Formula One Azerbaijan Grand Prix preview

Baku City Circuit, home of the Formula One Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Baku City Circuit, home of the Formula One Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Azerbaijan held its first Formula One grand prix in 2016, although the race was run under the auspices of the European Grand Prix.

The F1 circuit returns to Azerbaijan in 2017 but this time for the newly minted Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

The race takes place on Sunday once again on the Baku City Circuit, located in the heart of Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku. The Hermann Tilke-designed street circuit stretches 3.73 miles and features the key characteristics of a long 1.3-mile straight and a long pit lining the edge of the Caspian Sea.

Downforce levels are the second-lowest of the year, after the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, but Baku has no high-speed corners to put energy through the tires. Not surprisingly, Pirelli has nominated its supersoft, soft and medium tires. The challenge for teams will be to shave off as much downforce as possible, while ensuring the tires are worked hard enough to remain at optimal temperatures.

After some practice on Friday, Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen proved the fastest. Right behind him were Mercedes AMG’s Valtteri Bottas and fellow Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo. The session was marred by a few accidents, the main one caused by Jolyon Palmer who drove his Renault into a wall.

With fine weather forecast for Baku this weekend, we should be in for a great race. Going into Saturday’s qualifying session and Sunday’s race, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel leads the 2017 Drivers’ Championship with 141 points. Not far behind is Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton with 129 points and Bottas with 93 points. In the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes leads with 222 points followed by Ferrari with 214 points and Red Bull third with 112 points. Last year’s winner was  Nico Rosberg driving for Mercedes.

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In other F1 news, it’s been confirmed that Sauber Team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn has stepped down. She led the team since 2012 after being nominated by founder Peter Sauber. It’s thought she stepped down due to disagreements with the current owner, Longbow Finance. Sauber is ninth in the Constructors’ Championship, with only McLaren behind it. The team has decided to ditch its current Ferrari power units and swap to Honda power for the 2018 season.

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