Azerbaijan Grand Prix

The very first Grand Prix in Baku was held in 2016, as the European Grand Prix. Then after a year, in 2017, the circuit held the inaugural Azerbaijan Grand Prix. The event was organized by Baku City Circuit Operation Company. It was which witnessed one of the biggest upsets of the season, with Daniel Ricciardo winning out from Valtteri Bottas and the Williams of Lance Stroll, while Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel engaged in some disputes behind the Safety Car.

What does the Azerbaijan Grand Prix Circuit look like?

The Baku City Circuit is a motor racing street circuit located in Baku, Azerbaijan constructed near Baku Boulevard. It was designed by Hermann Tilke, who has been responsible for laying out so many of F1’s newest tracks.  A lap of the circuit is 6.003 kilometers (3.730 mi), making it the second-longest circuit on the Formula One calendar, next to Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belguim. The inaugural Formula One race at the circuit was the 2016 European Grand Prix and its support events.

A mixture of wide and open and tight and twisty. The long main straight along the Baku shoreline is a slipstreaming mecca, and with cars able to run three abreast into Turn 1, the action often looks more IndyCar than F1. However, from there, the track loops around into the city’s narrow, winding Icheri Sheher old town, dramatically wending past Baku’s medieval city walls. As in Monaco, slightest mistakes are punished quickly and severely, while set-up wise, the teams are forced to choose between downforce for the twisty bits and less drag for the straight.

Who are the winners of Azerbaijan Grand Prix?

Inaugurated only in 2017, this is the youngest Grand Prix to be a part of the European Formula One calendar. There were only three races that were held in this circuit and the winners are: Daniel Ricciardo, Australia (2017); Lewis Hamilton, UK (2018); and Valtteri Bottas, Finland (2019).

What are the Azerbaijan Grand Prix Highlights/Memorable moments?

The first race in 2016 was won by Nico Rosberg, who completed his second ‘F1 grand slam’ by also taking pole and fastest lap. Sebastian Vettel finished second for Ferrari and Sergio Perez was able to completed the podium. Lewis Hamilton had ‘power deployment’ issues and could do no better than fifth. The race was one of the least eventful of 2016, with little in the way of passing and just four retirements, all mechanical.

Advertisements

The 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix was arguably the best race of the season, featuring several safety car periods, infamous crashes – including between team-mates! – and a fine win in the end from Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo. Ricciardo’s three-car pass into the first corner was judged the best overtake of the year, on his way to winning the race from tenth on the grid. Valtteri Bottas overtook Lance Stroll on the finish line for second place, while Stroll himself took the first podium finish of his career.

The 2017 event has witnessed Sebastian Vettel’s frustration under the Safety Car period, after he infamously drove into the side of championship rival Lewis Hamilton. Vettel was given a ten second stop/go penalty for the incident, and losing the race.

The race happened again in 2018, and it was another one of the most memorable races of the year. A first lap coming together shunted Esteban Ocon out of the race, while Fernando Alonso made a miraculous return to the pits with a double puncture. The Red Bull drivers battled hard throughout the race, but their race ended in disaster as they came together at the end of the straight. While Romain Grosjean managed to crash under Safety Car conditions, Sebastian Vettel locked up into the first turn at the restart, handing the lead to Valtteri Bottas. Bottas ran over debris with just a few laps remaining, giving him a puncture and leaving Lewis Hamilton to take a fortuitous victory.

Where is the best place to watch the Azerbaijan GP?

The Absheron grandstand is a fairly standard main grandstand that offer a scenic view of Baku’s long, 2.2km main straight. This is often the scene of much action during races. With an epic slipstream and DRS, it is not unusual to see passes for position happen here, sometimes even seeing 3 or 4 cars shoulder-to-shoulder.

Of course there are the usual perks too like having a view into the pitlane, watching the start and the post-race interviews and podium celebration, of course. It is also closest to the main off-track entertainment and refreshments area.

The principal Absheron grandstand at the end of the main straight should be high up on your viewing wish-list, as you’ll be watching the cars braking from around 350km/h into the 90-degree Turn 1 – and you’ll likely get to watch the lion’s share of overtaking too.

The Icheri Sheher grandstand provides a unique viewing point, as you watch the cars race through the city gate section and power on down to the super-fast Turn 13-15 complex.

Another place to consider is the AzNeft grandstand, with its glorious backdrop – a touch of Baku’s finest classic and modern architecture, is located on the exterior of the track at one of the many 90 degree corners of the Baku Street Circuit.

