The Baku City Circuit has produced some classic moments in Formula 2 since its debut event in 2016.
The 6.003km street circuit has hosted some chaotic races in The Land of Fire. A multitude of Formula 2’s graduates have performed admirably in Azerbaijan.
Nine of F2’s graduates are competing in F1 in 2023. Let’s take a look at their best moments in Baku in the second tier of motorsport.
AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda won’t be included as he didn’t race in Azerbaijan in Formula 2.
- Charles Leclerc – 2017
Charles Leclerc went into the Azerbaijani round of the FIA F2 championship holding a slim lead in the standings ahead of Ollie Rowland on an emotional weekend, his father had passed away days before the event.
The Monegasque driver raced at Baku once during his sole F2 campaign in 2017 for PREMA.
Leclerc dominated qualifying, he took pole position by a sizeable half a second margin over Japanese driver Nobuharu Matsushita. The pole sitter also scored 4 points for driving to pole position despite a lacklustre practice session.
The PREMA driver continued his good form in the longer Feature Race taking his third win of the season, a race that was cut short four laps from the end due to the red flags being brought out.
The 19-year-old shared the podium with two of his fellow F2 graduates Nyck De Vries and Nicholas Latifi.
The Sprint Race was also a very impressive drive from Leclerc, he finished in P2 behind Norman Nato after starting in eighth place.
2. George Russell – 2018
George Russell dominated the Formula 2 Championship in 2018 taking six victories for ART on his way to the title doing his one and only season in F2.
The Mercedes Junior Team member qualified third but finished 12th in the Feature Race after an incident with De Vries late in the race.
That disappointment didn’t seem to hinder the British driver, on Grand Prix Sunday’s Sprint Race Russell produced a storming drive.
He capitalised on a hectic start and found himself in fifth place behind Lando Norris after the opening lap.
The ART driver managed the race making a superb pass on Sergio Sette Camara to take the lead with five laps remaining.
3. Alex Albon – 2018
Staying with the 2018 season, Alex Albon finished third in the F2 championship for DAMS competing against an ultra-competitive field.
The Thai driver was one of three 2018 F2 drivers to get promoted to Formula 1 alongside Russell and Norris.
Albon’s race weekend in Baku started perfectly taking pole position by two tenths ahead of Norris.
The Feature Race saw Russell sweep past Albon off the line before immediately retaking the lead later on the opening lap.
The DAMS driver went onto take the win, fending off Jack Aitken and Antonio Fuoco in a hard-fought victory.
The Sprint Race didn’t hold the same good fortunes for Albon as he suffered a poor start and ended up a point-less P13 in Baku.
4. Oscar Piastri – 2021
Oscar Piastri has joined Formula 1 this season as an extremely highly rated rookie alongside Lando Norris at McLaren.
The Australian cantered to the FIA F2 title in 2021 for PREMA, he gathered valuable points on his way to the championship in Azerbaijan.
Piastri qualified third on the 20-Turn circuit, ahead of his team mate Robert Shwartzman for the first Sprint Race of the weekend.
Race 1 held the worst possible scenario for the Alpine Academy driver who retired on the opening lap after a frantic start in The Land of Fire.
Race 2 and FIA F2’s 100th race saw Piastri start 19th and produce a measured drive to finish in eighth place in a race that had two Safety Cars.
After a mixed first couple of races in Baku, the Australian finished second in the Feature Race behind Juri Vips despite a five second penalty for an unsafe release.
He sat second in the championship, five points behind Guanyu Zhou after Round 3 in Azerbaijan.
5. Guanyu Zhou – 2021
Guanyu Zhou has become China’s first Formula 1 driver in 2022 racing for Alfa Romeo. Zhou spent three years in Formula 2 finishing third in the standings in 2021.
Zhou arrived in Azerbaijan leading the championship and qualified in eighth place for UNI-Virtuosi, ahead of his team mate Felipe Drugovich.
The Chinese driver drove a great race in Sprint Race 1 scoring a third place finish and keeping out of trouble in Baku.
Race 2 and the Feature race didn’t hold the same fortunes for the Alpine Academy driver who retired from Sprint Race 2 and finished P13 in the Feature Race, outside the points.
6. Logan Sargeant – 2022
Formula 2’s newest graduate Logan Sargeant finished fourth in the championship in his sole F2 season last year for Carlin.
In Azerbaijan, the American got a step closer to his Williams F1 drive alongside Alex Albon this year.
Sargeant suffered a mediocre qualifying, setting a time good enough for seventh place, just four tenths slower than pole sitter Juri Vips.
The Sprint Race yielded a strong points finish for Sargeant with sixth place but the Carlin driver made a couple of mistakes late in the race which dropped him from third to P6.
Race 2 was classically chaotic and had cars make contact at Safety Car restarts. Vips crashed out of the race lead while under pressure from Dennis Hauger.
Sargeant kept cool and delivered second place on the streets of Baku.
7. Nyck De Vries – 2019
De Vries finally got his shot at Formula 1 in 2023 with AlphaTauri after a long career in Formula E and WEC.
The Dutchman dominated Formula 2 in 2019, winning the championship at the penultimate round of the season.
Baku proved to be a critical step on the road to his title, he qualified second behind Matsushita for ART before taking P2 in the Feature Race.
The Sprint Race yielded yet more points for De Vries, after surviving a frantic opening lap, the ART driver finished in fourth after he lost third place to Jack Aitken on the last lap.
8. Lando Norris – 2018
Lando Norris has performed admirably for McLaren since his debut in 2019 taking six podium finishes, including a third place at the 2021 Monaco Grand Prix.
The British driver delivered a lacklustre F2 campaign in 2018 for Carlin, finishing second in the championship taking just one victory in Bahrain.
In Azerbaijan, the McLaren junior scored valuable points at the second tier of motorsport prior to him stepping up to Formula 1.
Norris qualified in second place, between Albon and Russell who also graduated to F1 for the 2019 campaign.
The Feature Race saw the Carlin driver fall foul of the Dallara F2/18’s unreliable clutch, he stalled on the grid and started Fromm the pit lane.
Norris stormed through the field to finish in sixth place. The Sprint Race saw the British driver finish in fourth place despite running wide at Turn 1 while battling with Russell and Nicholas Latifi.
Formula 2 will return to Baku on the 28-30th of April and host the fourth round of what has been a thrilling championship.
Image: Formula Motorsport Limited