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Formula 1 Baku, Azerbaijan

Formula 1 Baku, Azerbaijan

When the greatest show on earth travels the globe it opens new horizons to new markets, investors, etc. This time Formula 1 brought back its iconic European Grand Prix to Baku in Azerbaijan. Bringing the Grand Prix to this part of the world and badging it the European GP is something everyone has been startled about. Azerbaijan is geographically in Europe, almost Eurasia, but politically is not a part of the European Union. As far as controversy in the paddock goes, and theorists would speculate, the popular opinion is that Bernie Ecclestone is taking F1 wherever there is money, oil reserves, and new potential investors, or markets.

As far as my itinerary goes I had an eventful voyage from Bombay to Baku which is not more than four hours of flying time, however i took 24 hours to get to Baku.. How? The connector from Bombay to Dubai delayed by an hour and made me miss my connector to Baku, as a result of which I had to stay in Dubai for another 24 hours to catch the dame flight the next morn. So no Thursday updates.. Arrived late in the evening… !!

Thursday – Arrived at the airport to see a brand new airport, to the likes of Dubai or Abu Dhabi in this Caucasian capital. As we neared the city, to reach the media hotel, saw a bit of the surroundings and to my surprise, its indeed a beautiful city. So to those back home, still figuring on which part of the world I am galavanting- This country is north of Turkey and Iran, East of Armenia and West of Kazakhstan. Coming to a country like this, I had the least idea what to expect, but the surroundings, fine architecture and delicious food have been a delight. At one point of time, this country produced the half the world’s oil, and is known as the land of fire. As far as the culture goes, its called the land of fire, its a mix of Russian, Turkish and European culture, but most people speak here in Turkish. The country is far from the conservative Balkan countries or the central East european ones, ti has its own charm with Zoroastrian and Kurdish architecture. The Parsis are suppose to have lived here once upon a time, thats why the Zoroastrian touch, an old fire temple here has been replaced by the modern iconic Fairmont’s Flaming Tower hotel which have towers in the shape of fire flames. The city earns that name of ‘the and of fire’ and Formula 1 badging has added to it by branding it as ‘ the speed is higher, in the land of fire’.

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Friday– Since it was my first day at the track, looking at the circuit my first opinion was its too tight, less run-off areas, tricky corners and high-speed straights. Unlike Monaco which is a slow circuit, this street circuit is speculated to produce some drama on the race day due to its high-speed corners and unique design. The two practice sessions saw Mercedes dominate with Lewis Hamilton leading the way through the day. Nico Rosberg was 6/10ths off the pace in the second session and could not match up to his team-mate due to an engine problem, no drive and a gearbox issue. The Ferrari’s have been struggling again in both sessions not just with the tyres but as the temperatures dropped by the second session they struggled for grip and power. McLaren had surprising pace in the first session with Fernando Alonso as fourth fastest and Jenson Button as sixth fastest. In the speed traps, Fernando’s car was the second fastest, while Jenson’s was fourth fastest. Have McLaren found that extra pace to throw a surprise this weekend?  The Force India’s too are looking strong with Mercedes power and displayed an invincible form through both sessions. Williams had a good day with Valtterri Bottas being the third fastest in the first session and fourth in the second one. In the first of the day Valtterri was the fastest in the speed traps.

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The circuit is high-speed and several simulation runs can’t give you an idea of the grip here. The weather has been warm but the air temperature keeps dropping due to strong winds and breeze which comes to effect with tyre management. Teams have been saying there is lesser grip than they expected and expected several yellow flag, red and VSC periods through the sessions. I watched the both the sessions in the Mercedes hospitality and we could see Hermann Tilke getting nervous before the session started.

A dramatic section of the circuit has been Turn 15, where more than 7 drivers went out, with Ricciardo damaging his car completely as he hit the barriers. There were atlas 6 drivers spinning off or going into the escape roads during the first session and more than 8 drivers doing the same and having similar moments in the second session. Another problem that rose after the first practice was flapping kerbs, to which Charlie Whiting  ordered another track inspection to sort the issue. The flapping kerbs were leading to cuts on the tires and Pirelli has also decided to reduce tyre pressures after reviewing data and telemetry to solve other issues related to the tyres at this circuit. But to sum it all, this circuit might just produce the drama or show that Formula 1 needs, that unpredictable dose of entertainment this season.

 

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