Going to a new event gives both a buzz and an opportunity. For the race team, it’s a chance to take advantage of a more level playing field. One of our core strengths is the ability to adapt quickly and interpret data quickly and efficiently, both of which are key when visiting new tracks. Given our recent results, I don’t want to state expectations, but clearly we want to use our ace cards to maximise any opportunities that come our way. In parallel, we need to remain vigilant on all aspects of reliability. As we saw in Canada we are not yet consistent on all fronts so we need to work on this to fully capitalise.

Cyril Abiteboul, managing director


Long hard slog


Racing Director Fred Vasseur gets hot under the collar for Baku


What’s your assessment of the Canadian Grand Prix?

It was cold and our performance on track certainly didn’t leave us with a warm feeling. It was a difficult weekend; Kevin crashed in FP3 and consequently missed qualifying and we had to retire Jolyon from the race. That’s not the sort of race weekends that dreams are made of.


The team has seen two chassis broken in the last two races; what’s the impact of this?

It means the crew at the track and the team back at Enstone are kept very busy! It’s certainly a challenging schedule with three consecutive street races and we’ve shown how unsympathetic walls can be. Kevin’s Canadian chassis did not get too badly damaged so we’ll see it as the spare in Baku. Jolyon’s Monaco chassis was rather more damaged so we won’t see that one again. This is the nature of motor racing and our composites department is being kept busy. Fortunately neither driver suffered any ill from either of their impacts which illustrates the strength of the modern Formula 1 car.


Has performance been to expectation?

We knew we weren’t going to set the world alight given the late start to this project and we are in Formula 1 for the long term. That said, we certainly haven’t seen the results go our way in the last few races. In order to get the results we need to finish, that’s one thing. And in order to extract the maximum performance from the car we have we need to have a smooth run over the weekend. It’s true we haven’t seen that in the last few races. On the positive side, we’ve seen the potential of the B specification power unit and we have been making progress with the car. We have a decent amount of upgrades being worked on at our factories and we’re looking to extract the maximum from every opportunity. We’re all highly motivated.


What do you want to see in Baku?

After the cold of Canada I’m looking forward to seeing the sun! Warm temperatures will not only put a smile on our faces, they should also help our car to work better with the tyres which is an essential ingredient to a race weekend. It would be good to have a race weekend without a broken chassis and what we really would like is some points. That’s what we’re aiming for.



New opportunities at a hot new venue


Technical director Nick Chester looks forward to visiting the land of fire.


What can we do to prepare for a new circuit? 

We use a map of the circuit and overlay a racing line and from there we perform all our simulations for downforce and drag levels. From this we can calculate some elements for set-up.


We also usually receive track surface information from Pirelli who do a ranking of what the surface is like in terms of macro and micro roughness, which also helps our understanding of how the tyres will work.


What are the particular challenges of Baku?

It looks a very power-sensitive track with a lot of sharp corners and then decent straights, particularly the long one leading back to the start/finish line. Traction will also be very important out of the slower speed corners. We will discover the track in real time for the first time during our trackwalk on Thursday and see if there are any bumps and kerbs to look out for.


Where are we with our hunger for chassis?

Indeed, we have been a bit hungry… Kevin’s chassis was damaged on Saturday morning in Canada and came back to the UK on Monday for repair. We are reviewing the damage but I am sure we will see it again for race action later in the season.


How do you assess how extensive the damage is?

A visual assessment is a first stop, but beyond that we use a process called ultrasonic testing (NDT), which shows precisely which parts might have de-bonded, to enable us to determine how extensive the damage is and if it can be repaired or consigned to recycling.


Why did we struggle in Canada?

We struggled making the tyres work in the very cool track temperatures; we struggled a bit in low speed corners and Kevin didn’t get a great run in the race, unfortunately. Jolyon was also unfortunate as he suffered from a water leak. We’ve identified what caused this and are doing everything possible to ensure we don’t see a repeat of this. It was a real shame for Jolyon as he was happy with his car and should have gone well.


What are the positives heading to Baku?

The weather forecast is good for Baku with hot temperatures so we shouldn’t face as much of a challenge getting the tyres into the temperature operating range. That said, it’s a new surface where there will be a lot of evolution over the weekend so we’ll have our work cut out nevertheless. There are a lot of walls we will want to stay clear of, that’s for sure! A new venue offers new opportunities. We have a strong baseline set-up and both cars have the B specification power unit so we’re certainly looking forward to getting stuck in.



Fighting back

After starting at the back in Canada, Kevin Magnussen is focused on a better race weekend in Baku.

What’s the focus for Baku?

A strong result would be nice. The Canadian Grand Prix wasn’t a good one for us so let’s get back to a solid performance. We’ve been making progress, even if it might not look like it from the outside, and I’m looking forward to learning a new track.


What are your thoughts on the Baku track?

That’s a big long straight! It’s going to be interesting. It’s a long track for a street course and there’s quite a few interesting aspects about it. There’s a really tight section which is going to be an eye opener the first time round and we don’t yet know about things like the track surface, kerbs or bumps. There are a lot of walls there too. I’ll be looking to stay away from those.


