Baku to tweak controversial pit entry ahead of 2022 race

Sam Cooper
Max Verstappen sits on top of his crashed Red Bull. Baku, June 2021.

Max Verstappen sits on his crashed Red Bull after his tyre blew out during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Baku, June 2021.

The Baku race promoter has confirmed changes will be made to the unusual pit lane entry, following a request from the FIA.

The 2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix is scheduled to be held on 12 June, with various tweaks planned for the Baku Street Circuit before the race goes ahead.

One of the changes planned is to the pit lane entry, which came in for some criticism during the course of last year’s event.

In the 2021 edition of the Grand Prix, both Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll suffered sudden tyre failures that resulted in high-speed impacts with the opposite wall on the pit-lane straight.

Verstappen had been leading the race at the time and Red Bull told the FIA that they had zero indication the tyres were about to go, with the Dutch driver pointing out the dangers of what might have happened if his car had speared off in the opposite direction and into the contentious pit wall entry.

The circuit design was also highlighted by 2016 World Champion Nico Rosberg in his video preview of the race.

“Imagine if something broke on the car at that point,” the German said.

“You are at 350km/h, on the left side there is only a wall facing you. If something breaks, you find yourself in that wall and that’s the end. It is one of the scariest places I have ever driven an F1 car. Going there is absolutely wrong.”

Arif Rahimov, Executive Director of the Baku City Circuit, confirmed to media earlier this week that changes will be made before June’s race, with the circuit promoter confirming to PlanetF1 that the changes are being made on the back of an FIA request.

Lance Strolls Aston Martin being driven away. Baku, June 2021.
Lance Strolls Aston Martin car is driven away following a heavy crash during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Baku, June 2021.

“We are slightly modifying the pit lane entrance,” Rahimov told assembled media via an online call.

“There will be no changes to the track, but the FIA has asked us to slightly revise the pit lane entrance so that it is safer.

“We will see how it goes. Generally, the drivers don’t make many mistakes when they enter the pit lane.”

Other planned changes require the drivers to actually take to the track for assessments.

“Sometimes drivers arrive, run the practice session and then ask for changes to the kerbs,” Rahimov continued.

“For the bend near the Old Town – the narrow section – we have been playing with the kerbs since day one by adding them, removing them, and then adding them again. That’s why we still don’t know if we will have to intervene this year until the cars take to the track.”

With F1 also experimenting with the Sprint Qualifying format, Rahimov indicated that Baku would be interested in pursuing hosting one of the races next season.

“It is one of my priorities,” he said. “I’m a big supporter of sprint racing, I really like the idea, and I think it’s good to mix things up a little over the years.

“When people get used to the same format, things can get boring and audiences lose interest, so I think introducing these changes is good for the sport.”