In the left portion of the stand are the best seats for the best view of the approach on the short preceding straight. If you’ll be in the farther right, what you’ll see is brief view of the nose of the cars before they turn their backs to you and accelerate towards the Maiden Tower and the long main straight.

Left or right side, getting a seat higher up in the grandstand means you’ll have a clear view over the catch fencing. The perfectly positioned screen at the apex of the corner helps a lot in looking back and forth between screen and the track. It will greatly reduce the possibility of having a stiff neck.

A good choice of grandstand for ones who are tight on buget is the Filarmonia grandstand that is located on the interior of the track at turn 16. This is an excellent viewing point to see the incredible breaking maneuvers of a modern Formula 1 car. Overtaking action is possible to happen here.

If you want to avoid being irritated by catch fencing, then refrain from sitting in the lower rows. Try to get a seat at least mid-way up the grandstand for a better view.

Directly opposite the Khazar grandstand is the Bulvar grandstand that has the momentous atmosphere that comes from having a sea of F1 fans either side of the track.

The view here might be a disappointment as it is one of the view at the circuit with cars flashing past you so fast that you might as well have stayed at home. This grandstand is not worth the price of the ticket and even if someone offers you money to sit here, you should think about it carefully because it might ruin your game-day mood. Three words, avoid this grandstand.

Placed opposite Baku’s famous Maiden Tower is not an exceptional vantage point by any means but can somehow be said that it is better than some. The view here is of a high speed, flat-out kink that feeds onto the main straight. Unfortunately, the view of the straight is partially blocked by trees. The large TV screen that faces the grandstand will alleviate the situation and will save the day.

Advertisements

The Icheri Sheher grandstand and its iconic backdrop of the fortress walls and the cherry on top, sells out fast and for good reason. It’s a spectacular view of the cars as the drivers’ drift right, towards the stand in a bid to make the upcoming turn 10 as straight as possible. Then be awed at how close the drivers get to clipping the inside barrier at the corner’s apex before stepping on the loud peddle and roaring away around the Old City.

The iconic scenery of the fortress walls will surely make those Instagram photos look stunning.

Another grandstand at the point where the Formula One cars pass each other in opposite directions at what is ordinarily a dual carriageway is the Mugham Grandstand.

Right in front of the grandstand is the main straight and beyond that, though not far away is the short burst of a straight between turns 6 and 7 and you’ll be able to make out the cars exiting and entering these corners.

There is some fencing in your view but nothing too distracting and for everything you can’t see there is a TV large screen opposite.

The Sahil grandstand lies along the long main straight just opposite the turn 5 and 6 chicane and this grandstand is just beside Bulvar. It’s really far from the view of the action. Though on the ‘other side’ of the track, the view is quite clear and because the main straight is inches away from you, quite close as well. Now, thanks to the giant screen that makes keeping up with what’s going on even easier.

Where to stay for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku?

The Azerbaijan Grand Prix is a street race in the center of the city and it means that you’ll have the best experience staying downtown. There’s a great selection of hostels, apartments and hotels to choose from in Baku. This it’s not the biggest city, so it means that you’ll need to book early to get the best hotels at the most affordable prices. Don’t disregard staying outside the city center if you want to save some money – it’s wise to save more money. Baku is well served by public transport, including a metro system. You may consider these places to stay during your visit to Baku:

Salam Hostel Baku offers free WiFi connection and cooking facilities. You’ll be located near the Bulvar and walking distance to the circuit. Dorm bed costs for €13 per night;

The Centrum Hostel is 300 meters from Fountain Square with on-site bar. Bunk bed in mixed dormitory costs €10 per night.

Another one is the Main Street Hostel. The place boasts iPad docking and flat screen TVs in bedrooms; Bunk bed in mixed dormitory is €7 per night. Private rooms are also available in the Hostel.

Hasanovs Villa features a Garden, a shared living room and a shared kitchen. Triple room is €32 per night including breakfast.

Swan Hotel is just walking distance to the circuit – Yes! Just like Salam Hostel, and many of the city’s best sites; Double room is €82 per night.

Old Castle Boutique Hotel is a well-rated 4-star hotel within walking distance of the track. Double room rates starts at €95 per night with breakfast

The Grand Hotel Europe is a vintage themed 5-star hotel with great views and outdoor swimming pool. Deluxe double room costs €135 per night including breakfast.

