Baku City Circuit, site of the 2016 Formula One European Grand Prix - Image via Red Bull RacingEnlarge Photo
The European Grand Prix has had an erratic history on the Formula One calendar, held sporadically and shuffled between a number of circuits over the years. The last time a European Grand Prix was held was in 2012 and back then it was in Valencia, Spain.
The event has now returned as round eight of the 2016 Formula One World Championship and this time it’s in the new location of Baku, Azerbaijan. It will be run this weekend on the Baku City Circuit that weaves its way through the historic part of the Azerbaijan capital and has the Caspian Sea as a backdrop.
There’s a lot to look forward to here. The Hermann Tilke-designed street circuit stretches 3.73 miles and has a 1.30-mi straight, the longest of the season. The cars are expected to reach 211 mph going down the straight as they approach Turn 1, the fastest speed of any street circuit in the history of F1.
In addition to being unfamiliar with the circuit, drivers will also face the challenge of poor grip levels and very little run-off areas. The good news is that we’re set for fine weather with sunny conditions and a peak temperature of 92 degrees F (33 degrees C) forecast for Sunday's race.
2016 Formula One European Grand Prix practice session at Baku City CircuitEnlarge Photo
Pirelli has nominated its supersoft, soft and medium compounds for the race. The official tire supplier expects wear and degradation to be low due to the new asphalt lining the circuit.
Following some initial practice, Mercedes AMG’s Lewis Hamilton proved quickest, followed by his teammate Nico Rosberg and then Williams’ Valtteri Bottas. There weren’t many dramas though Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo came into contact with a wall and tore of the right-rear wheel of his car.
Going into tomorrow’s qualifying session and Sunday’s race, Rosberg leads the 2016 Drivers’ Championship with 116 points. Hamilton is second with 107 points and Ferrari’s [NYSE:RACE] Sebastian Vettel is third with 78 points. In the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes has 223 points versus the 147 of Ferrari and 130 of Red Bull.
Below is a video with McLaren reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne taking us through a virtual lap of the Baku City Circuit.