2016 will see another new venue where the F1 big top will pitch for a weekend. Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, is all set to host the return of the European Grand Prix. The residents of this former Soviet Union occupied state may be less concerned with the arrival of Formula One at present and more interested in the catastrophic mismanagement of the national currency by the current government.
That said, the totally and completely independent news source ‘Today.AZ’ is reporting a survey which shows the Azerbaijani people are the 4th happiest people in the world. Colombia tops the list with 85% net happiness, followed by Fiji and Saudi Arabia (82%), Azerbaijan (81%), Vietnam (80%), Argentina and Panama (79%), Mexico (76%), Ecuador (75%) and China (74%).
Notably, the Finnish people are not included in the happy list and Kimi is more than happy to explain why he is unhappy with the direction modern F1 is taking. The ‘Ice Man’ reflects on his career which stretches back to 2001 and mourns the loss of some of the classic circuits like Magny Cours, Imola and Nürburgring.
“When we go to a new track, we know what to expect,” he told Finnish publication Turun Sanomat. “They all look the same. There are no trees or anything else in the landscape. Of course, each track is always a little bit different, and each corner at the track is a little bit different, but ultimately the new tracks are made up of Tilke corners.”
The new street circuit in Azerbaijan is also a Tilke creation which Arif Rahimov, Chief Executive Officer of the Baku City Circuit, believes will be something different. “The Grand Prix of Europe is designed to be the most unique event ever held in Azerbaijan in many respects. It will be the fastest F1 street circuit on the calendar and will deliver a spectacular event to a global audience of around 500-million people.” The circuit is just over 6 kilometres long and the second longest on the current F1 calendar. Cynics may suggest this will merely lead to the second longest procession on the F1 calendar.
Kimi however, is not completely down on Hermann’s efforts. “Turkey was a nice track,” he recalls; but that appears to be the sum total of positives Raikkonen can sum up about the Tilke-dromes. Kimi is of course more old school: “I liked Magny-Cours — the track was so different, and nearby wasn’t much hassle. Imola was one of the best — there was always a great atmosphere and it was a great challenge. Also the Nürburgring.”
This is not the first time Kimi has ridden this ‘circuit hobby horse’ as he previously described the circuit in Korea as “the worst” and the season’s established finale in Abu Dhabi as just “a race in the desert.”
The solution to the problem is unfortunately unlikely to be found until Bernie Ecclestone retires. Only then will the nepotistic relationship between Formula One and Tilke be broken, and at present the bad news for F1 fans and Kimi is that Tilke is tinkering with a couple of possibilities for F1 in the USA.