Out with the old, in with the new

2016-02-03 06:00
: Azerbaijan will host the eighth round of the F1 season at its Baku City Circuit. photo: supplied

: Azerbaijan will host the eighth round of the F1 season at its Baku City Circuit. photo: supplied

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TOO many times new F1 circuits are talked up and promised to be glorious showpieces that will electrify the racing. And then you end up with Valencia, a dull F1 street circuit somewhere in Spain that evokes more winces than grins.

But the new hosts of the European Grand Prix may have hit on something special. As the most recent addition to the F1 calendar Azerbaijan’s Baku City circuit promises much from the initial glimpses of its layout. At six kilometres it’s second in length only to Spa-Francorchamps and with twenty corners behind Abu Dhabi’s 21 and Singapore’s 23.

But the most arresting feature of the circuit is slim width in certain areas of the track. It’s not pancake flat either, in fact it has significant elevation changes and even a cobbled section.

Because it is a temporary circuit it isn’t required to subscribe to the FIA sporting code which stipulates a width of twelve meters, with an additional three meters on the starting grid. While the circuit has some areas which stretch to 13 metre width, its narrowest point, on Aziz Aliyev Street, is just 7.6 metres wide. The average speed of lap is currently projected at 210 kph and a top speed of 340 kph.

From an early perspective the Baku City circuit has many positives going for it; high-speed, tight sections, fast corners and for a street circuit, a longer than usual lap. Already it bears some similarities with China’s legendary Macau circuit.

While Baku is the ‘new’ that the title alludes to Pastor Maldonado is the one getting the boot. The driver who signed up to race alongside Jolyon Palmer for the returning Renault team appears to be out of a job. Instead, former McLaren driver Kevin Magnussen has inked a deal and will be announced as a Renault driver within the coming days.

It may look as if the rug has been pulled from underneath Maldonado’s feet but not quite. The Venezuelan’s time in Formula 1 has been littered with far too much inconsistency and far too few performances of real value and competence.

In his three seasons with Williams he registered an impressive victory at Spain in 2012 but solid and consistent performances were a rarity. The inconsistency and throng of crashes, some inexplicable, continued throughout his two subsequent seasons at Lotus and has marred the driver’s reputation.

Still he remained in F1 thanks to a lucrative sponsorship from Venezuela’s state-owned oil and gas company PDVSA. The sponsorship total, believed to be $46 million, is now no longer guaranteed as plunging oil prices and a volatile political landscape in Venezuela will stymie PDVSA’s involvement in F1.

For now, it doesn’t look like Maldonado will find a spot in F1 for 2016 but there are still two seats available at Manor. Should he be interested in a seat at this team and should he be able to bring along the bulging sponsorship purse the team would likely be interested. Chances are though that Pastor Maldonado may have bid F1 an abrupt farewell.

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