Round four of the 2023 Formula 1 World Championship takes place this weekend in Baku, home of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
The weekend will mark the first running of a revised Sprint race, which has been made a standalone event rather than the qualifier for the main race, as was previously the case. It still has championship points on the table for both drivers and teams, though.
The Azerbaijan Grand Prix is held at Baku City Circuit, a Hermann Tilke-designed street circuit that stretches 3.7 miles and features the key characteristics of a 1.3-mile straight and a long pit lining the edge of the Caspian Sea, coupled with some tight corners in Baku's historic city center.
The circuit can be described as a mix of Monaco and Monza, because the section of track in the old town’s narrow maze of streets is similar to that of the principality, while the long straights and heavy braking zones are not unlike what's found at the Temple of Speed in Monza’s Royal Park.
Baku City Circuit, home of the Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix
Downforce levels are among the lowest of the season, but Baku has no high-speed corners to put energy through the tires. The challenge for teams is to shave off as much downforce as possible, while ensuring the tires are worked hard enough to remain at optimal temperatures. Pirelli has nominated its three softest compounds for the race: the C3 as the White hard, the C4 as the Yellow medium, and the C5 as the Red soft.
The weather forecast calls for fine conditions but fresh asphalt at Baku will provide a new learning curve to deal with this weekend.
With the revised Sprint race and its associated Sprint Shootout qualifying session taking up Saturday, the traditional qualifying session for Sunday's main race now takes place on Friday.
Going into the weekend, Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen leads the Drivers' Championship with 69 points. Fellow Red Bull driver Sergio Perez is second with 54 points, and Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso is third with 45 points. In the Constructors' Championship, Red Bull leads with 123 points, versus the 65 of Aston Martin and 56 of Mercedes-Benz AMG. Last year's winner of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix was Verstappen, driving for Red Bull.