2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix – Preview
THE TYRES ON TRACK
- For the unique Baku City Circuit, which combines the complexity of Monaco with the speeds of Monza, Pirelli has brought the three softest tyres in its range: the C3 as the P Zero White hard, C4 as the P Zero Yellow medium, and C5 as P Zero Red soft. This is the same selection as was made for Azerbaijan last year – although the compounds and constructions are completely new for 2022.
- Baku is a street circuit with a personality all of its own, combining rapid straights with some extremely narrow and technical sections, especially around the famous Turn 9 in the old city centre. As a result, unlike the high downforce setup for Monaco, the teams tend to go for a low to medium downforce setup in Baku: balancing the requirement for grip through the tight corners with the need for high top speeds on the fast straights to facilitate overtaking. Back in 2016, Valtteri Bottas – driving for Williams at the time – exceeded a reported 378kph in Baku (naturally on Pirelli tyres): an unofficial F1 record that still stands today.
- The weather can be warm, with track temperatures in excess of 50 degrees, but the tight confines of the buildings around the circuit mean that there are alternate areas of light and shade, varying the track temperature quite a bit around the lap.
- Last year, the winning strategy was effectively a one-stopper (although the race was neutralised by a red flag close to the end). On that occasion, the favoured strategy from most of the field was soft to hard, with the soft tyre fitted again for the final three-lap sprint to the flag. However, the rule of using the fastest Q2 tyre for the race start was in place back then for the top 10, so the strategy may be different this year.
“Until Jeddah came along, Baku was the fastest street circuit of the year. But the demands of this city track are still relatively low, as none of the corners take a huge amount of energy out of the tyres due to the low levels of abrasion and contained lateral loads – which means that we can have the same nomination as Monaco. Having said that, the high speeds in Azerbaijan still place a certain demand on the tyres. The main point is all about traction, with finding the right balance between front and rear axles being the key challenge for all the teams: you need to have enough heat in the front tyres to generate grip, despite the long straights that cool them down, but not too much heat at the rear, otherwise it’s easy to overheat them in the traction zones. Track temperature is also inconsistent in Baku, so all in all it’s quite a specific track with a few different technical challenges, which are nonetheless the same for everyone.”
The P Zero Yellow medium and P Zero Purple supersoft tyres have been selected for Formula 2 in Baku. This is the same nomination as in previous years, although the supersoft is a new compound for 2022. The same combination has already been seen this season at Imola, with the two steps between the compounds providing greater variation between the different strategic options. Drivers get two sets of the supersoft and three sets of the medium to use across the weekend, which includes a 21-lap sprint race on Saturday as well as a feature race lasting 29 laps on Sunday, when both compounds must be used if it’s dry.
Pirelli’s 2023 Formula 1 tyre testing programme continued last week, with Ferrari drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz testing both the slick and wet-weather tyres for next year at Fiorano in Italy.
Round five of the World Rally Championship last weekend was Pirelli’s home event: the Rally Italia-Sardegna. The Italian firm brought its reinforced Scorpion KX gravel tyres to Alghero, where the rally was based, with Ott Tanak winning for Toyota.
The Paul Ricard 1000km also took place last weekend: part of the GT World Challenge Europe and another series that is exclusively equipped by Pirelli. Lasting around six hours, this is the second-longest race on the GT calendar after the Spa 24 Hours. Daniel Serra, Davide Rigon, and Antonio Fuoco were the winners, leading an Iron Lynx Ferrari one-two.