At Pirelli, we always like to bring you a bit of culture; not to mention history. The official language of Azerbaijan is Azerbaijani, which belongs to the family of Turkic languages, and the name Azerbaijan derives from Oder-bey-can: a composition of three words of Turkish origin. Od (fire) and er (warrior) together mean ‘warrior of fire’, bey is a noble title still used today among Turkish people, while can means soul. So, the rather romantic full name is ‘soul of the noble warriors of fire’.
No surprise there: fire is a sacred cult inherited from Zoroastrianism, which was initially born in Azerbaijan and then diffused among other countries before becoming Persia’s official religion. And fire is also very heart of the image of Azerbaijan and by extension its grand prix. Fire symbolises the natural resources of petrol and gas that have created the country’s wealth. There are two places close to Baku considered sacred on account of their links with fire: Yanar Dag (the mountain that burns), where there’s an eternal flame thanks to the gas escaping from the mountain, and Atesgah: the temple of sacred fire, again built on a gas pocket that feeds perpetual fire. It’s no coincidence that Baku’s two most prominent skyscrapers, nestling on the coastline next to the marina, are decorated by illuminations at night that replicate the colours of a burning flame.
And when it comes to a passion for motorsport, the action is pretty fiery as well. That’s partly down to the Hermann Tilke-designed track itself: a street circuit featuring plenty of 90° corners, then a mixed section that goes up-and-down in the medieval heart of the city, with a wide variety of tight corners (especially at the beginning of the sector), which make overtaking very tricky unless you are exceedingly brave. Top speeds are also exceedingly high, elevating the risk to reward ratio. In terms of tyre strategy, this makes everyone converge towards the same option: starting on the softest compound and then exchanging it quickly for the more durable option – with a high chance of safety cars making any rigidly planned tactics almost impossible to implement.
Yes, the constant succession of safety cars and yellow flags maybe make the Azerbaijan race feel more like Nascar than Formula 2. But it’s an epic challenge for the drivers and has also produced some thrilling racing: right up there with the world’s legendary venues like Macau. As such, F2’s newest circuit retains a pleasantly old-school feel…
Check out how the tyre strategies played out during last week’s Feature Race in Baku.