From Baku to Hanoi

From Baku to Hanoi 01

Street fighting
Street circuits have played a significant role in the 1000-race history of the Formula 1 world championship. After all, the track that twists its way around Monte Carlo is perhaps the most famous race in the entire world. In more recent times, Singapore earned its place as a modern classic as Formula 1’s spectacular first night race.

In 2016, Baku became the latest city to host a Formula 1 street race. The concept of a race track around the capital of Azerbaijan wasn’t an entirely new one: the Baku World Challenge (organised by ex-F1 driver Thierry Boutsen) had run for GT cars from 2012 to 2014. But many were sceptical about the idea of F1 racing in a country with no other tradition of motorsport to speak of.

The F1 race in Baku – it ran under the title of European Grand Prix in 2016 before introducing the annual Azerbaijan Grand Prix to the calendar the following year – quickly won over many of the doubters, however. That was thanks to a new circuit design unlike any other that made it the fastest street track ever, combining vast long straights with an incredibly tight section through the city’s historic centre.

From Baku to Hanoi 02

How to design a successful street circuit
One of the usual complaints around street circuits is how difficult overtaking can be, something that is certainly true in Monaco. The long straights of the Baku track however solved this problem: any driver that could get close enough through the circuit’s ‘old’ section could then benefit from a significant slipstream down the long straight. The heavy braking zone for the 90-degree left-hander that follows has already created plenty of drama in the race’s short history, with the 2018 collision between then-Red Bull team-mates Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo standing out in particular.

The opportunity for overtaking combined with the classic challenge of a street circuit means the circuit is one where talent often stands out. It’s where Charles Leclerc produced one of his most impressive Formula 2 performances in 2017, coming close to winning both races, before his breakthrough F1 drive to sixth place for Sauber a year later. What odds on playing host to his first F1 victory for Ferrari this year?

Good morning Vietnam
The success of the Baku race, and the desire to bring F1 action to the people, means the championship has been on the lookout for more street races. The next new addition will be in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, in 2020.

The proposed circuit takes clear design cues from the Baku track, with a combination of long straights and a more twisting section. Like Baku, this will provide the teams’ engineers with something of a headache, with a need to balance downforce and grip through the corners with low drag and top speeds down the straights. Such compromises can again highlight driver skill, rewarding those who can better rely on mechanical grip from their tyres over grip from their car’s aerodynamics.

The Hanoi layout doesn’t only take inspiration from Baku however, with designers also looking to classic sections from other F1 venues. The first two corners replicate those at the Nurburgring, while Turns 12 to 15 are intended to replicate the famous uphill section from Sainte Devote to Massenet in Monaco. Then there’s the following sequence from Turns 16 to 19, a nod to Suzuka’s iconic Esses.

An intriguing extra feature is the pit-lane, which bypasses the tight last and first corners, reducing the relative time it takes to make a pit-stop and potentially opening up more strategic options.

Hanoi is all set up to provide more thrilling street fighting in a new global destination, inspired by the instant classic that is Baku.

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