 and with Pirelli's this year's ongoing heating-up issues, it could again prove difficult to get the tyres in their optimum operating temperature.

Last year, winner of the race, Nico Rosberg opted for a one-stop strategy, but the majority of the drivers pitted twice. Drivers are limited to the pit lane top speed for 390 meters. This, combined with the incredible top speed on the main straight, means strategists are pushed into strategies with the least possible pitstops.

Last year's pole time was 1:42.758 from Nico Rosberg who also set the best race lap time of 1:46.485 in his Mercedes.