Scuderia Ferrari go into the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on the back of a nightmare Monaco Grand Prix, after a strategic error saw Charles Leclerc miss out on victory at his home circuit.
Ferrari’s confusion resulted in them falling further behind Oracle Red Bull Racing in the Constructors’ championship, heading into a weekend which should suit their rivals better.
The Baku City Circuit has produced some enthralling races in the past, with this weekend’s looking set to be another unpredictable classic. Ferrari will most likely be up against it in Baku, with the 2.22km main straight playing right into Red Bull’s hands.
Leclerc will be wanting to get himself back into the lead of the Drivers’ championship, whereas Carlos Sainz Jr will be hoping to draw himself into the title fight.
Nicola Bariselli, Ferrari’s PU Track Operations Manager, explained what type of circuit Baku is ahead of the weekend.
“Baku is a street circuit but unlike any other. It is definitely atypical because in addition to the expected 90 degree corners, it also has a very low speed section, as well as particularly long straights. In fact this track has one of the longest straights of the season. It is demanding for the drivers, but Carlos, and Charles in particular, both like racing here.”
The 2.22km main straight will put enormous strain and pressure on the team’s power units, with Bariselli being fully aware that the PU’s have to be “versatile” around the venue.
“Because the nature of the circuit means the power unit has to be versatile. The driver wants it to be nicely driveable in the tight and slow sections without however wasting energy, as it’s essential to be able to deploy it down the long straights. Outright power is also essential, especially when it comes to acceleration out of the many low speed corners, when going for a quick lap in qualifying as well as during the race”.
One of the biggest issues that teams tend to suffer from in Baku is how windy it can get in the city, drivers are known to have complained about this in the past as they have to react to any sudden gust. It can also cause trouble in Qualifying, as Bariselli delved into.
“The ambient conditions have a significant effect on optimising the car-power unit package. The changes in intensity and direction of the wind in particular can produce different operating conditions in terms of speed through the corners, which therefore impact torque and gear ratio settings and time spent on the straight. It’s clear that a tailwind or headwind down the last straight can have an effect of several tenths of a second”.