From June 23 to 25, Baku City Circuit will host the annual Azerbaijan GP for the 8th appointment of the 2017 Formula 1 World Championship (where many teams involved are equipped by BMC).
The track, designed by architect Hermann Tilke, winds through the picturesque streets of Baku. The endless straightaway (2 km) that leads back to the start permits the cars to reach very fast speeds. In general, the entire track is run with the pedal to the floor, which is demonstrated by the fact that the wide open throttle time is equivalent to 56% of the race. In fact, last year Nico Rosberg managed to complete a lap going an average speed of more than 210 km/h.
The circuit also has a lot of technical corners, like turns 8 and 15, where precision braking is key to avoiding contact with the walls, which are extremely close at these points. The layout includes four 90° corners at the start that demand great effort on the part of the brakes, followed by other turns where the angels change continuously and as a consequence so does the use of brakes.
According to Brembo technicians, who classified the 20 tracks in the World Championship on a scale of 1 to 10, the Baku City Circuit is demanding on the brakes. The Azeri track earned an 8 on the difficulty index, which is just what nearby Sochi and three other tracks got, including Monza.
The demand on the brakes during the GP
The 11 braking points each lap and the extreme length of the track (more than 6 km) require the drivers to use their brakes for almost 19 seconds every lap, that is seven seconds more than on Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in Montreal, one of the most challenging tracks for the brakes. Actually though, the percentage of braking on the overall duration of the race is fairly similar: 19% in Baku, 17% in Canada.
The average peak deceleration, on the other hand, is just 4 G since none of the braking sections reach 4.7-4.8 G like it does on other tracks, and because there are curves with deceleration that doesn't go over 3 G.
The unexceptional deceleration is also evident by the amount of energy dissipated in braking by each car over the course of the GP: 171 kWh, which is the same amount of electric energy consumed by 350 Azeri inhabitants during the race.
From the starting line to the checkered flag, the Brembo technicians forecast that each driver will apply a load of almost 77.5 tons on the brake pedal, which is 100 times the weight of the SPOT7 satellite managed by the Azerbaijan National Aerospace Agency.
The most demanding braking sections
Of the eleven braking sections at the Baku City Circuit, two are classified as demanding on the brakes, seven are of medium difficulty and two are light.
The most difficult corner for the braking system is at turn 3: the single-seaters arrive going 319 km/h and in just 2.28 seconds, they take it down to 95 km/h. To do this, the drivers apply a load of 153 kg on the brake pedal and undergo a deceleration of 4.6 G. Applying the brakes, the cars travel just 64 meters, which is less than length of the gigantic Azerbaijan national flag flying over Bayil.
The load on the brake pedal is slightly more at turn 1 (154 kg), but the reduction in speed and the time spent braking are lower: 2.03 seconds to go from 325 km/h to 122 km/h. As a result there is less braking space, 57 meters.
The braking section at turn 15 is also very long: 59 meters and 2.14 seconds, but the drivers are under a little less stress because the deceleration is "just" 4.4 G and the load on the brake lever comes to 143 kg.
The tyres situation
The tyres nominated for the longest and fastest street circuit of the year are P Zero White medium, P Zero Yellow soft and P Zero Red supersoft: a combination last seen in Bahrain this year (and also used in Baku last year).
The Baku street circuit is largely unchanged in layout from the inaugural race last year, with safety barriers having been altered in five or six corners, especially Turn 15.
If Lewis Hamilton claims pole position in Baku, he will have broken the record of 65 poles established by Ayrton Senna and will be within touching distance of Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of 68 poles this year.
It’s much more than possible that the lap record will be broken this year. Currently the fastest lap ever of Baku is 1m42.758s in qualifying and 1m46.485s in the race.
The analysis of…
Mario Isola – Pirelli Motorsport – Head of Car Racing
“Following Monaco and Montreal, Baku is the third non-permanent, low-grip venue in succession, but it has a very different character. The lap is a lot faster, with more energy going through the tyres, and track temperatures could be very high, like last year. For these reasons, we’ve chosen a range of tyres in the middle of the spectrum, which worked well in 2016. Maybe a surprise back then was that there were no safety cars, despite predictions to the contrary, so this could be a factor to consider when formulating race strategy. With a combination of low-speed corners and long straights, it’s quite hard to find the right balance, especially in terms of downforce”.
Curiosities & numbers
22 psi(1.516 bar) minimum starting pressures (front slick)
21 psi(1.447 bar) minimum starting pressures (rear slicks)
–3.50° camber limit (front)
–2.00° camber limit (rear)