Now, if you have some budget, Ramada Baku Hotel offers private beach, rooms with minibar & flat screen TVs. Standard twin room is €212 per night with breakfast. And last but not the least;

Winter Park Hotel – Staying in style. This is just within walking distance of the circuit. Standard double with breakfast cost starts at the rate of €355 per night.

What to prepare as Travel Basics when going to Azerbaijan Grand Prix? (Safety, Money, the Culture and the weather)

Bakuis located on the Caspian Sea andthe city is divided into three main places – the ancient city, the soviet-built section, and the newestbuilt center that makes it a fascinating tourist destination bursting with history and culture. Baku is more than just being an F1 destination.  It’s best to try and allow a few days for sightseeing to feel the whole place and maximize your presence in the city. Its recent placement on the F1 calendar has seen Baku suddenly placed into the world’s consciousness: a city where Stalin-era architecture is rapidly giving way to skyscrapers and dazzling glass structures reminiscent of Dubai. Before going to the Grand Prix, be sure to consider having a tour.

In terms of safety, Baku is not a dangerous city. Exercising common sense is an essence just as you would whilst travelling in any foreign city. It should give you a better touring time in the city. The most significant issue for tourists is probably driving in Baku, since many road users fail to stick to the speed limits. Always bear in mind that the government in Azerbaijan is known to be strict and authoritarian, so avoid any form of criticism in public.

Money of course is important. The Azerbaijani currency is the manat (AZN), which is divided into 100 qəpik. To give you a little background, manat lost a third of its value against international currencies when the government removed a peg to the US dollar toward the end of 2015. This is of course not a news for the average Azerbaijani, but definitely a good news for international tourists going to the Grand Prix. ATMs are scattered all over the city, especially near metro stations.

As for their language & Culture, you can get by with English all over Baku, especially in shops, hotels, bars and restaurants. You’ll be equally comfortable talking Russian in Azerbaijan, but we’d strongly advise getting hold of an Azeri phrasebook or app before you arrive there. Turkish is another language that most Azerbaijanis can understand, so if you know a little Turkish, try it out slowly and see how you go.

Typically, Baku enjoys a Mediterranean climate, which means an average temperature of 14˚C (57°F) with hot summers and wet, windy winters. For 2020, the Azerbaijan Grand Prix moves back from late April to early June so you can expect hotter weather. The average daytime temperatures should be above 20˚C (70°F) and around half of this at night. But, don’t forget to pack a few warmer clothes, just in case.

These are some bite-sized “Need-to-know” facts before go:

  • The time zone in Baku is GMT +4
  • Tap water in Baku is not considered safe for human consumption; bottled water is readily available and affordable.
  • You drive on the right-hand side of the road in Azerbaijan.
  • The country telephone code for Azerbaijan is +994.
  • In case of a general emergency, call the general emergency line on 112. Be informed that you will need to speak Azeri, Russian or Turkish, so keep a phrase book handy at all times.
  • Azerbaijan uses type C and F power sockets, just like the rest of Europe. Bring an adaptor if you are coming from the UK, USA or Australia.

Are there off-track activities in Baku – Azerbaijan Grand Prix?

Of course there’s a lot, it’s a tourist destination. There are so many things to experience in the city during your two to three days stay in the city. The streets around the city offers a very exciting line of foods to try while you are enjoying the Mediterranean atmosphere. You’ll find the streets selling the famous Turkish-style kebabs and the irresistible aroma of Persian flavors that comes from nearby restaurants and cafes all over the city. And yes, for our health conscious friends out there, they serve pomegranate salads alongside with flavored rice. Caspian Sea caviar, Azerbaijan’s most famous local produce, and a black tea of choice with fruit preserves as an accompaniment makes everything perfect. You should be able to maximize your tour by seeing the following places:

Old City Walls – this walls embrace the 12th century World Heritage Site which is the Shirvanshah’s Palace and the Maiden Tower. Shirvanshah’s Palace is a stunning work of medieval architecture and craftsmanship with a complex of tombs, mausoleums and bath houses, with its domes sitting high on the city’s highest hill. The Maiden Tower is 29m tall and its walls are up to 5m thick. This tower serves a dual purpose. It is also a museum with an entry fee of 8 AZN (€4.27 EUR). Don’t miss the chance to climb up its top for breathtaking views of the city and the Caspian Sea!

Bulvar – This is how they call the esplanade (or boulevard) which embraces the city’s coastline along the harbor. A visit to this place is a must do if you want to complete your city tour. This place is really popular among the locals and tourists. There’s a lot to experience, including a pass to ‘Little Venice’ with gondolas and shallow waterways dating from the 1960s. Moreover, it offers good views of some of the city’s landmarks (including the imposing Government House and the Flame Towers). You’ll also have lots of choices to sit and eat!