How would you assess your Canadian Grand Prix?

It was a difficult one. Obviously, my weekend was undone when I hit the wall in FP3 and I had to thank all my crew for working so hard to get the spare chassis ready for the race. The race itself was pretty unfulfilling. We started on the soft tyres and initially we were looking pretty reasonable. When we changed to the ultrasofts we weren’t able to find the pace we wanted so it was a hard second stint.


What’s the approach to Baku? 

There’s only so much preparation work you can do before you actually see the track, and there’s only so much you can do at the track before you get out there in the car and drive it. I’ll be working hard with my engineers to get the best set-up we can then let’s see what we can do.


Video Game Homework


Jolyon Palmer is set for new challenges on the streets of Baku


How have you prepared for Baku?

It’s a brand new track so we don’t have it on the simulator, so I’ve done a few laps on the F1 game! So I’ve had a little look in advance! My engineers have done their homework but the first real impression will be made when we’re doing the track walk then getting laps on the Friday to learn the circuit. It’ll be the same for everyone.


What are your first impressions of the circuit?

I think it looks a cool track, there’s some high speed sections – especially for a street circuit – and overtaking is a possibility. The crazy middle sector looks difficult with its undulation and the sector looks very tight. Any mistakes on a street circuit tend to mean you’re into the wall, so you have to be alert.


It’s looking hot in Azerbaijan; will you notice that in the car?

Heat could play a factor for sure, and you do notice it in the car. We’ve not really had a very hot race as Bahrain was under the lights, and therefore cooler. On a street circuit it’s hotter anyway because you’re more sheltered so it’ll be tough racing for the car and the drivers. Anyway, after the weather in Canada I’m looking forward to some heat!


What are the positives to take to Baku from Montréal?

We made a step forward with the car, but some better luck and finishes would be good now. I’m happy with the progress being made for the rest of the season. Okay, I can’t be happy at not finishing in Montréal, but the new engine is a step forward and it’s worth a lot of time. The team are pushing hard, we’re finding stuff on the car and the engine is working well. There’s a little pain now, but I’m sure we’ll be looking better for going through it.


Tyre facts

Medium: Pilaf rice. Nourishing and long lasting.


Soft: A shish kebab; lots of meat, lots of energy, takes an age to eat.


Supersoft: The kutab of the range. Azerbaijani fast food – cooked quickly, it nevertheless leaves a lingering taste.


Power Unit facts

Baku is the most power sensitive track of the year so far, even more so than Montreal. Any extra power will make a noticeable impact on lap time owing to the long periods of wide open throttle.


Around 55% of the track will be at wide open throttle. The majority of the last sector will be flat out, from Turn 16 to the braking point for Turn 1. Drivers will be on the throttle for a total of 22secs through this sector.


Baku is on the limit for fuel usage. It is expected that drivers will have to incorporate around 2% fuel saving to stay within the 100kg limit. Canada was in the region of 6%.


The driver will be on the brakes for approximately 20% of the lap, giving the energy recovery systems ample opportunity to recharge the battery.


The track is middle of the road for downforce levels, making cornering speeds approximately equivalent to Sochi (around 100 – 150kph).


Lap time expected to be around 1min 42secs in qualifying and an average of 1min 45secs in the race.


Quirky facts

Azerbaijan is called a ‘Land of Fire’. There are many reasons for this: The first known fireplace and construction in human history, which is dated back from 700,000 to 500,000 years ago, was discovered in Azikh Cave, the largest cave in Azerbaijan.

Baku is located 28 metres (92 ft) below sea level, which makes it the lowest lying national capital in the world and also the largest city in the world located below sea level.

Baku’s nickname is the ‘City of Winds’. The name Baku derives from the Persian for wind pounded.

Former chess Grandmaster Garry Kasparov was born in Baku and attended chess school there.

Forty percent of the country is covered by mountains.

There are 8,350 rivers in Azerbaijan, which all drain into the Caspian Sea.


Azerbaijan won the Eurovision song contest in 2011. It has finished in the top 10 in six of the nine contests it has entered.


What we’ve been up to…

With Canada and Baku being back to back races, the race team flew straight from Montreal to Baku on the Monday after the race on a shared Formula 1 charter. The freight is also taken on F1 cargo for the 8,900km journey.


Renault Sport Academy drivers Jack Aitken, Kevin Joerg and Louis Delétraz are undertaking outside physical training sessions this week around Enstone, so enjoying the delights of the British summer. Sun Yue Yuang – who recently had a P4 in Qualifying Heat 1 and P6 in the Pre-Final of the CIK-FIA European Karting Championship Round 2 in Adria, Italy – is busy with preparations for the next round in Portimao, Portugal.

RSA driver Oliver Rowland will compete in the inaugural Baku GP2 race this weekend where he is joined on track by Formula 1 team test drivers Sergey Sirotkin and Nicholas Latifi.


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