Pirelli Europe Grand Prix Preview
Formula One visits its first all-new country since Russia in 2014 (the 32nd country the championship has been to since 1950) when the European Grand Prix is held in Baku, Azerbaijan.
The last European Grand Prix was actually held four years ago, in Valencia (where it was also the eighth race of the season). Fernando Alonso won for Ferrari from 11th on the grid.
Baku is meant to be the fastest street circuit seen so far with very high top speeds expected on the long 2.2-kilometre straight along the esplanade. Baku will also be the second-longest lap of the year (6.003km) after Spa.
Pirelli has nominated the medium, soft and supersoft tires. As is always the case with a brand new venue, Pirelli has had to rely on simulation and acquired information rather than real data, which makes the task of nominating tires more complex. As this is a street circuit, with new asphalt, low grip and high track evolution is expected. It is estimated that wear and degradation might be quite low, which is why a medium spectrum of tires is chosen.
As teams have no knowledge of the track, we would expect a lot of running in free practice. Overtaking is tricky with a narrow track, which means that qualifying and strategy is vital.
THE THREE NOMINATED COMPOUNDS:
• White medium: this has not been extensively chosen, so unlikely to figure prominently.
• Yellow soft: a high working range tire, which could make it very important in the heat of Baku.
• Red supersoft: the most popular choice, which will be used heavily in qualifying and the race.
PAUL HEMBERY, PIRELLI MOTORSPORT DIRECTOR:
“We’ve heard lots of interesting things about the circuit, and it seems that its character, lap length, and speed will certainly make it stand out. Obviously it’s never easy when you go to a circuit for the first time, but the conditions and the tires are of course as always the same for everyone. The selection of compounds we have nominated should cope with a wide range of potential conditions; now of course it is down to the teams to get the most out of their choices and to identify the best possible strategies, which is why the running we see in free practice will be particularly important.”
OTHER THINGS THAT HAVE CAUGHT OUR EYE RECENTLY:
• There hasn’t been an exceptional variation in the tire choices from each team for Baku.
• Weather forecasts have predicted warm weather but also high humidity: rain is possible.
• While the circuit uses existing streets, a lot of the surface is brand new asphalt.
• Baku will have a later start than normal: the grand prix begins at 17:00, for a total of 51 laps.