The Azerbaijan Carpet Museum is located at the city’s seafront park that shares the world’s biggest collection of Azerbaijani carpets and rug items. With the most imaginative facade (its huge roof looking lot like a giant rolled up Persian carpet) and an everyday actual carpet making demonstrations, will give definitely give your travel a lot of fun.

Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center – This curvy landmark is yet another incredible work of contemporary architecture designed by Zaha Hadid. Appreciate the Azeri cultural exhibition at the price of 15 AZN (€8) and check out the popular miniatures of Azerbaijani buildings. Don’t forget to get yourself a selfie at the towering ‘I Love Baku’ sign. There’s also a Classic Car Exhibition on the 3rd floor from Friday to Sunday with tickets priced at 10 AZN, €5.30. It’s best to buy the tickets in advance from their website.

Enjoy a breath of fresh air at the town square in central Baku. This spot is great for capturing the best of nature and strolling around really is refreshing. You also get to see a number of Soviet-style water fountains, statues and works of art surrounded by street side bars and cafes.

Caspian Cruises – Witness the stunning view of the city and the iconic Flame Towers by taking a 30-minute trip from Baku’s main harbor. However, there aren’t any food establishments nor audio guide on the ship but tickets are sold at a very affordable price – 2 AZN per passenger.

How to get to Baku for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix?

Frankly speaking, it’s not actually that easy for most international fans to get to Baku for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, just like the other most recent addition to the F1 calendar. The city is well connected with ex-Soviet states, but flights from Western Europe or the USA is very limited. But once landed on the ground, it’s a lot easier! Great thing that the Baku City Circuit is centrally located and easy to reach from most parts of the city. It’s always best to stay downtown within walking distance if possible.

Getting to Baku, Azerbaijan by plane

Heydar Aliyev International Airport (GYD) is Baku’s main airport. This is 20 km from Baku city center and served by major airlines including Azerbaijan Airlines (AZAL), Aeroflot, Turkish Airlines, Lufthansa and Qatar Airways. Aeroflot is probably the best option for getting to Baku from Europe, with affordable and handful flights transferring through Moscow every day. Discount airline Wizz Air also has direct flights from Budapest, but they are not so frequent just like what was previously mentioned airlines.

If you will be flying from Europe, you should expect to pay from €300-600 return with flight times averaging 3-6 hours. Direct routes include Wizz Air from Budapest, Lufthansa from Frankfurt, Aeroflot from Moscow-Sheremetyevo and Azerbaijan Airlines from Berlin, London, Paris & Prague.

Flying from USA costs from $800-1500 USD with flight times from 11 hours (direct) up to more than 24 hours (2 stops). Direct flights with Azerbaijan Airlines from New York or cheaper deals with Turkish Airlines (via Istanbul) and Aeroflot (via Moscow).

Now if you will be coming from some other place, other notable connections to Baku include Dubai (flydubai, 3 hours), Qatar (Qatar Airways, also 3 hours), Tbilisi in Georgia (Azerbaijan Airlines, 1 hour) and many other cities in the region.

From Baku Airport to the city

Baku offers an abundant public transport so you can avoid taking a taxi ride altogether if you so wish. An express minibus shuttles tourists from the airport to the city every half hour and is very affordable, though taxi drivers will insist that the service no longer runs. Pro tip for saving some pennies: it does – just ask airport staff if you’re unsure where to catch the bus from. Alternatively, you may head for Koroglu station which is the closest metro stop to the airport. You may need to ride a taxi to Koroglu station but there is no need to take a taxi all the way to your hotel as the metro system is clean, modern and efficient. If you chose to take a taxi all the way, bargain (politely) for your price before you ride, as the first price quotes will undoubtedly be inflated several times over…the fare should cost around 25 AZN ($15 USD).

Strolling around in Baku

Because Baku’s F1 race track is a street circuit in the city center, then you’ll likely to travel to and from your selected grandstands or vantage point on foot, by metro or by bus. Public transport in Baku had boosted up last year for the Grand Prix weekend to operate for 20 hours per day. Buses ran frequently as every three minutes to certain points on the circuit. Metro stations 28th May, Sahil and Icheri Sheher are all within walking distance of the track. Metro and bus tickets cost just 0.30 AZN per journey in Baku. For the metro, you must get yourself a BakuCard and load it with credit like a normal metro pass or Oyster card.