Initially the Baku City Circuit is hard to figure out as the entire length of the venue is lined with canvas barriers. Some places the fencing is so tight up against a buildings that only a single person can pass. This being a vibrant city of over two million people that can sometime present problems. Every 10 meters standing in front of the canvas barrier is a rather uninspired looking weaponless soldier. Further complicating my already basic confusion was the unhelpful signage. The organizers had a standard sign that didn't always work in every situation and location. Overall security, both electronic and personal, were sufficient, unobtrusive and very well done.
F1 merchandising was reserved by the standards of most F1 venues. Both food and gear ranged widely in cost. Some was standard F1 fare; US$ 40 branded hats and US$ 8 bottles of Heinekens. I understand they ran out of beer on Saturday. Baku City Circuit specific gear was inexpensive yet good quality. For the, let's be charitable here, bigger American an XL shirt was too tight. Local track food was good and inexpensive. The Potato Spiral (fries on a stick) was US$ 1 and a big box of fresh popcorn US$ .50. Also unlike many other tracks a program was actually hard to buy. You had to look for a vendor walking the stands.
The F1 circus coming to town is a big event. Thursday was the free Pit walk was very well attended. Friday and Saturday you could sit any where as everything was General Admission. Naturally as the weekend progressed attendance increased with all grandstands within eyesight (Azneft and Filarmoniya) filled on race day. These were real seats with a back and not just a concrete slab. Interestingly it is a very, very family affair. Lots of young children and their parents in the stands. Both Saturday and Sunday free concerts were given at the Crystal Hall adjacent to the track. The Sunday headliner was Cardi B.
Not knowing anything else about the track I selected Azneft (Turn 16); the final turn into the long straight. Sadly there was no real racing activity in the corner. Of course the big screen directly across the track helped. Some of the best seats in the house were the balconies of fancy apartments overlooking the track. Not real racing fans though. I would have been out there all day in my folding chair and cooler. One very nice feature was a grove of tall pine trees directly behind the stands. Underneath the promoters had provided @ 75 beam-bag chairs. Not just any bean-bag chairs. These were oriental carpet bean-bag chairs which I'd love for my home. All this along the Caspian Sea.
For me the highlight of the weekend was the staff of 15 to 18 year old volunteers. Thousands of 'em. Dressed in Baku City Circuit gear (which surprisingly enough they could individualize) they were wonderful ambassadors for Baku and Azerbaijan. Perfect American English and ready radiant smiles. Hamden (you always exchanged names) helped me to my grandstand on Friday. As I was passing through a narrow passage on Saturday she recognized and greeted me. She introduced me to her volunteer friend and we exchanged pleasantries. Very impressive.
Contact the Comissioner • Mark Petersen • 17 Selden Street • Rochrester, NY • 14605-2921 USA • Email