European Grand Prix Preview

Formula One’s back in Europe for the 2016 European Grand Prix.

Last held in Valencia in 2012, the European Grand Prix is back on the Formula One calendar, with Baku the new home of the race. The city streets of the Azerbaijan capital will make up a new six kilometre track, featuring unique aspects including a narrow run along the old town wall.

Although Azerbaijan is not a part of the European Union, the former Soviet state will play host to the European Grand Prix this weekend as the race moves to its sixth venue.

Previously, the race has been held in Britain, Germany and Spain with Valencia the most recent home. However the race around Valencia’s harbour and America’s cup area proved not to produce thrilling races and was dropped from the calendar after five years.

Now though, four years on, the European Grand Prix is back on the Formula One calendar. After Azerbaijan agreed a contract with Bernie Ecclestone to host a grand prix in its capital from this season.

Baku City Circuit - European Grand Prix - Turn 5 (Copyright @BakuCityCircuit)

Turn Five, European Grand Prix. (Copyright @BakuCityCircuit)

Tasked with designing the city circuit was regular Formula One track architect Hermann Tilke. Who explained to F1’s official website:

“There will be an extremely narrow uphill section at the old town wall that will reward pinpoint accuracy and courage,
“We have an acceleration section of almost 2.2 kilometres along the promenade which will see the cars running flat out at very high top speeds – something that will create an incredible spectacle for the race fans on track and the viewers at home.”

European GP - F1 Baku - Old town wall during test run (Copyright @BakuCityCircuit)

The old town wall, during a test run ahead of the European Grand Prix (Copyright @BakuCityCircuit)

As noted by Tilke, the city circuit features a long acceleration section where cars will be reaching close to their top speeds. On top of this, two DRS Zones will be used at the Baku City Circuit. With the first coming on the 730 metre approach to Turn 1, then followed by a 630m DRS zone on approach to Turn 3.

The long acceleration section and fast nature of the track should certainly favour the Mercedes powered outfits. With Ferrari’s, and the recently upgraded Renault, power unit also able to do well. Honda powered McLaren however may be facing a tough weekend due to their lack of power in comparison.

Williams on the other hand, coming on the back of a podium in Canada, could be chasing another strong result this weekend. With the long, fast straights playing to their car setup.

The same aspects can suggest Force India will be heading into the second part of Formula One’s double-header fortnight with hopes of a high points haul. Which could push them further away from the likes of McLaren and Toro Rosso in the Constructors’ Championship.

The narrow track however could cause overtaking to be minimal. With more emphasis put on qualifying and a perfect lap on Saturday.

Baku City Circuit Track Guide, European Grand Prix (Copyright Formula1.com)

Baku City Circuit Track Guide (Copyright Formula1.com)

As for the Drivers’ Championship standings, Lewis Hamilton could reduce the lead held by team-mate Nico Rosberg once more or even overtake his Silver Arrows stablemate with another victory.

On the back of taking the win in Monaco and Canada, Hamilton has reduced Rosberg’s once 43-point strong lead to just nine points with a further 13-rounds still remaining in the championship.

Hamilton has also pulled away from the likes of Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen, as the Mercedes duo sit atop the championship with a slender lead over the two constructors battling it out to be Mercedes’ main threat.

Pit straight and Paddock, European Grand Prix (Copyright @BakuCityCircuit)

Pit straight and Paddock, European Grand Prix (Copyright @BakuCityCircuit)

If Hamilton does claim his third victory in 2016 this weekend, the smallest lead Rosberg will hold over Lewis will be just two points come the end of the weekend.

Hamilton, and his fellow Formula One drivers, though will have to adapt to the newest circuit on the F1 calendar. With however settles in the fastest, certainly carrying an advantage throughout the weekend.

A Hamilton win will also place his name on the list of European Grand Prix winners, with only Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel from the current field making that list.

DRS zone, European Grand Prix (Copyright @BakuCityCircuit)

DRS zone, European Grand Prix (Copyright @BakuCityCircuit)

With the Baku City Circuit being a new track, the grip levels will be low at first but should rubber in over the course of the weekend.

The fresh asphalt also means low levels of degradation are expected by Pirelli, leading many teams to opt for aggressive tyre selections. Suggesting the white-walled mediums are unlikely to feature extensively.

Tyres selected for the European GP. (Copyright Pirelli)

Tyres selected for the European GP. (Copyright Pirelli)

In motorsport this weekend, the 24 Hours of Le Mans will also be underway. With the greatest endurance race on the planet clashing with Formula One for the first time since 2011.

Clashes between Formula One and Le Mans are made with qualifying for the European Grand Prix, as it clashes with the first hour of the Le Mans. While the European Grand Prix itself will clash with the chequered flag of the 24-hour race.

Formula One also clashes on Saturday with the European football championship, with the Euro 2016 tie between Belgium and the Republic of Ireland clashing with qualifying. While race day has no football clashes.

Further sporting clashes also occur on Friday, with the second free practice session around the Baku circuit clashing with Royal Ascot. As a result, Channel 4’s live coverage of the practice session has been moved to More4.

Full UK TV coverage of the European Grand Prix is as follows:

Wednesday June 15
20:30 – F1 Report: European GP Preview

Thursday June 16
12:00 – Drivers’ Press Conference – Live
20:45 – Paddock Uncut

Friday June 17
08:00 – GP2 Practice
09:45 – European GP Practice 1 – Live
09:55 –European GP Practice 1 (Channel 4)
11:50 – GP2 Qualifying
13:45 – European GP Practice 2 – Live
13:55 – European GP Practice 2 (More4)
16:00 – Team Principals’ Press Conference – Live
16:30 – The F1 Show – Live

Saturday June 18
09:00 – GP2 Race 1
10:45 – European GP Practice 3 – Live
10:55 – European GP Practice 3 (Channel 4)
13:00 – European GP Qualifying – Build-up – Live
13:00 – European GP Qualifying (Channel 4)
14:00 – European GP Qualifying – Session – Live (SSF1 & C4)
19:40 – Ted’s Qualifying Notebook

Sunday June 19
10:55 – GP2 Race 2
12:30 – The 2016 European GP – Track Parade – Live
13:00 – The 2016 European GP – Build-up (Channel 4)
13:00 – The 2016 European GP – Pit lane – Live
14:00 – The 2016 European GP – Race – Live (SSF1 & C4)
16:30 – The 2016 European GP – Paddock Live
18:45 – The 2016 European GP – Highlights
19:45 – Ted’s Race Notebook
23:25 – The 2016 European GP – Highlights (Channel 4)

Times listed above are for Sky Sports F1 unless stated.
Times for the 24 Hours of Le Mans can be found here.