Alonso says Baku is F1's fastest street circuit

Spanish driver Fernando Alonso of McLaren at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Montmelo, Spain, on March 3, 2016.
Spanish driver Fernando Alonso of McLaren at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Montmelo, Spain, on March 3, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

BAKU • Fernando Alonso has hailed the Baku City Circuit as the world's fastest, saying it promises to be the most memorable race on this year's Formula One calendar.

He said in an interview on Tuesday, 100 days before the European Grand Prix: "We are talking about the fastest street circuit in the world, reaching speeds only comparable to Monza in Italy."

"I really like what I saw. I think it's going to be a really unique circuit," added the Spaniard, who visited Baku as the official ambassador for the Grand Prix of Europe that will take place in the Azerbaijani capital from June 17 to 19.

He took a tour of the Baku City Circuit and inspected some of its features, including the 7.6-metre narrow, uphill, winding sequence of turns by the walls of Baku's Old Town, a Unesco World Heritage site.

The two-time world champion also visited the circuit's main straight along Baku's picturesque seaside boulevard, where cars are estimated to hit speeds of up to 340kmh as they race towards the finish line.

"The Baku race will be a very important thing for the sport," he said. "Formula One becomes more and more international and we open the sport to new countries. We are in every part of the world right now.

"Maybe we are missing a little bit the USA. In America, F1 is still not so popular and not so important. The complexity of the rules is quite big, so I think for the normal people on the streets Formula One is quite a difficult sport to follow, sometimes a little bit too closed."

Alonso, who joined the Woking-based team after five years with Ferrari, said street circuits, where "everything can happen", are always a good opportunity for the less competitive teams.

"I am looking forward to this race to maximise every opportunity we have," he said, adding that his McLaren-Honda had been changed a lot since he suffered the most disappointing year of his career last year in an unreliable car.

"The power unit is completely different... we had a lot of reliability problems, we also didn't have the performance, we had to make a lot of improvements, also in the aerodynamic side.

"We are not that strong right now, but we know what we need to change. In every race we must be in the points and then fighting for podiums in the second part of the season. I think it's going to be our goal."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 10, 2016, with the headline 'Alonso says Baku is F1's fastest street circuit'. Print Edition | Subscribe