The eighth round of the Formula One championship will take place today in Baku, as the 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix is ready to mark another thrilling episode in the fight between Scuderia Ferrari and the current champions Mercedes.
Expected to produce a race of visceral action, the European Grand Prix – as the event was titled on a one-off basis – created almost none at all last year. Whether that was because the F1 drivers had been cautioned by a madly chaotic GP2 support event or not, it was not an encouraging debut for this controversial new race, but one can hope that things will be very different this time.
The street circuit in the capital of this oil-rich Caspian state that straddles the boundary between Europe and Asia is a succession of humdrum right-angled corners, a fiddly bit around a medieval castle and a long, long, long straight. If it rained, things might be different – the kinks on the pit straight could become proper corners, for example – but in the dry it seems to be one of the least inspiring tracks on the calendar. And then there is the event itself. Retitled the Azerbaijan Grand Prix this year, it exists solely because the government of this autocratic republic with a questionable human rights record signed what is believed to be the most lucrative contract in F1 with the sport’s former boss Bernie Ecclestone.
Join us in the afternoon for the latest updates and results from the Baku City Circuit in Baku as the 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix will get underway, with Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen ready to challenge Mercedes for the win.