|Round three of the 2016 GP2 Series takes place on the Baku City Circuit, Azerbaijan which has never hosted a GP2 race before. Below Thomas Lassus, Race Engineer for Championship leader Norman Nato, explains how the team is preparing for this interesting new challenge.
A new circuit like Baku puts you, as a race engineer, in a very unique position. How do you handle all the unknowns?
When you prepare an event on a new track like this one, this is when the importance of your simulations comes into play even more. We have developed some good tools at Racing Engineering that should help us to be as well prepared as possible. Nevertheless, the results of the simulations need a good interpretation from our side to take the best decisions setup-wise. We use our experience from GP2 and from other tracks to make the best analysis of these simulations and see into which direction we should go technically.
What are the key factors to prepare the cars for a circuit like Baku when you have no real reference?
The key factor is to characterise the track the best we can in these weeks before the race so we know what are the demands in terms of setup, tyre management and driving. The 45 minutes of FP will be more important than ever as everybody will discover the track, but it is a short amount of time to get up to speed so we need to arrive there with our homework done. I think a big part of this weekend's results rely on the work done before the event. On our side we have already started our Baku preparation quite a while ago.
Based on the information you have up until now and the work on the simulator, can you explain us a bit what we can expect from this circuit?
Baku is a circuit with a very long straight where the start finish line is, and a very twisty section in the old city. It is quite unique to have an urban track with such a long straight. These are the key characteristics of this track and this represents the biggest challenge in terms of setup. On top of this, the track is wide on its fast part but looks quite narrow around the castle section so this will be quite a big change for the drivers, they will kind of drive two type of tracks during the lap.
The last time GP2 teams faced this situation of a completely new circuit was before Sochi and the results were quite good for Racing Engineering. What can we expect from this upcoming race weekend in Baku?
We are trying to get as ready as we can and the results will come as a consequence of the work done by the team and drivers. We are not heading into the weekend thinking about the results we want to achieve but more focused on the big job list we have ahead of us.
I think in terms of racing, Baku should produce very exiting GP2 races as T1 seems to be a very clear overtaking spot after the long straight and its DRS zone.