The Baku City Circuit is perhaps one of the strangest tracks in all of Formula 1. It is fundamentally a street circuit, but with speeds of over 200mph and a 1.4 mile long pit-straight, it’s a challenge not found anywhere else. After the multi-lane pit-straight and 90 degree corners, the track heads off into the narrow, twisty castle section, a segment of track that is unlike anything on the F1 calendar. The cobbles are covered with asphalt for the Grand Prix weekend, with the gap between the walls being just 7.6 metres (24.9 feet) apart at its narrowest through Turns 8 to 12 before the track opens up again. F1 has been coming to Baku since 2016 – the first race being run as the European Grand Prix – and the castle section has claimed some big names, including Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc. Hamilton, Leclerc and Kubica The first driver to crash at the Baku Castle section was Hamilton in qualifying in 2016. As the setting sun peeped through a gap in the buildings, it blinded him as he clipped the inside wall of the Turn 10 right-hander. It broke the front suspension of the Mercedes, leaving him starting only 10th for the race, in which he only recovered to fifth, losing 15 points to race winner, title rival and teammate Nico Rosberg. In 2019, perhaps the most famous incident at the castle section occurred when Leclerc crashed in qualifying, this time at the entry of Turn 8. Using Medium tyres, he got in too deep and skidded into the outside wall, leading to his notorious “I am stupid” radio call. On a weekend where he had looked the favourite, he would start eighth after other penalties were applied, but could only manage to finish fifth on Sunday. The other F1 driver to crash at the castle section in Baku was Robert Kubica in 2019. The then-Williams racer crashed in Q1, just before Leclerc did the same in Q2, on a weekend when the team were struggling for spare parts after George Russell’s car had been destroyed by a loose drain cover in FP1. Kubica did get out for the race – but was given a drive-through penalty for heading for his pit-lane start too early. This was a rule Williams were not aware of as Kubica came home 16th and last, two laps behind race winner Valtteri Bottas.
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