Race marks the return of the 'European Grand Prix'
Though some have raised eyebrows over the designation of the 'European' branding to a nation right on the outer limits of the most modern definition for Europe's borders, the inaugural race in Azerbaijan will indeed mark a return to the schedule for the European Grand Prix moniker. Last seen in 2012 for the discontinued street race in Valencia, the title can be traced back to the 1980s as a way of getting around the rule that no nation can host two events. However, the European Grand Prix brand has gone on to be used for 'additional' F1 races in Brands Hatch, Donington Park, Nurburgring, Jerez and Valencia sporadically since then. Interestingly though, this is in fact the first time the European Grand Prix title has been used by a nation with only one race, the reasoning being the organisers' attempts to 'westernise' the country to audiences despite its far flung location.

It is one of the first major international events to ever be held in Azerbaijan
Though it has resisted the temptation to call its inaugural F1 event the Azerbaijan Grand Prix (or Baku Grand Prix as it is colloquially regarded), this is in fact destined to be one of the biggest weekends in the history of Azerbaijan, if not the biggest. Eurovision Song Contest and European Games hosting duties aside in recent years, F1 brings a major international sporting event to Azerbaijan's Caspian Sea shores for the first time. Indeed, though it does have some motorsport hosting experience having run GT events in the past, this is by far the biggest platform it has worked towards. Though spectator capacities of a mere 28,000 mean this will be a relatively tiny affair by F1 standards, in terms of international coverage and recognition, this will be a very special weekend for the Azeris.

It's a long, fast and slow street circuit
The one trait that arguably marks this event out from other newcomers is the concerted decision to use all of Baku's most recognised landmarks within the layout... an trait the somewhat bland Valencia venue crucially didn't offer. It's an unusually long circuit at more than 6kms and 20 turns, but is set to boast some of the highest and lowest speeds of the year, from the sweeping waterfront final section and home straight - with the cars reaching 340kmh -, right up to the picturesque but narrow Old City section which is reported to be so slender at points you cannot get two cars side-by-side. As with any new venue, setting up the cars on Friday could be crucial but the unique and varied characteristics of the circuit is likely to make this more of a challenge than ever...
The quickest city tour in the world
As mentioned above, the Baku City Circuit has been designed to intentionally take in as many of Baku's most famous sights and the venue is set to look spectacular unfurling on screen with F1 cars in the foreground, particularly if the weather stays good. Indeed, Government House, Maiden Tower the Old City and the seafront boulevard all form part of the circuit, making it a treat for viewers at home, even if the drivers won't quite have time to admire the scenery.

Fernando Alonso has given it the thumbs up
The circuit - which is entirely different to the one used by the FIA GT/Blancpain Championship in 2012-14 - is yet to have been driven, but race ambassador Fernando Alonso has seen detailed plans and given his thumbs up, while FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting not only signalled his approval but says he expects to become a memorable fixture on the calendar because of its unusual mix of high speed and low speed sections, not to mention the cityscape.

Fast city facts
Set on the crossroads of Asia and Europe, Baku is the first capital city in Europe to see the sun each day and has grown rapidly in recent years on the back of economic boom spurred by its vast reserves in oil and gas. Unfurling along the Caspian Sea and home to 3 million people, Baku is twinned with the cities of Naples in Italy and Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina and has become known for the contrasts of its quaint UNESCO World Heritage listed Old Town - which plays a role in the circuit layout - and its distinctive modern skyline, highlighted best by the spectacular 190m Flame Towers, the Museum of Modern Art (pictured) and the Crystal Hall arena.



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