K lar, the Formula 1 season begins in Australia . Everyone knows that. My personal start this year is Azerbaijan. When it comes to awarding the races, which I share with my colleagues Tobias Grüner and Andreas Haupt, it is not necessarily as popular as the trip to the other end of the world. However, since I've never been to Azerbaijan, this Grand Prix appeals to me. Especially since I find street circuits sensational. Run-off areas as big as supermarket parking lots are at least taboo.
A rough approach to the 'City of Wind'
Because I live in Munich and my colleague Michael Schmidt in Stuttgart, we meet us at the airport in Frankfurt. From there, a Lufthansa plane, which is extremely popular, takes us directly to Baku. As soon as I approach I get to feel why the capital of Azerbaijan is called the “City of the Winds”. We have a lot of cross wind when landing, which makes things a bit tricky. We barely survive.
In front of the airport building, I experience the first culture shock. Not because it is so incredibly traditional, but because there are taxis parked everywhere like the ones we know from London. We leave it on the left and get on a shuttle bus that should take us to the hotel in the city center. As soon as we sit down, I know what I missed over the winter break: Michael's impatience. He can't understand why it doesn't start right away and why we stay in the parking lot for another half hour. I smile quietly to myself, imagine with a smile what he would look like while meditating and let him curse.
We arrive on the journeypast some swanky buildings that exude European flair. If you take a closer look, you can see a bit rotten buildings every now and then. Appearance and reality are obviously the order of the day here. We arrive late in the evening and try to get a bite to eat in a bar in the pedestrian zone. Everything here reminds me a bit of a mixture of Turkey, Russia and elegant buildings from Paris. Michael can even watch a little football.
Breakfast with a view of the Caspian Sea
The next morning, colleague Schmidt missed the highlight of our hotel: I have breakfast on the 11th floor with a view of the Baku skyline and the Caspian Sea. Okay, the view is a bit cloudy because there hasn't been a window cleaner at these heights for a long time, but still impressive.
Another treat: We can walk along the route. Those are my favorite races, after all you move a bit outside the paddock and don't stand in traffic jams for hours. On the way there is a statue of the President every 100 meters. But staring too much through the area can end badly here: The asphalt is sometimes so dilapidated and adorned with mole holes that there is an acute risk of tripping. In the paddock, which only consists of containers, there was a lot of discussion on Thursday about Max Verstappen's ramming against Sebastian Vettel in China and about the phenomenon that Mercedes has now been without a win for three races in a row.
On Friday we are following even then the bad luck. Michael raves about the Pauls bar that a German raised in Baku. In the previous year, it had already developed into a regular pub for colleagues, serving Erdinger wheat beer and hearty fare such as steak with fries. But first we get stuck in the press room forever because Michael has to work out the times for the Friday analysis himself (otherwise he gets the data from a team).
Taxi driver vs. Police officer
On the way to Pauls, our taxi is stopped by the police. On the side of the road, the driver and the policeman discussed loudly for almost a quarter of an hour. You can imagine how much Schmiddi had to pull himself together with an empty stomach and bursting with impatience in order not to take part in the discussion with hand and foot. At least we managed to place an order before closing the kitchen and spend a nice evening with our journalist colleagues.
While Michael is stopping there again on Saturday evening, I treat myself to a break in the hotel. Because of the postponed schedule, qualifying does not begin until late afternoon, but processing takes until late at night. The scene par excellence: Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly narrowly escape a catastrophe. Gasly can only avoid his slowly moving team mate and takes the emergency exit. It shouldn't be the last disaster in the bull camp this weekend.
Race Sunday already starts chaotically. The winds are extremely strong again. There is a contest on Twitter to see who will shoot the funniest clips. The race was going to get even crazier. Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo fight tough duels before Ricciardo crashes brutally on the home straight into the rear of Verstappen at the fourth meeting. In the meantime it looks like Valtteri Bottas will win, but he has to pass him on to Lewis Hamilton because of a flat tire. Sebastian Vettel was already out of the fight for victory because of a brake. Enough material to be told. We work late into the night and Monday is all about the post-coverage of this crazy Grand Prix before we head home on Tuesday night.