Consistency has been the key to the team's encouraging start to the 2018 season. As we head to round four in the city of winds, the Baku Street circuit provides a unique challenge for team and driver as Chassis Technical Director Nick Chester explains.
How challenging is the Azerbaijan Grand Prix?
Wind makes a massive difference as the cars are generally quite yaw sensitive. The aerodynamic structures are designed to work in a fairly small yaw angle range. When you get a side wind, with the accompanying increase in aerodynamic yaw angle, the flow structures tend to break down, losing downforce as a consequence. A tailwind can be tough as well to manage as again you lose downforce with less total air pressure meeting the car. We'll be adjusting set-up throughout the weekend to cope with wind and track temperature.
Is it tricky to negotiate the infamous Baku winds?
A second successive sixth place for Nico Hülkenberg leaves him well in the mix at the front end of the midfield fight. Now Nico is ready to get his groove on in Azerbaijan, the Land of Fire, in the city famed for its strong winds.
Earth, Wind and Fire
It's still a fairly new venue to Formula 1 and we are still getting used to it. It's an interesting place and certainly carries a different vibe to the usual Grand Prix with the old town buildings and cobbled streets. There are some cool looking, vintage houses around with an old castle situated at the heart of the circuit. Last year's race is memorable for the fans, not so much for me unfortunately, but if it's similar to last year we have to make sure we can seize on every opportunity.
What do you like about Baku?
There are some walls waiting for you so it's important to be quite brave, but not go over the limit. The viewing is good for fans and the speed is cool to watch. It's the fastest street circuit on the calendar with overtaking possible with the long, DRS straight. There are a lot of tight, 90-degree turns matched with flat-out kinks, which give you a buzz when you fly through. The castle complex of turns 8 to 10 is especially close with the wide cars. Monaco is spacious in comparison! Are you pleased with your opening to the 2018 season? It's a positive start to the season, and it's good to be at the front end of the midfield. It's important to keep picking up a good number of points to make sure we are in the hunt. It's about continuing on this upward trajectory and putting the work in to make sure we are ahead of our rivals.
How difficult is a lap of the circuit?
Carlos Sainz added to his points tally for 2018 last time out, but the Spaniard wants to build on that on the cobbled streets of Baku.
Ride like the Wind
It's difficult to draw comparisons from the Baku track layout to Monaco or Singapore, even if it's a street circuit. They are all very different and unique. What I will say is it's a very tough circuit to race at, not necessarily tougher than Monaco, but it gets quite close to it and any small error will be punished. You have to keep concentration levels high all weekend. Last year's race was spectacular for the fans and I had an interesting afternoon myself. After a compromised start to avoid contact, I dropped near the back of the pack but I managed to finish eighth, which was very satisfying.
How does Baku compare to other street circuits on the calendar?
It seems a cool place with a blend of modern and old architecture. The medieval castle is very impressive and we are lucky to drive past it on every lap. I think that's very unique and some of the photos you see are very cool and different. One perk of Baku is the hotel is very close to the track, so logistically it makes our lives easier. There's been some impressive concerts during the Formula 1 weekend in Baku with great artists. Fans have a great time here and that is always important.
Have you explored the city of Baku?
In general, I think these three first races have been quite positive and the whole team is showing great commitment to achieve our objectives. On my side, I have had the chance to try different set ups in the car and I'm confident we're heading in the right direction. We have to keep up the good work and always try to improve to bring as many points home as possible.
With three races under your belt, what is your feeling on the Renault R.S.18?
Renault Sport Racing
Renault Sport Academy Driver Christian Lundgaard leads the Formula Renault Eurocup standings after an impressive opening two rounds across Circuit Paul Ricard and Monza. The Dane, a rookie in the series, clinched his first Eurocup victory in race two in Italy, adding to a second place in the first race, as well as a third and fifth in Le Castellet. And those results mean the 16-year-old leads the way at the top of the Drivers' Championship on 68 points, 10 clear of his nearest rival. Max Fewtrell enjoyed a near perfect weekend at Paul Ricard, including a race win, a second and a brace of pole positions. But it was far from plain sailing for Max in Monza after collisions in both races denied him a chance of claiming another strong points haul. The Brit had to settle for one-point after rescuing 10th place in race two despite falling to the back of the pack. Victor Martins enjoyed an improved weekend in Monza following a mixed outing at round one. Victor sits sixth in the championship after recovering to fourth in the second race in France, adding a sixth and fifth at the Temple of Speed. Arthur Rougier too showed his talent in Monza, and was in the mix for a maiden Eurocup points finish. But, like in Paul Ricard when a gearbox issue put an end to his running, more technical issues forced him to finish 18th and 20th in Italy. Christian: 'What a great start to the season, leading the championship is a big confidence boost for me. Monza was an amazing weekend. It was consistent without any mistakes and good points for the championship. It's a good feeling to get my first win of the season, but we'll keep putting the work in and get ready for the next round.' Max: 'Paul Ricard was the near perfect start to the season, I was super happy with how it went. Monza was far from an ideal weekend, though, and I was taken out in both races. We have to take the positives as the race pace looked strong. I have to put it behind me and move onto Silverstone.' Victor: 'The first two rounds have been a discovery of new things for me. I knew Monza would not be easy, but I'm happy with the results achieved during the two races, especially in race two where I finished 5th after starting from 12th. I am pleased to work with the team which is promising for the rest of the Championship.' Arthur: 'It's been a challenging couple of rounds for me. We could see improvement in our qualifying pace in Monza, but unfortunately we were not able to take good points from the races. We are going to work hard with the team to get strong results soon.'
