Why drivers are starting to worry about the Baku circuit

Some of F1’s most experienced drivers have voiced safety concerns regarding some track elements ahead of the race weekend in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Most of the drivers arrived in Baku on Thursday, and have toured the 6km circuit by foot or scooter, to get a real first impression.

Jenson Button is the most experienced driver on the grid, and also the director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association and he’s been voicing some concerns regarding the lack of run-off at some of the corners.

“We have worked so hard on safety, improving circuits all the time, and then we come here and corners like turn three, turn seven, turn 14 don’t have any run-off at all. Turn seven has three Tecpro barriers and then a concrete barrier at the edge of the circuit. There’s not much you can really do because there’s a building in the way. Hopefully they [the FIA] have done their tests, but Monaco has got a lot of run-off. This is a high-speed street circuit, it’s not like Monaco.”

Jenson Button

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Should there be that element of danger in Formula One though? Track designer Herman Tilke seems to be damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. Tracks he’s designed in the past have been heavily criticized for too much run-off area. Think Abu Dhabi and Korea, two circuits that were 99% run-off. Mistakes went unpunished in those races. Baku’s street circuit has been designed by Tilke to offer a different challenge, one that’s a bit more old-school. Here’s your circuit gents, if you go wide, you’re screwed.

At the driver press conference on Thursday Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel is frustrated by the questions over safety.

“I think it looks exciting. I’m thrilled to get in the car tomorrow and excited to get out and get a feel. Pit entry looks a challenge – but then again I think that’s why we’re here. And I certainly have the plan to stay on track and not use the run-off or the off-track.”

Sebastian Vettel

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