The Baku City Circuit has only hosted three Formula 1 races, but it has already become a favourite with fans due to the sheer number of overtakes and crashes the circuit has provided. It debuted in 2016 and was won by eventual champion Nico Rosberg, with Daniel Ricciardo taking the 2017 race and Lewis Hamilton winning this season.
The Azerbaijan Grand Prix offers one of the most demanding circuits in the F1 2018 game. With barriers next to you, long straights, and the narrowest section of race track imaginable. So how should you set your car up? Well you need straight line speed. With three long flatout sections, traction and low drag are required but you also need stopping power and a responsive car to get yourself through the narrow twists and into the 90 degree corners.
The natural inclination is to take away all the wing angle so you can fly down the straights, but that simply isn't possible in Baku thanks to the flatout section from turn 12 all the way to turn 16. That long left-hander requires rear downforce to stop the car floating on you, and as such we have to keep some angle on the rear. The front wing also requires a solid amount of angle so you can get the nose into all these tight corners.
This part is all about how the power is put through the rear wheels and into the tarmac. While a more locked on throttle differential gives a benefit in outright traction, it can severely wear your tyres. Baku isn't overly harsh on tyres, but with so many heavy braking zones and so little room for error you want to look after your mechanical grip levels as much as possible.
As a result we have added just one click of lock to the on throttle differential, giving us a small increase in traction, while taking one click out of the off throttle, to allow the inside wheels to rotate more freely and save some life in the tyres.
This is about how the wheels are aligned to the body of the car. Camber is how the wheels sit vertically compared to the rest of the car, and F1 cars are always set with a negative camber, meaning the top of the tyres are closer to the car than the bottom is. This creates more grip when cornering, but again increase tyre wear the more negative camber we add. Here we have added a touch of camber to the front tyres to make the car a bit more responsive and grippier in the corners, while removing a little on the rear so our straight line contact patch, and thus traction, is improved.
Toe is how the tyres sit horizontally. Front tyres in F1 are set with toe out, so the front of the tyres are further out than the rear. This again makes the car more responsive on turn in, while the rears are set with toe in to improve straight line stability. Here we have removed some toe out and added some toe in, giving us more straight line speed at the cost of a small amount of responsiveness.
Suspension settings are vital to your cars responsiveness when changing direction. We have a 7-5 set up here so that the front end is a little more rigid and responsive, while we allow weight to shift rearward under acceleration to improve traction. Having a stiffer front end than rear also generates a little oversteer, again helping us get the nose into all these slow corners.
By softening the anti-roll bars slightly we allow the car to unload the inside tyres while cornering, and thus saving a little life in them on every corner. It does reduce responsiveness slightly, but since you are rarely changing direction sharply around this circuit, it's a compromise you should be happy to make.
Ride height describes how much clearance the car has from the road. A lower car is slipperier and thus faster in a straight line, so it is tempting to lower your car a lot, but we have to take a few kerbs around Baku and we also don't want to bottom out and send ourselves bouncing into a barrier. A 4-4 setting is about as low as you can go.
Stopping power is vital here. Lockups are a risk, but if you can't get your car slowed down in a hurry at turn 1 or turn 3 you are asking to be overtaken by someone who can. We've pumped up the brake pressure to 93 percent, but to mitigate the chances of locking up slightly we have taking the brake bias rearwards a click to 59 percent. This also helps create a little oversteer and gets the nose in again.
Tyre pressure plays around with the contact patch you can create with the tarmac. By taking some air out of the rear tyres we can increase the contact patch and improve traction. This comes at the cost of responsiveness in high-load situations and more rolling resistance at high speeds. We don't really want to hurt our top speed as we'll just be horribly vulnerable into turn 1, so it's best to not change the rear tyre pressure.
With the front tyres we have added a little pressure, this will just add a little responsiveness to cornering and help reduce their rolling resistance.
We have left the ballast in the middle of the car at setting 6. Moving it rearward would improve traction, but it would also add more oversteer to the car and we have already generated enough of that with our suspension settings. In general you shouldn't move the ballast outside of the 5-7 range anyway, and here moving it forward would just undo a lot of the oversteer we need.
So there is our set up for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. It should look after your tyres in the race but give you enough stopping power and straight line speed to compete in qualifying as well. See you on the time sheets!
Azerbaijan Grand Prix Wet Lap Setup
Front Wing: 6
Rear Wing: 9
On Throttle: 70%
Off Throttle: 100%
Front Camber: -2.50
Rear Camber: -1.00
Front Toe: 0.05
Rear Toe: 0.20
Front Suspension: 5
Rear Suspension: 3
Front Anti-Roll Bar: 10
Rear Anti-Roll Bar: 7
Front Ride Height: 5
Rear Ride Height: 5
Brake Pressure: 87%
Front Brake Bias: 55
Front Tyre Pressure: 23.0 psi
Rear Tyre Pressure: 21.1 psi