Championship lead for Lundgaard after first two rounds
Renault Sport Formula One Team's Third & Reserve Driver Jack Aitken and Test and Development Driver Artem Markelov are ready to take on the streets of Baku as Formula 2 returns following a two-week break. Jack will be aiming for better fortunes this weekend after a frustrating outing at the season-opener in Bahrain where he left with two points courtesy of his ninth place in the Feature race. Artem, meanwhile, is aiming to pick up from where left off in the Middle East where he stormed to a Sprint race win as well as a remarkable third after a pit-lane start. The Russian raced in Baku in 2017, finishing fourth and fifth in his Russian Time machine. Jack: 'Baku will be a challenging place to go as a rookie, but we know we have really good pace after round one. We'll just go in with the aim of adapting as quickly as we can, and working through our programme on Friday to be ready for qualifying.'
Aitken and Markelov set for round two in Baku
Artem Markelov raised a few eyebrows across the Formula 2 paddock in Bahrain when he battled to an impressive third place Feature race finish after starting from the pit-lane. He added to that with a Sprint race victory the following day, as he gears up, in his own eccentric style, for round two in Baku next weekend.
Rock N' Roll Star
I was very impressed with the Formula 1 set-up in Bahrain, my first proper weekend with Renault. The work was very beneficial for me, learning from the mechanics, engineers and drivers as well. I was listening to the engineers and learnt a lot about the car, which was nice. There's a lot of information to take on, but that's part of the role.
How have you settled into life with the team?
It was a very memorable race weekend, and I was fairly calm behind the wheel! Qualifying wasn't so good, and in the Feature race I stalled and I had to start from the pit-lane. I was thinking 'come on Artem what is going on?' and I had the engineers telling me to calm down. But we stayed cool, drove well and we managed to get a podium. I didn't think that was going to happen! In the Sprint we started from sixth and by turn one I was third, a couple of laps later second, then first and I got the best out of the tyres and led to the end.
Were you pleased to lay down a marker in the Formula 2 Bahrain opener?
The track is really nice. Last season the race was a bit later in the year and it was hot. This year it will be a lot cooler in temperature. Hopefully it won't rain, because on a street circuit it makes things hard. It's a fast track, and you have to watch the walls. There is an option to do some special things on strategy in the Feature race, so we'll assess our plan and try to maximise our chances of winning. I missed out on the podium last season in Azerbaijan, so hopefully this year we can change that.
What's the Baku street circuit like to drive?
It's been nice work and I'm getting better and better each lap I drive. It's pretty exciting with eight gears on the straight and downforce in the corners. Hopefully I can help improve the car for the boys. How do you envisage the 2018 season going? I think my main target across 2018 is to learn as much as possible with Renault and I'll get a chance in Formula 1 machinery very soon! I want to win the Formula 2 Championship and I'll be fighting for that, but it's racing and anything can happen. I'm good in the races, but there's room for improvement in qualifying.
It was your first time on the sim at Enstone last week, how was that?
Renault e.dams is primed and ready for its home race as Formula E heads to the streets of Paris for round eight of the series. The team will be aiming to bounce back in front of its home fans in the French capital following a tricky outing in Rome at the last round. Sébastien Buemi was able to take home eight points, courtesy of his sixth-place finish in Italy, leaving the Swiss fourth in the Drivers' standings on 60 points with five races to go. Nico Prost, meanwhile, finished 14th in Rome, and will be going in search of a good haul of points this weekend at his home ePrix. Last year in Paris, Séb took an impressive victory, which was Renault e.dams' fifth of the season on their way to the Teams' title triumph. Nico also enjoyed a solid afternoon with a fifth place. The duo will be hoping to repeat that form on the 1.9km circuit in the city centre this weekend. Séb: 'I'm delighted to race in Paris as it's the last home race for Renault e.dams and I really want to perform there. I scored a podium in Paris in Season 2 and I won last year so it will be great to win again in the French capital for the team and we'll try to do our best. On top of this, I think it will be a superb race and a great event and the public will be very supportive for our team.' Nico: 'It's been a difficult season so far for me. We're not too far away to be fighting at the front and that's encouraging. The Paris ePrix is obviously a special race for me and I hope to perform there in front of the home crowd.'
Renault e.dams ready to take on home ePrix
The Baku Street circuit is a fairly new addition to the Formula 1 calendar since its introduction in 2016. Last year's race threw up a number of surprises and proved a real lottery for the podium. This circuit has no fast corners, but has the longest uninterrupted full-throttle time of any Formula 1 circuit. Although it is not completely straight, from the exit of the last corner to the braking point for Turn 1, the cars are at full throttle for around 24 seconds. Because it is a street circuit the barriers are very close to the edge of the track in many places, which leaves little room for error. Tyres: Soft (yellow) – Hülkenberg 2, Sainz 2 Supersoft (red) – Hülkenberg 4, Sainz 4 Ultrasoft (purple) – Hülkenberg 7, Sainz 7
1 (F1 career average: 3.09)
75 Positions Gained (2017) (+/-): N/A Fastest Lap: 1:48.012 (2016) Fastest Qualifying: 1:44.267 (2017)
2 (F1 career average: 1.92)
82 Positions Gained (2017) (+/-): 7 Fastest Lap: 1:45.866 (2017) Fastest Qualifying: 1:43.347 (2017)
Renault in Azerbaijan
This time last year
P20 (No Time Set)
P14, started P13 (1:44.267)
The circuit layout drops down to -24.7m below sea level.