Running parallel to the Caspian shore, is this the fastest F1 pit entry of all time? The speed trap is set just where the cars peel off from eighth gear, DRS flap open and 215mph. At about 150 metres before the track physically splits into two, there’s a white painted box section that those who are racing onwards are not allowed to enter, so as to separate any slipstreaming cars from those intending to begin 4g of deceleration with a squeeze of the left ankle, preparing to slow for a pit lane chicane, then briefly accelerating again up to the pit lane speed limit line.
Although not quite as startling a feature as the narrow Turn Eight, at the bottom of the hill beneath the ancient castle (where normally there are cobblestones), it’s still rather radical. Daniel Ricciardo reckons that on an in-lap there might be as much as 1sec to be made by attacking it. And those approaching it with DRS deployed will doubtless be hoping they do not have an airflow reattachment problem as they brake. Is it significant that Ricciardo saw opportunity in the layout, but Nico Rosberg saw the potential for a big accident?
Felipe Nasr makes his first attack, Sauber braking hard, Ferrari downshifts echoing off the architecture, some of which is Stalinist, some middle ages, others neo-colonial, as a Williams flashes by flat-out, a blur of Martini stripes and shards of molten magnesium from the scraping underbelly.
Fernando Alonso makes the most aggressive first assault on that entry, the McLaren ludicrously late on the brakes and extreme in its angle. By comparison team-mate Jenson Button’s first run looks tame, a point JB confirms later. “Yeah, we compared them. Actually there was only about half a second’s difference. So not as much as we first imagined.” Still, half a second on an in-lap could be gold dust, even if it was uncomfortable to get. Depends how much you want it.