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Are new F1 car regulations causing dull races? Baku may be the first of many



Disappointing 2023 Azerbaijan GP f1

When it comes to Formula 1 racing, Baku is known for its ability to create chaos and excitement on the track. However, the 2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix was a disappointment, lacking the vital component that makes races at this location so appealing. While the track’s unique characteristics, such as long straights and tight corners, present set-up challenges, and add complexity, this year’s race fell short of expectations.

All Baku’s Formula 1 races prosper due to the track’s ability to create chaos. When this vital component is absent, the outcome is the 2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Races at this location aren’t particularly exceptional. They can be unpredictable, certainly, because they depend on sporadic moments of insanity that flip the grand prix upside down. Without these moments, the Azerbaijan GP loses its appeal.

This doesn’t imply that it’s an inferior grand prix location. It’s beneficial to have a variety of tracks with diverse challenges and degrees of risk. If F1 only included circuits that were ideal for racing, it would likely lose half of its calendar.

Baku’s unique characteristics make it a valuable addition to the schedule, as it presents distinct elements that can enliven a race. The combination of long straights and extremely tight corners poses set-up challenges, while the unforgiving walls, low-grip surface, warm temperatures, and typically strong winds add to the complexity. Some tracks lack most (or all) of these features, resulting in monotonous races.

These conditions often lead to errors during both qualifying and the race. However, there’s no guarantee that this will always occur. Occasionally, circumstances simply don’t line up in the desired manner, as demonstrated in this particular race. As George Russell observed after a race he referred to as “line astern”: “I don’t know what it was like behind, but from my side it looked like there was no overtaking.”

Indeed, this race was primarily characterized by strategic maneuvers during restarts and significant pace disparities that enabled DRS drive-by overtakes.


The sole major error in this race, Nyck de Vries’s relatively mild off-track excursion that led to his retirement, affected a few positions and played a role in Sergio Perez’s victory. However, it didn’t drastically alter the race’s outcome. Aside from potentially costing Max Verstappen the lead, it merely caused minor inconvenience for a handful of drivers.

There was no safety car restart, no red flag, nor any of the dramatic events that have rescued uneventful races in the past. It closely resembled the 2016 edition of the race, which was met with considerable disappointment.

While a grand prix does not necessarily require dozens of overtakes to be captivating, there should be a possibility of excitement. Basic strategic intrigue alone is insufficient. Furthermore, this generation of F1 cars is not ideally suited for street circuits.

However, it’s unfair to entirely blame Baku for a dull race. Perhaps a mistake was made before the event by shortening the DRS zone.

Lewis Hamilton questioned this decision, stating, “We had great racing with where the DRS was. By the time you switched the DRS on it was too late.” When asked if there was a lot of overtaking, he was told there wasn’t. Hamilton responded, “Well, there you go.”

Other drivers shared this sentiment, with Kevin Magnussen saying it “certainly didn’t make any sense for it to be shorter,” Alex Albon thinking last year’s positioning was appropriate, and Lando Norris stating that it was questioned by “all the drivers” during Friday’s drivers’ briefing. However, they didn’t seem willing to change it.

It’s possible that if the DRS zone was in its previous location, there would have been an increase in easy, uneventful overtakes. On the other hand, it could have been the catalyst for a few genuine passes – the difference between drivers being trapped behind others and having the opportunity to take a risk.


According to McLaren team boss Andrea Stella, the shortened DRS zone at Baku “definitely took a little bit of the edge off” during braking.

The driver from McLaren, Lando Norris, expressed that if the DRS zone was in its previous position, it would have given him and other drivers the chance to attempt an attack. During the race, it was impossible for him to do so since he was unable to get as close as he needed to make a move. Therefore, for Norris and his team, having the previous DRS zone would have been more favorable.

There are concerns that the FIA and F1 need to address regarding the difficulty of overtaking this year, which could be due not only to the shortened DRS zone but also a reduction in slipstream effect. It is essential for the FIA and F1 to examine these factors carefully to ensure that races remain exciting and captivating for fans.

Andrea Stella alludes to a concerning pattern emerging from the 2023 class that is undermining efforts to enhance racing overall. There is a growing number of remarks about cars becoming more challenging to follow again following the technical rules overhaul in 2022. Additionally, some are stating that the slipstream effect has become even less prominent, which is exacerbating the situation. These concerns highlight the need for the FIA and F1 to address these issues urgently to ensure that the racing remains competitive and enjoyable for fans.

Kevin Magnussen remarked that the cars are more challenging to follow this year, and as a result, the DRS zone should remain the same or even be extended. This statement aligns with the growing sentiment among drivers that overtaking has become more difficult, and the slipstream effect has decreased, which has negatively impacted the quality of racing. It emphasizes the urgency of finding ways to address these issues to ensure that the sport remains exciting and competitive for both drivers and fans.

Alex Albon agreed with Kevin Magnussen’s sentiments and added that as the cars become heavier and experience more load, they become more challenging to follow. This difficulty in following other cars closely has made overtaking even more challenging, further exacerbating the issue. The FIA and F1 must take this feedback into account and work towards finding solutions to improve the racing quality and ensure that it remains a thrilling and engaging sport for fans to enjoy.

According to Alex Albon, the current situation is not as good as it was in previous years. He believes that the cars’ increased load and weight have made them more difficult to follow, which has adversely affected overtaking. Additionally, the slipstream effect has not been as prominent as it has been with previous cars, making it even harder to overtake. These concerns highlight the need for the FIA and F1 to address the issues that are detracting from the sport’s quality and work towards finding solutions to ensure that the racing remains competitive and enjoyable for fans.


Alex Albon attributes the DRS train phenomenon, where drivers follow one another closely, unable to overtake, to the difficulty of following other cars due to the increased weight and load on the current cars. This, coupled with the reduced slipstream effect, has made overtaking more challenging, resulting in long chains of cars waiting for a chance to make a move. The FIA and F1 must address these issues to ensure that the sport remains captivating and competitive for fans.

The 2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix was an uneventful race that failed to captivate fans, and it’s disappointing since Baku has been known to produce exciting races in the past. The bigger concern is that this race may be indicative of a larger trend that impacts other races as well. There are growing concerns that the technical rule changes in 2022 have made overtaking more difficult, and the slipstream effect has decreased, leading to more DRS trains and less exciting racing. The FIA and F1 must take this feedback seriously and work towards finding solutions to address these issues to ensure that the sport remains competitive and engaging for fans.

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