Azerbaijan GP: Preview - Alfa Romeo


Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake heads to the shores of the Caspian Sea for round four of the 2023 Formula One World Championship, the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. The team will aim to extend its points-scoring streak as Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu take on the challenge of the Baku City Circuit.

Every track is special in its own way. Some of the circuits Formula One visits during the course of a season offer a unique technical challenge, requiring skill and pushing both drivers and machines to their limit. Others conspire with the climatic conditions to test those in the cockpit (and the garage) on a more physical level; some, still, like Monaco, are such unique venues that defy all characterisation, requiring mental strength and super-human focus just to make it to the chequered flag.

The Baku City Circuit is no exception: it's a track that has quickly earnt a place in the calendar as a very peculiar challenge, helped without doubt by some epic, unpredictable races in the six events it hosted so far.

The circuit on the shores of the Caspian Sea is deceptively easy on paper. The 90-degree corners, typical of so many street tracks, are apparently manageable obstacles thrown in the way of the drivers as they negotiate the confines of the racing surface. Long straights, corners that are just kinks leading into stop-start sections - at first sight, there's little besides the impossibly tight castle section to provide drivers with a real challenge. And yet, appearances should not fool - for Baku's track is not one to be underestimated.

Much like a hippopotamus, placidly floating half-submerged in a river, this track hides its aggression under the tamest appearance. Just as the large mammal would do, this track can bite - hard. Over the years, its walls claimed famous scalps; uneventful races have been turned on their heads by incidents and safety cars; surprising results have emerged out of nowhere. Baku has an edge; it has a nasty side that is waiting in ambush for the unsuspecting ones.

Baku's tagline is "the home of the street fighters" and those words ring true. Races here can turn into battles: every lap offers a risk, an opportunity, the potential of a reward. Coming home with a good result here takes grit and resilience - you need to fight for every inch of tarmac; you need to fight against every inch of tarmac, too.

For Valtteri and Zhou, this week is an opportunity to show their mettle. Valtteri is a Baku specialist: a winner here in 2019, he's second among active drivers for laps led here and holds the all-time best lap around this track. Zhou has made close battles and daring moves into his signature: he's perfect for this. Both will approach this event ready for the challenge ahead.

This weekend will also offer an added element of jeopardy. The new sprint format, introduced for this event, reduces the opportunity for practice to just one session: the onus is on the team to set up the car in such a quick time, with limited data; and on the drivers, to master the track from the first handful of laps.

All these elements make this weekend's Azerbaijan Grand Prix a challenge not to be sniffed at. Just as with the hippo waiting in the water, the track stretching by the Caspian Sea is a danger one would be foolish to underestimate.

Alessandro Alunni Bravi, Team Representative: "Three weeks away from the track meant we had a chance to regroup and focus on the work we need to do for the next few races. It's been an intense start of the season, in which we scored in two out of three races, and it's been good for the team to have some time to analyse our performances and see in which areas we can make improvements. We have made steps forward compared to last year - our reliability, just to name one - but we know we need to keep working hard to be competitive in such a tight field. We head into the first sprint of the season knowing that anything can happen on this track. We saw how quickly a race can change in Melbourne, and once again we will need to be at our best to maximise the potential of our car and of any opportunities that may arise."

Valtteri Bottas: "I am looking forward to getting back to racing this weekend. Baku is a place I like - I've won this race and been on the podium here before - and I want to get a good result this time around as well. My focus, as well as that of the team, is on keeping improving: the season is still long, and there are still many points to be scored. I used the three weeks' break to get prepared to be at my best. It is going to be interesting to race in the sprint here, and I am looking forward to this challenge. We have looked into the last few races, and we have been working really hard to get back to the level we showed in Bahrain. I am confident we have what it takes to improve: if we all do our homework, we can be in the mix for another points finish."

Zhou Guanyu: "Scoring my first points of the season in Australia was a good motivation boost - just what was needed before heading into the three-weeks break. Still, it wasn't holiday time for us: we kept working hard, in the sim and at the factory, as we all need to do to make further steps forward ahead of the upcoming races. I quite enjoy Baku and its unpredictability - and we must consider the sprint race element being added to the mix. I am keen to keep up the work I did in Melbourne, where I had a solid, clean race, and aim for another top ten finish. It's going to be tight, as it always is this year, and a tenth or two could make a real difference in terms of placements, but we have a chance to do well here."

Article from Pitpass (

Published: 26/04/2023
Copyright © Pitpass 2002 - 2024. All rights reserved.