Drivers thrilled with challenging circuit at Baku

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After the first two free practice sessions around the 3.7-mile Baku City Circuit, the quotes have started rolling in from the drivers.

In brief, the expectation that the Baku, Azerbaijan street circuit would offer a unique mix of high speed straights and tight, narrow corners proved prescient.

Here’s a number of driver quotes following today’s practice sessions, primarily via team releases:

  • Lewis Hamilton: “A good day for me and a nice way to start the weekend. The track isn’t easy: not because the layout is particularly difficult to learn but because it’s very slippery. It’s Monaco-esque in terms of braking and how close the barriers are but you’re arriving at much higher speeds. It’s a real challenge. It takes a lot of focus, which is something I like. I’ve enjoyed driving here today.”
  • Sebastian Vettel: “I don’t think I had a bad day, we are missing some speed but I’m sure we can improve.”
  • Valtteri Bottas: “It was an interesting day for me, I really like the track. It’s very demanding, it has some high speed corners and some twisty, more technical areas, so it’s definitely one of the most challenging tracks on the calendar, but at the same time it’s a lot of fun. Even though I felt good today, we can still improve the car a lot and get more from the tyres. I have high expectations for the weekend, but we have to keep working because at a new track there’s always more to learn, which I enjoy. It’s interesting finding out all the secrets corner by corner. We need to work hard to keep finding more laptime from me and from the car because we have the opportunity for another good result this weekend.”
  • Max Verstappen (to verstappen.nl): “I really enjoy the Baku circuit. The track is still slippery and the high speeds on the straights make braking for the corners challenging. Because I only completed three full laps in FP1, which was really all about getting to know the track, it meant I had to find my comfort zone in FP2 before I could really push and work on the car’s set-up. Luckily I was able to a lot of laps in the afternoon. All in all it wasn’t a great start but it should be better tomorrow.”
  • Kevin Magnussen: “It’s an awesome circuit and quite a challenge. The car didn’t feel fantastic in the first session but it felt much better in FP2 with the set-up progress we’d made and also the track improving. I’m pretty happy with the balance of the car. We’ve got a little work to do with brake locking, but that should get better with the track improvement. I’m looking forward to getting back out tomorrow once we’ve worked a bit more on the car. I think we’re set for an interesting weekend.”

Three-time W Series champ Jamie Chadwick joining Andretti in Indy NXT Series for 2023

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Jamie Chadwick, the three-time W Series champion, will drive for Andretti Autosport in the Indy NXT Series next season.

Chadwick will make her debut in an American racing series in March, driving the No. 28 for Andretti Autosport with sponsorship from DHL. The 24-year-old will become the first female driver in 13 years to compete full time in the Indy NXT championship.

Chadwick joined the female free-to-enter W Series in its inaugural 2019 season, winning two races and the first of three consecutive championships. She has been a reserve driver for the Williams Formula One team and will continue in that role in 2023. She also has driven in the Extreme E Series.

Despite her success, Chadwick hasn’t landed a bigger ride in F3 or F2, and her break didn’t come until Michael Andretti contacted her and offered a test in an Indy NXT car.

The final three races of this year’s W Series schedule were canceled when funding fell through, but Chadwick still believes the all-female series was the right path for her.

“W Series has always been and will continue to be an opportunity to be racing for every female driver, so for my side, I looked at it while perhaps I would have liked to step up maybe earlier, at the same time being able to have that chance to race, get that experience, have that development, seat time… I was constantly learning,” Chadwick told The Associated Press.

“In that sense, I wasn’t frustrated at all. But on the flip side of it, now I’ve had that experience testing in the United States in Indy NXT and this is something I’m really excited about.”

Chadwick also is expected to have an enhanced role as a development driver next season with Williams, which chose American driver Logan Sargeant to fill its open seat on next year’s F1 grid.

“Andretti Autosport is proud to be supporting Jamie alongside DHL,” said Michael Andretti. “Jamie’s successful career speaks for itself, but Indy NXT gives Jamie the opportunity to continue her development in a new type of racing.

“We’ve turned out five Indy NXT champions over the years and look forward to continuing our role in developing new talent.”

Indy NXT is the new name of the rebranded Indy Lights Series, the final step on the ladder system before IndyCar.

Andretti will field two drivers next season in IndyCar that were developed in Indy NXT: Kyle Kirkwood, the 2021 champion, will return to Andretti after one season in IndyCar driving for A.J. Foyt Racing, and Devlin DeFrancesco is back for a second season.

Chadwick will be teammates in Indy NXT with Hunter McElrea and Louis Foster. She becomes Andretti’s second full-time female driver alongside Catie Munnings, who competes for Andretti United in the Extreme E Series.