Azerbaijan is in Europe. Probably a question most F1 fans were asking when it was first announced as the European Grand Prix for 2016. The setting – a street circuit around the old town of Baku, replete with fortress walls – had a character and charm all of its own.
Facades of lavish European buildings, glowing golden in the late afternoon sun made a stunning backdrop, but the processional racing in the inaugural Grand Prix failed to deliver a memorable event.
Aptly renamed the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, the race in 2017 was one of the most dramatic in the season, and like the circuit, filled with twists and turns. Motor racing purists were happy too – despite being impossibly narrow in places overtaking is common here.
The unusually long 2.2km main straight, sees cars going three or four abreast and elsewhere on the track its not uncommon for cars to duel for position, inches from the barriers. I’m no fan of street circuits but Baku is an example of a street circuit done well.
Perhaps the only downside for spectators at the track is that the frequent thrills and spills can mean long periods under the safety car, a problem compounded by having some of the slowest marshaling in F1. Organisers could learn a thing or two from Monaco.
Azerbaijan itself is a conservative culture and not the destination of choice for nightlife and partying. Baku is the perfect Formula 1 getaway for lovers and culture lovers alike. Amongst gorgeous architecture, old and new, there are tree lined boulevards, exclusive boutiques and sprawling bazaars to be explored. In the evening, hugging the shimmering Caspian Sea, the promenade begs to be walked.
If you’re looking for an F1 trip that promises exciting racing and an exotic destination at an affordable price, Baku could be for you.
Azerbaijan Grand Prix F1 Spectator Tips
- Take advantage of the free shuttle bus to and from the nightly concert for F1 fans.
- Read up about do’s and don’t before you go – for instance taking pictures of certain government buildings can land you in hot water.
- Azerbaijan is famous for its hand woven carpets. Have fun haggling for one at Icheri Sheher (Old City) shops.
Quick Facts and must-have Information
|Language||Azerbaijani, though Russian is common too.|
Move over Chicago, Baku was the original windy city, the name meaning literally ‘city where the wind blows’. Rain is uncommon at this time of year but it can get cold sitting still in the grandstands. Fun fact: the average annual temperature of Baku is equal to the global average temperature.