Jun.18 (GMM) Not every driver was complaining as F1 action kicked off at Baku’s spectacular and unique new street track.
Senior drivers including Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button had suggested the wall-lined, high-speed layout may not be safe, but world champion Lewis Hamilton said it was just a typical “moan”-fest.
“These drivers moan so much — so much about so many things,” said the Briton.
But as their championship battle heats up, Mercedes teammate Rosberg hit back at Hamilton.
“What he just said in the meeting sounded a bit different to that. He was pretty much on the side that it is a bit hairy,” the German charged.
Nico Hulkenberg, on the other hand, said he has no complaints about Baku at all.
“None,” he confirmed. “My belief is that as drivers we need to go to the limit. If someone thinks it is not safe enough, he can just slow down before the corner, there’s nothing stopping him doing that.
“But I don’t see any problems,” the Force India driver added.
Another German, rookie Pascal Wehrlein, agreed that Baku is a “track for men”.
The ‘Well done Baku’ signage around the track, however, appears to have been premature, with Friday’s running affected by loose kerbs that halted GP2 qualifying and damaged many tyres.
“Everything’s new,” said race director Charlie Whiting, according to Express newspaper. “They’ve done the best they could and we just needed to do a bit of fixing.”
As for the layout itself, however, drivers were comparing it to the awesome Macau F3 track, while photographers were revelling in the shots they were getting amid the backdrop of the old city walls.
“When I laid it out in the first place I was told I was mad,” Bernie Ecclestone said. “Trying to get the old city and the new city together was tough. It looks like it’s worked all right.”
Circuit architect Hermann Tilke confirmed that his task had been “tough”.
“With the planning of Baku, we were on the limit,” he told Germany’s Auto Bild. “More was not possible.”
As for the actual pecking-order in Baku, it appears that the works Mercedes team and its customers are set to dominate, with Ferrari and Red Bull further back.
“I was a bit surprised, seeing Force India just behind us,” Rosberg admitted.
Hamilton agreed: “I guess our main rivals are ourselves.”