The GP2 Qualifying session for the European Grand Prix has been postponed due to problems with the temporary kerbs on the Baku track.
The 30-minute Qualifying session, which was due to take place straight after the F1 First Practice session on Friday, was red-flagged just a minute into the session after concerns were raised over the kerbs on the new street circuit.
It’s the second red-flagged session on the streets of Baku, after Red Bull F1 driver Daniel Ricciardo crashed on the outside of turn 15 in the F1 First Free Practice session prior to GP2 qualifying.
The FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting, along with FIA Deputy Race Director and former Brabham team manager Herbie Blash, took to the track in the F1 Safety Car just minutes into the GP2 session to inspect the track after reports of damage to the tyres of F1 cars during the practice session.
Whiting inspected various corners around the track as marshals were called in to conduct emergency repairs to the temporary kerbs.
Because the Baku track is a temporary street circuit, each rumble strip is bolted down to the track in sections.
It’s believed Whiting was paying close attention to the gaps between sections of the rumble-strips on the inside and outside kerbs of each corner.
After the track inspection, the FIA stewards reached the decision not to restart the session, and to postpone it until after the second F1 free practice session, delaying GP2 qualifying until 7pm local time.
It’s the first time the track has featured on both the F1 and GP2 race calendars, with some drivers going off the track as they tested the limits of the new circuit.
GP2 racer Norman Nato, driving for Racing Engineering, had set the fastest lap time in the GP2 practice session on Friday morning, lapping the track in 1min.55,394s, almost four tenths faster than the time set by rookie Antonio Giovinazzi.
F1 driver Lewis Hamilton had set the fastest time in the F1 first free practice session, setting a lap time of 1min46.435s after going off the track himself at numerous points as he tested the limits of the track.
Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg was 0.377 seconds off the pace and could only manage a time of 1min46.812s, while Williams F1’s Valteri Bottas completed the top three with a lap time of 1min47.096s.
McLaren’s Fernando Alonso was the surprise of the session, finishing fourth ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in fifth, with a fastest lap time of 1min47.989s to Vettel’s 1min48.627s.
But the F1 session was also red-flagged for 11 minutes after Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo ran wide through turn 15 and touched the barriers, losing his right-rear tyre and the right-pillar of his rear wing after just 17 laps of track time.
The track, set in the streets of Baku in Azerbaijan, incorporates some of the Old City and historical core of Baku, a UNESCO-registered World Heritage Site.
The circuit has already received some criticism from drivers who believe it is a confusing mix of very tight sections and motorway-style straights.
When asked by Motorsport.com what he thought about the circuit, Lewis Hamilton said that he wasn’t impressed after testing the circuit in a racing simulator.
He said: “There’s one very tight spot on it [and] it’s got a very long straight.
“It’s super wide in some places, as wide as a motorway almost in some places!”
Williams driver Felipe Massa tweeted the above photo of turns 8 to 11 with the caption ‘It’s a Go Kart or a race car track?’
É pista de Kart ou Carro ?? Kkkk It's a Go Kart or a race car track ?? Kkkkk instagram.com/p/BGtq4GSnLcL/—
Felipe Massa (@MassaFelipe19) June 16, 2016
The tightest part of the track has been measured at just 7.6 metres wide through turns 7 and 8, where the track bends around the outside of the Baku Fortress.