2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix – Preview
“Balancing tyre temperatures will be one of the keys to the weekend”
“Baku presents a unique set of characteristics on the Formula 1 calendar with a very slow section that’s typical of a street circuit, as well as other parts of the track that are very fast. We’re bringing the three softest compounds in the 2023 range, which are well suited to this venue. One of the most crucial aspects to the weekend will be not only finding the right compromise in terms of setup, but also balancing the tyre management. The tyres on the front axle needs to be warm enough to guarantee optimal grip – despite the long straights cooling them down – but it’s equally important not to overheat the rears in the traction phase. So the key is to balance the temperatures successfully between front and rear, because there’s a big risk of lock-ups and the walls in Azerbaijan take no prisoners, as we’ve seen in previous races here. This year, the Sprint Shootout makes its debut on Saturday morning to determine the grid for the Sprint Race in the afternoon, with drivers obliged to use one set of mediums for each of the first two Shootout sessions, then a set of soft for the final session. This presents an extra challenge for the teams and also for Pirelli as there will be less long run data available, but we’re confident that it provides an opportunity to add to the spectacular show of a Formula 1 grand prix weekend.”
THE TYRES ON TRACK
- Pirelli takes the softest tyres in the F1 range to the Baku street circuit: C3 as the P Zero White hard, C4 as P Zero Yellow medium and C5 as P Zero Red soft.
- There’s a new race format this weekend, approved by the F1 Commission on Tuesday. A new qualifying session called the Sprint Shootout will decide the grid for the first Sprint Race of the year, taking the place of FP2. The fastest driver in the Sprint Shootout will receive the Pirelli Sprint Shootout Award.
- The Sprint Shootout will take place on Saturday at 12:30 local time, split into three qualifying sessions: Q1, which is 12 minutes long, followed by a 10-minute Q2 session and an eight-minute Q3 decider. The teams have to use new sets of tyres: the medium for Q1 and Q2, followed by the soft for Q3.
- The result of the Sprint Shootout will determine the grid for the Sprint Race, which gets underway at 17:30 on Saturday local time. The Sprint classification doesn’t affect the grid for Sunday’s grand prix, which will be decided with the usual qualifying session, this time held on Friday afternoon, with the poleman receiving the Pirelli Pole Position Award.
- The reduced length of the Sprint Shootout theoretically allows the drivers to make a pit stop in Q1 but not in the other two sessions – where there is time to do two timed laps but not to make a stop. Each driver will have two sets of hard tyres, four sets of mediums, and six sets of softs (making 12 sets in total): one less set compared to a conventional weekend. On top of this, there’s a wet-weather allocation of four sets of Cinturato Green intermediates and three sets of Cinturato Blue full wets.
- The Azerbaijan Grand Prix takes place on a track that combines narrow corners and fast straights. At more than six kilometres, this is one of the longest circuits on the calendar, which alternates tricky sections in the historic city centre (where the track narrows to 7.6 metres) with straights and 90-degree corners, featuring two DRS zones.
- The track has been completely resurfaced, according to the race organisers. The latest asphalt roughness, which is usually minimal and not especially abrasive for the tyres, is another unknown factor that will only be established during free practice.
- The race takes place at a different time of year compared to 2022. Last year, track temperatures in June exceeded 50 degrees centigrade, but with the race shifting to April, temperatures could be 10 degrees lower. This was the case in 2018 – the last time the race was held in April – when there was a wide range of temperatures recorded across the day as well.
- There’s a 75% chance of a neutralisation in Baku. Two Virtual Safety Car periods gave some drivers a cheap pit stop last year, in a race where the top four stopped twice.
- No driver has ever won more than once in the six Baku races that have been held up to now. The past winners are Nico Rosberg, Daniel Ricciardo (from P10 on the grid), Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen. The only teams to have won are Mercedes and Red Bull, which each scored a one-two in 2019 and 2022 respectively.
Teams will have the P Zero Yellow medium and P Zero Purple supersoft at their disposal for round five in Baku. DAMS driver Ayumu Iwasa leads the championship after winning the Feature Race in Melbourne. He heads ART Grand Prix’s Théo Pourchaire (who finished second in Sunday’s Australia race) by eight points.
GT World Challenge
Rowe Racing scored a one-two at the opening Monza round of GT World Challenge Europe, which is exclusively equipped by Pirelli. Philipp Eng, Marco Wittmann, Nick Yelloly led home their BMW M4 team mates Daniel Harper, Max Hesse and Neil Verhagen, from a 55-car field. The Iron Lynx Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO2 driven by Andrea Caldarelli, Mirko Bortolotti and Jordan Pepper was third. Pirelli brought 4200 of the latest P Zero DHF tyres for the three SRO championships that made up the bulk of the action.
Rally Croatia took place from April 20-23, the first asphalt round of the World Rally Championship, with Pirelli as exclusive tyre supplier since 2021. Toyota’s Elfyn Evans won the event, with Citroen driver Yohan Rossel finishing first in the RC2 class. The Junior WRC section was won by Eamonn Kelly in a Ford Fiesta. All the drivers used tyres from the P Zero range, which ensured both speed and reliability on a rally that was made more complicated by an increasing amount of dirt on the already slippery roads as each car passed through. Stones and gravel on the racing line also lessened the available the grip and increased the risk of punctures.
Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine
This year’s Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine, using Pirelli tyres, got underway at Imola as part of the ACI Racing Weekend. Norwegian rookie Martinius Stenshorne (R-ace GP) won Race while Kas Haverkort (Van Amersfoort Racing) claimed Race 2. Pirelli brought 3200 tyres to Imola for the European series, as well as the Italian F4 Championship and F2000 Italian Trophy.
Founded in 1872, Pirelli is a company with deep Italian roots now recognised all over the world for its cutting-edge technology, capacity for innovation, and the quality of its products. Motorsport has always played an important part in Pirelli’s strategy, following the ‘race to road’ philosophy. The company has been engaged in motorsport for 116 years and today supplies tyres to more than 350 championships on both two and four wheels. Pirelli pays constant attention to the most efficient use of natural resources and energy, aiming to reach carbon neutrality by 2030.
Pirelli has been Global Tyre Partner of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship since 2011. The company also supplies championships including FIA Formula 2, FIA Formula 3, Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine, FIA World Rally Championship and GT World Challenge, alongside numerous national series.