GP2 Gives Great Advert to Baku City Circuit
Whenever a new track enters the Formula One calendar and its feeder series, it sometimes doesn’t get the best of receptions.
Some opinions have given the new Baku City Circuit criticism during its first weekend as a Grand Prix venue, citing safety concerns, or comparing it to past venues who have staged a race.
Due to the large amount of changes to calendars and the introduction of circuits with similar parts such as Marina Bay in Singapore, Valencia or Sochi in Russia in recent years, you can understand why some would be wary over praising it, but the architecture around the track does provide some intrigue to the circuit.
Baku has had some teething problems with GP2 qualifying having to be staged twice in one day after the session was rescheduled due to issues with the track after the first Formula One practice session. However, the feature race for GP2 in Baku was entrancing with many things happening at once.
The racing did continue the unpredictable form of 2016 and give the series its fifth different winner in five races. It has suddenly given memories to the old days of racing when cars were not as reliable with less than half of the grid, 10 drivers out of 22, finishing the race.
The prominent usage of the safety car in the first race of the weekend did cause the race to end on the timer, ending after just over an hour, and cause the pack to be bunched up and give race winner Antonio Giovinazzi a bit of stress near the end of the race to hold on to the win, but it wasn’t just driver error that gave this spectacle to the fans, either. The start was chaotic into Turn 1, like certain corners in the sport, like Turn 3 at the Sochi Autodrom, but something like this does show the skills of the drivers to avoid incident.
The sprint race continued the chaos, with cars seemingly having problems from the safety car restart and a massive incident involving Rapax’s Gustav Malja and Campos Racing’s Mitch Evans on Lap 12 of that 21-lap race and front wing debris being scattered across the start-finish straight. Just 14 out of the 22 drivers finished the second race of the weekend. Surprises are occasionally an intriguing thing to see at a track, although Giovinazzi did become the first driver to win two races in the 2016 season.
Between the two races, many things became clear as more and more knowledge about the track emerged.
The overtaking opportunities at the track are good, especially into Turn 1 at the end of the long straight where three GP2 cars were side-by-side at one point and where it was used by the likes of MP Motorsport’s Oliver Rowland and Prema Racing’s Giovinazzi to get further up the field in the feature race.
Around the track the tough run-off areas at the circuit are a real test for the drivers and do punish them if they make a mistake, having to make a manuever, like a three-point turn, to get out of them. DAMS’ Alex Lynn’s feature race ended at the Turn 1 area, while in qualifying MP Motorsport’s Daniel de Jong was able to get out of a piece of run-off. This does deal with the issues that some people have with new tracks over whether run-off areas are becoming too easy for drivers to make mistakes and get away with them. A driver can’t have too easy a time in Baku.
All of these aspects lead to interesting racing around the circuit. The overall feeling for the circuit is that it is refreshing for now and it should please some that it is included on the calendar.
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