The Baku City Circuit (Azerbaijani: Bakı Şəhər Halqası) is a motor racing street circuit located in Baku, Azerbaijan constructed near Baku Boulevard. A lap of the circuit is 6.003 kilometres (3.730 mi), making it the second-longest circuit on the Formula One calendar (after Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps). The inaugural Formula One race at the circuit was the 2016 European Grand Prix and its support events. A year later, in 2017, the circuit held the inaugural Azerbaijan Grand Prix. The event is organised by Baku City Circuit Operation Company (Azerbaijani: Bakı Şəhər Halqası Əməliyyat Şirkəti).
In December 2013, Formula One President and CEO Bernie Ecclestone suggested that the race would be run in 2016 but later said that because the Korean Grand Prix organisers were in breach of contract, it would be moved to 2015. However, in July 2014 it was announced that the race's debut would be delayed until 2016.
The six kilometre, anti-clockwise layout of the circuit was designed by circuit architect Hermann Tilke. The circuit was planned to start adjacent to Azadliq Square, then loop around Government House before heading west along a 1 km straight to the Palace of the Shirvanshahs and Maiden Tower. Here, the track was planned to have a narrow 7.6 m (25 ft) uphill traversal and then circle the Old City before opening up onto a 2.2 km (1.4 mi) stretch along Neftchilar Avenue back to the start line. The circuit was projected to be the fastest street circuit in the world, with a top speed close to 360 km/h and the second longest circuit on the current F1 calendar behind the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.
2016 European Grand Prix
The 2016 European Grand Prix was the inaugural event held on the Baku City Circuit. The hosting of the event was controversial because of Azerbaijan's poor human rights record, with ongoing imprisonment of political and human rights activists and journalists and bloggers who have criticised the regime. Many retirements were expected in the Formula 1 Grand Prix after the carnage of the GP2 Series support races, where over half of the drivers crashed or retired. It therefore came as a surprise when the only retirements, of which there were four, came as a result of mechanical failures. Mercedes's Nico Rosberg dominated the Grand Prix after qualifying on pole position the day before the race while Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel and Force India's Sergio Pérez finished second and third respectively to join him on the podium. Valtteri Bottas set a new unofficial Formula 1 top speed record in qualifying for the 2016 European Grand Prix when Williams claimed to have data showing him reaching 378 km/h (235 mph), eclipsing the previous record of 372 km/h (231 mph) set in 2005 by Juan Pablo Montoya for McLaren while testing at Autodromo Nazionale di Monza.
Pirelli found that 90% of the rear tyres used in free practice had been cut by the bolts securing kerbs to the ground not being drilled into the ground far enough, while Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg expressed concern over the lack of run-off areas which would be dangerous in the case of an incident such as a high speed puncture or mechanical failure. Valtteri Bottas was forced to miss the whole of Free Practice 3 when a drain cover came loose and caused significant damage to his Williams FW38. Many drivers praised the circuit for the challenge offered by its mixture of long straights, slow technical sections and no margin for error due to the proximity of the walls.
2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix
The inaugural Azerbaijan Grand Prix was held at the circuit on 25 June 2017. The race was a much more chaotic and exciting event than the previous year's race, and was widely regarded as the best race of 2017.[by whom?] The race was notable for Sebastian Vettel deliberately ramming into the side of Lewis Hamilton after accusing Hamilton of brake-checking him under the Safety Car. Vettel received a stop-go penalty for his actions, eventually finishing 4th, whilst Hamilton's headrest became loose while he was leading the race, which forced him to pit and eventually finish in 5th. Daniel Ricciardo won the race for Red Bull, with Valtteri Bottas finishing second despite being a lap down and last in the early stages of the race after colliding with Kimi Räikkönen on lap 1, and Lance Stroll taking a surprise podium for Williams despite being passed by Bottas on the run to the finish line.
2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix
The 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix was held in April 2018, brought forward to avoid clashing with the celebrations for the centenary of the Azerbaijan Republic. The race saw similar amounts of chaos and drama as the previous year's race, the most notable moments being the collision between Red Bull drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen on Lap 40, putting both out of the race, and Romain Grosjean crashing behind the resultant Safety Car period. Valtteri Bottas had taken the lead from Sebastian Vettel after pitting behind the Safety Car, and Vettel locked up whilst trying to overtake Bottas on the Safety Car restart, dropping him behind Hamilton, Räikkönen and Sergio Pérez into 5th place. Bottas, however, suffered a puncture the lap after the restart and was forced to retire from the race, meaning that Lewis Hamilton eventually took the race victory, ahead of Räikkönen in second and Pérez in 3rd.
- Lap record (race/official): Charles Leclerc – 1:43.009 (2019)
- Lap record (qualiflying/unofficial): Valtteri Bottas – 1:40.495 (2019)
- Rencken, Dieter; Barretto, Lawrence. "Baku F1 organisers close to submitting track layout to FIA". autosport.com. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
- "On F1 ticket sale Azerbaijan earned only 2% of racing costs in Baku center". abc.az. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
- Orujova, Nigar (30 October 2015). "Baku City Circuit unveils logo". Azernews. Retrieved 7 November 2015.
- "F1: Bernie Ecclestone confirms Azerbaijan to replace axed Korea". www.auto123.com. Retrieved 9 May 2014.
- "GP2 Series 2016 season calendar confirmed". gp2series.com. GP2 Motorsport Limited. 4 March 2016. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
- Prince, Max. "Korea out, Azerbaijan in for 2015 Formula 1 calendar". www.roadandtrack.com. Retrieved 9 May 2014.
- Smith, Luke. "Azerbaijan set to welcome Formula 1 in 2015; Korea scrapped". motorsportstalk.nbcsports.com. NBC. Retrieved 8 May 2014.
- Sylt, Christian. "Exclusive: Korean GP dropped to make way for race in Azerbaijan". www.independent.co.uk. The Independent. Retrieved 8 May 2014.
- "Formula 1 – Azerbaijan Grand Prix debut delayed until 2016". uk.eurosport.yahoo.com. Reuters. Retrieved 25 July 2014.
- "Azerbaijan layout unveiled for Baku European Grand Prix in 2016". formula1.com. Formula One Administration. 8 October 2014. Retrieved 9 October 2014.
- Азад Рагимов рассказал о примерной трассе бакинского этапа Формулы-1 [Azad Ragimov told about approximate track of Baku Formula 1 race] (in Russian). Retrieved 25 July 2014.
- "Baku will be the world's fastest street track – Tilke". autosport.com. Haymarket Publications. 24 March 2016. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
- Collantine, Keith. "Baku: Slow lap, high top speed – and very narrow". f1fanatic.co.uk. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
- "Baku will be 'world's fastest' street circuit". formula1.com. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
- "Azerbaijan". hrw.org. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
- "Giovinazzi wins dramatic Baku feature race – GP2 Series". gp2series.com. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
- "Giovinazzi doubles up in Baku – GP2 Series". gp2series.com. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
- "European Grand Prix, Azerbaijan – live: Nico Rosberg leads from start to finish to claim victory in Baku". The Telegraph. Retrieved 19 June 2016.
- "Opinion: "Crazy" Baku can be F1 gem despite dull debut". motorsport.com. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
- Ltd., Crash Media Group. "Kerbs caused cuts to '90 per cent of left-rear tyres' – F1 News". crash.net. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
- Ltd., Crash Media Group. "Bottas brands drain cover incident 'unacceptable' – F1 News". crash.net. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
- "What they say about... Baku City Circuit · F1 Fanatic". f1fanatic.co.uk. 17 June 2016. Retrieved 25 June 2016.