Just three weeks ago, we were watching the Azerbaijan Grand Prix nearing its close. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Lance Stroll lost control of his car and slammed into the wall on the back straight. The safety car had to be deployed, of course, due to the amount of debris scattered on the track surface. Thankfully, Stroll made it out unscathed.
Written by Hafiz Akbar, edited by Janvi Unni
Not long after the restart, race leader Max Verstappen, with just a handful of laps remaining on what should’ve been another race win to put in the bag, suffered a puncture of his right rear tyre. He immediately lost control of his RB16B and spun, hitting the barriers on his right. This immediately begs the question: what would happen if he went the other way?
To put things into perspective, we should know the Baku Street Circuit (the layout and whatnot) first.
So the point where Verstappen and Stroll both suffered their blowouts was in the main straight, which is the combination of two very high-speed corners in turns 19 and 20. From the exit of turn 19, drivers usually go flat out, with Valtteri Bottas setting the unofficial fastest record of 378 km/h (235 mph), going barely faster than Juan Pablo Montoya’s record in his McLaren back in the 2005 testing session in Monza.
In the layout, we can see that the pit lane is adjacent to the main straight and it’s somewhat a left-right chicane to keep the pitlane clear of any dangers from the track.
Now if Max corrected the spin and went to the left, instead of the right, we can assume by mirroring the car’s travel projection that he’ll go further than if he didn’t correct the spin and with the pit lane entry chicane barrier in the way, the rear of his car is most likely to slam into the chicane barrier. This sudden loss of speed is then transferred into rotational energy, also known as a violent spin, to the right. Estimates put the number of G’s experienced by Max at more than 30 G’s, with other estimates putting the number at a much higher 50 G’s. To put this into perspective, Anthoine Hubert’s crash in the 2019 F2 Belgian Grand Prix produced 70 G’s of deceleration.
But thankfully, Max made it out with barely any injuries to him, other than the obvious race win which surprisingly didn’t affect his title charge at all, since Lewis Hamilton made a mistake at the restart which sent him to the back of the pack and out of the points.
Former F1 driver and world champion Nico Rosberg commented that Baku [Street Circuit] is a dangerous track, especially the pit late entry. But Formula One’s Race Director Michael Masi begs to differ. He said that the pit lane entry meets all the required safety standards and does not need any changes to it whatsoever.