Written by SFCMelbourne Member, Michele Termiello
After Lewis Hamilton dominated in the 1000thGrand Prix in Shanghai as the Silver Arrows scored their third consecutive one-two in the 2019 season, round four of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship returns to the streets of Baku in Azerbaijan this weekend for the Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix 2019. The inaugural Formula 1 race at the circuit was named the European Grand Prix.
A look at the Baku City Circuit
The Baku City Circuit is a street circuit constructed near the Baku Boulevard in the capital city of Baku in Azerbaijan. The layout of the circuit was designed by German architect Hermann Tilke and the circuit itself is claimed to be the fastest street circuit on the Formula 1 calendar and the second longest after the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. The circuit will start adjacent to Adazliq Square, then will do a loop around Government House before heading west to the Maiden Tower. Then the track will have a narrow uphill traversal and then circle the Old City before opening onto a 2.2 km (1.4 mi) straight along Neftchilar Avenue back to the start/finish line.
“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,” explained 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.”
The Baku City Circuit runs in an anti-clockwise direction and is 6.003km (3.730 miles) in length with 20 corners.
The race distance is 306.306km (190.332 miles) in length with 51 laps in total.
Sebastian Vettel holds the fastest lap record from last year’s event with a 1:43.441 set in his Scuderia Ferrari SF70H.
Lewis Hamilton (2018), Daniel Ricciardo (2017) and Nico Rosberg (2016) are the previous winners of the Baku Grand Prix.
Mercedes are the most successful constructor at the Baku Grand Prix with two victories (2018 and 2016 [European Grand Prix] to Red Bull Racing’s one (2017).
Pirelli will be bringing with them to Baku, the white-branded C2 Hard rubber, the yellow-marked C3 Medium tyres and the red side-walled C4 Soft compounds along with the green-branded Intermediates and blue-marked Full Wets in case of rain.
Ferrari have gone the most conservative for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix selecting fewer sets of the softer compounds compared to its rivals.
Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc opted for seven sets of the C4 soft tyres with championship leaders Mercedes choosing one set more than the Scuderia while the Red Bull duo will have nine sets each.
McLaren, Racing Point and Renault have gone with a more aggressive approach selecting 10 sets of the soft compounds.
Ferrari have chosen more C3 yellow-branded mediums than any other team for Baku with five sets for each driver while Mercedes will have four sets for it’s two F10 W10 EQ Power+ machines.
There will be two DRS zones on the streets of Baku with the first DRS zone 730 metres on the approach to turn one with the second DRS zone 630 metres on the approach of turn three.
Pitlane Speed Limits
Pitlane speeds will be 60km/h during practice, qualifying and the race.
ICYMI: Chinese Grand Prix Flashback
Lewis Hamilton produced a flawless drive from start to finish as the Briton won a processional Chinese Grand Prix in style ahead of Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas with the Silver Arrows scoring a third consecutive one-two finish in 2019.
Hamilton got off the line perfectly and slipped ahead of pole-sitter Bottas into the first corner, while Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc got by team-mate Sebastian Vettel for third.
The midfield battle intensified into the turn six hairpin as Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat caught a twitch of his STR14 racer and bounced off Carlos Sainz’ McLaren and then clipping wheels with the Spaniard’s team-mate Lando Norris, who was sent for a brief moment in the air.
This temporarily brought out the Virtual Safety Car so the debris including part of Sainz’ front wing could be cleared.
Hamilton was breezing away at half a second per lap in the first phase of the Grand Prix whilst the majority of the frontrunners behind were conserving their tyres – except for Ferrari’s Vettel, who was looking to pass team-mate Leclerc with the latter being told to push harder or let the German by.
The Scuderia made the order just before the beginning of lap 11 as Leclerc slowed down to let Vettel past.
Despite the swap, Vettel was starting to close the gap to second-placed Bottas and slightly race-leader Hamilton, even though he was pushing his SF90 racer to its limits – even locking up his front-left and running wide at the turn 14 hairpin on the thirteenth lap. Leclerc also reported on the radio that he was now being held up.
As the Silver Arrows charged into the distance, fifth-placed Max Verstappen joined in the battle for the final podium place by pitting for the C2 white-branded hard compounds on lap 18.
This caused Ferrari to react and Vettel pitted a lap later to cover the undercut from the Milton-Keynes based-outfit, with the German emerging narrowly in-front of Verstappen on his fresh set of hards.
