F1 Red Hot Zone

After a red-hot finish to the race in Montreal, with things getting a little heated at Force India and Sebastian Vettel scorching his way through the pack to claim fourth place and save Ferrari’s blushes, this weekend will see the heat turned up even further as we head to the Land of Fire, Azerbaijan.

After last year’s fact-finding first steps around the calendar’s second longest circuit (after Spa-Francorchamps), this year should see teams attacking the Baku City Circuit more aggressively, aided by last year’s data and by this year’s quicker cars.

Last year’s race weekend saw Valtteri Bottas unofficially clock the highest ever top speed in a Formula One car, with the Finn hitting 378km/h during qualifying, so there’s every possibility that this year we’ll see new-look F1 cars officially better that marker.

This year the Azerbaijan GP makes up round seven of a 20-race schedule, but as we reveal that’s set to change next year as F1 unveils the 2018 calendar, a tour that sees some old favorites return and which offer some exciting new grand prix travel prospects. In light of the return of the French Grand Prix, we also quiz F1 Formula Managing Director Motor Sports on his fondest memories of France and what we can expect from next year’s venue, the Circuit Paul Ricard. Enjoy!

Stats

Everyone loves a good race stat, an obscure trivia bomb with which to stun even the most numerically obsessed F1 colleague. No problem, from Abecassis to Zunino and the A1 Ring to Zolder we’ve got you covered. And while it might only be one edition old, we’ve still managed to dig up some mighty Baku blinders


2 – Last year’s win was Nico Rosberg’s second career grand chelem, a nominal award for scoring pole, the race fastest lap and winning while leading every lap of the race. The eventual 2017’s only career clean sweep had come just seven weeks earlier at the 2016 Russian Grand Prix.


378 – The top speed of Valtteri Bottas recorded by Williams telemetry during qualifying for last year’s race. That was unofficially the fastest speed ever recorded by an F1 car during a race weekend. The previously accepted benchmark is Juan Pablo Montoya’s 372.6km/h set in a McLaren at Monza over the 2005 Italian GP weekend.


152 – Sebastian Vettel is the most experienced drive at the Baku City Circuit. The Ferrari driver turned the most laps of any driver across the inaugural race weekend, five more than Nico Rosberg and Nico Hulkenberg. In total Vettel logged 912 km.


4 – Just four cars failed to finish last year’s race: the McLaren of Fernando Alonso which suffered a gearbox failure after 49 laps, the Manor of Pascal Wehrlein, which succumbed to brake issues after 39 laps, and the Toro Rossos of Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat, both of which exited with suspension problems after 31 and six laps respectively


3 – Sergio Perez’s third place in Baku last year is his most recent podium finish. The Mexican qualified in P2 but took a five-place penalty for a gearbox change. However, starting from P7 he made his way to P3 for his seventh career podium finish.

Paths to Glory: 2018 calendar revealed

For the second time in its history, Formula 1 will in 2018 take on a 21-race schedule that promises to be one of its most exciting ever – fusing classic destinations, cutting edge venues, state-of-the-art facilities and a return of two of the great races of Formula 1’s European heartland.

Indeed, the revival of one those events, the French Grand Prix, throws up the tantalizing prospect of a trans-European trek, with the race at the Circuit Paul Ricard on June 24 being the first race of a triple-header that a week later sees the F1 circus pitch its tents at Austria’s Red Bull Ring before making a frantic dash back to the UK to set for Silverstone the following weekend. Three weeks, three race, one monumental road trip? Sounds our idea of grand prix heaven, especially with the first of those three taking place in stunning Provence.

Germany returns too after a two-year absence, within Hockenheim once again hosting the German Grand Prix. If there’s another Ferrari-driving German champion to cheer in 2018, we can expect a massive crowd for that one.

Thanks to the return of France, this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix gets a new early-season date, fitting into the space most recently occupied by Russia, which now moves to a late September slot, forming the first half of a back-to-back with Japan.

Elsewhere, traditions are kept to, with the season kicking off in Melbourne, Australia on March 25 before teams head to Shanghai, Bahrain and then Baku, while after Japan the race to the flag takes in the US, Mexico, Brazil and now-traditional season-closer Abu Dhabi.

Commenting on the early confirmation of the calendar, Formula 1 President and CEO, Chase Carey said: “We are proud to confirm that the German and French Grands Prix will take place in 2018. France was one of the seven races that made up the first ever World Championship in 1950 and it now returns after a decade.

“The number of races has only increased by one compared to the current season, despite the fact that we have received numerous requests from those wishing to host a Grand Prix," he added. “We wanted the existing promoters to feel that we are putting all our efforts into ensuring that each race is a special event, so that the fans, our most important stakeholders, can enjoy a unique and unforgettable experience. If we can do that, then the entire Formula 1 family will reap the benefit.

View the full calendar

Ross’ French Connections

It's been 10 years since the last French GP, how important is it to have the race back on the calendar in terms of fan engagement?

France is the historical birthplace of motor racing, with races between cities in the early 1900s, events such as the Gordon Bennett Cup and then the first Grand Prix in 1906 in Le Mans. Of course the French GP was also part of the first ever Formula One season in 1950 so the historical and traditional links are obvious. It’s great to be able to re-establish that link and give French fans a home race again.

What are your best memories of the French Grand Prix?

The 1906, Circuit de la Sarthe holds pretty special memories! I’m not old enough to have raced at Paul Ricard [F1 last raced at the track in 1990] but I do remember races there, such as 1988, which featured a particularly dramatic win for Alain Prost, when he overtook Senna at end of the Mistral Straight and held onto the lead to the finish.

From my own time, of course the 2002 race at Magny Cours is pretty special as Michael not only won the race but secured the Drivers’ Championship there, just 11 races into the season. If I remember rightly, we celebrated in the Renaissance Restaurant and drunk it dry. Their management had to lock up the wine cellar.

The 2004 race was also pretty dramatic, with Michael using a four-stop strategy to beat Fernando Alonso.

What's your impression of the Circuit Paul Ricard and how it will suit modern Formula One cars?

It’s a good circuit with some quite tough challenges. Even if the chicane on the long Mistral straight is employed, the following corner, Signes, is quite a corner, one that could put front-left tires under quite a bit of stress. However, there has been a fair amount of tyre testing there recently so it should not throw up any big surprises.

One thing that might raise its head is the issue of track limits. There are a lot of painted sections with asphalt run-offs, which drivers will naturally be inclined to take advantage of, so I would imagine the FIA will be looking carefully at that. All in all, though it’s definitely a circuit to look forward to.

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