Verstappen made a late lunge with DRS assistance on Vettel at the turn fourteen hairpin but ran slightly wide as the two went wheel-to-wheel with Vettel pushing the Dutchman onto the grass at the exit to reclaim what was fourth place.
Ferrari committed to a long stint strategy for Leclerc, since the young Monegasque driver would end up behind this battle – and when he pitted five laps later then team-mate Vettel for fresh hard tyres, he emerged 11 seconds off of Verstappen.
Bottas came in for hards on lap 22, followed by Hamilton a lap later as the reigning World Champion left the pit-lane, the gap between the two Silver Arrows was less than 1.5 seconds.
But Hamilton continued to press and built more than five-second lead to his team-mate, and within those ten laps he asked over the radio if Bottas had posted the fastest lap for the extra bonus point.
Red Bull once again triggered the second round of pit-stops, bringing in Verstappen with 20 laps remaining for fresh mediums. Ferrari followed suit and pitted Vettel a lap later for the same compound with the domino-effect continuing a lap later as Mercedes double-stacked Hamilton and Bottas for mediums as well.
This meant Bottas returned to the track behind Leclerc – who was running out of sequence and had to battle the Ferrari driver.
For nearly two laps, Leclerc continued to keep the Finn at bay until the latter made a DRS-assisted move on the Ferrari into the turn 14 hairpin and made the move stick.
Once ahead, Bottas charged away as Leclerc fell into the grasps of his team-mate Vettel. Ferrari brought Leclerc in on lap 42 and came out slow of the box, leaving pit-lane over 15 seconds behind Verstappen’s Red Bull.
Though Leclerc was eating into the Dutchman’s time, he reported of a gearbox issue on the radio, but the team reassured him that there was none – and Verstappen remained a comfortable distance in-front.
Hamilton crossed the line to win the 1000thGrand Prix ahead of team-mate Bottas with Vettel completing the podium as Verstappen and Leclerc rounded out the top five.
The other Red Bull of Pierre Gasly was running a quiet sixth place, despite running close behind his team-mate in the opening stages of the race but it was a long stretch to put the Frenchman on the red-branded softer rubber for 19 laps.
By the time Gasly came in, he was well behind the two Ferrari’s. With two laps remaining, Gasly was in more than enough space to come in for a set of softs to push for the fastest lap point.
The Frenchman set two personal bests in the first two sectors before going purple in the final to clinch the bonus point.
Renault ran two different strategies for both Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg with the latter being brought in to swap softs for hards on lap twelve and leaving the former out for a long first stint on the softs. Hulkenberg’s day ended early as he retired from the race five laps later.
Ricciardo also had a quiet run to the line finishing seventh scoring his first points of the season and finished ahead of Racing Point’s Sergio Perez who was eighth and Alfa Romeo Racing’s Kimi Raikkonen who was ninth.
Toro Rosso’s Alexander Albon after starting from the pit-lane due to a heavy late FP3 crash yesterday, was lucky to hold onto the final points place by a fast-pushing Haas of Romain Grosjean who settled for 11th.
Racing Point’s Lance Stroll finished the race in 12thand in-front of the second Haas of Kevin Magnussen who was 13thand the aforementioned McLaren of Sainz who took 14th.
Alfa Romeo Racing’s Antonio Giovinazzi continued to struggle as he wound up 15thand ahead of both ROKiT Williams Racing FW42’s of George Russell and Robert Kubica were brought up the rear and two laps down.
Along with Hulkenberg, both Kvyat and Norris were both forced to retire.
Reigning champion Lewis Hamilton heads to Azerbaijan sitting on top of the Driver’s Standings with 68 points and an eight point-advantage over Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas who Is second on 62 points while Max Verstappen is third and a further 29 points behind the Briton.
Mercedes comes to Baku sitting on top of the Constructors Championship with 130 points and a 57 point-lead over nearest rivals Ferrari who are second on 73 points while Red Bull Racing are a further 78 behind the Silver Arrows in third on 52 points.
Formula 1 2019 World Driver’s Championship Standings – Top 10
Formula 1 2019 World Constructors Championship Standings
The Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix 2019 weekend begins Friday April 26 with Free Practice One and Two, followed by Free Practice Three and Qualifying Saturday April 27 along with the 51 lap Race Sunday April 28.