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Promoter confident of Baku's F1 future

NEWS STORY
21/06/2016

Despite the country's human rights record, were we alone in thinking there was something incredibly naive about the comments made by Azerbaijan's president, Ilham Aliyev, in the moments before Sunday's race.

"It is a big honour for us to host such a race, like Formula One," he told Sky Sport F1's Ted Kravitz.

"I am very grateful to Mr Ecclestone, for selecting Baku for one of the destinations for Formula One" he continued, turning towards the sport's supremo who was (understandably) sporting a wide grin.

"We are a young independent country," added Aliyev. "Only twenty-five years, and such a big success. And this is one of the indicators of our achievements.

"I welcome all the guests, I am glad that so many guests are coming, to Baku, they will come every year, hopefully enjoy their stay and we will try to organise everything so that the guests are happy," he concluded.

As Ecclestone turned to grin at Kravitz, the expression 'lambs to the slaughter' came to mind, after all haven't we heard similar optimism from the leaders in Turkey, South Korea, India...

Sadly, having learned from the lessons of their GP2 counterparts, the F1 drivers took a cautious approach to the race, the first couple of laps leaving one wondering whether the VSC had been deployed in error or perhaps we were seeing it in slow motion.

Despite the fact that the organisers put on a good show - race aside - one couldn't help wonder why there were empty seats at an event already limited to less than forty-thousand spectators.

Despite the best efforts of the organisers, and admittedly this was the first race, there seemed no genuine passion for the event. Unlike Monaco, people looking out over the track from balconies appeared to regard it as a bit of an inconvenience.

Nonetheless, the track's chief executive, Arif Rahimov, is confident the event does have a future.

"It is a success," he told Reuters. "It's really great to hear all the compliments from everyone, from drivers, from teams, from Formula One management... everyone's really happy, everyone's proud of the event.

"We made it!" he continued. "We showed what Baku is: great racing along with a great city.

"If we reach the success that we reached this year, I'm sure it's going to be a long term event, just as good as the old races that are now on the calendar... like Monaco and Monza."

Clearly, Rahimov, who is the son of Azerbaijan's youth and sports minister, is unaware that most of those "old races", such as Monza, are under continued serious threat of F1 extinction.

With talk of a five-year deal, Rahimov was asked if the event could become a night race, like Bahrain or Singapore.

"There is a possibility some time in the future," he replied, "that maybe we'll want to stir things up but I think it looks good as it is."

If they really want to "stir things up", it might be an idea to get a couple of drivers along to discuss how the track might be improved enough to allow them to approach it with a bit less caution. After all, isn't Fernando Alonso an ambassador for the event.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by itc, 21/06/2016 23:53

"I think the F1 drivers saw the carnage of the first GP2 race (12/22 crashed and retired) and thought better of it.
Excluding balconies, hardly any spectators, the grandstands weren't even 10% full."

Rating: Neutral (0)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

2. Posted by Ro, 21/06/2016 19:20

"Another one sniffing glue! There were NO SPECTATORS! Who paid for it all ?? The rich oligarch....The race was a joke....Ive seen better go-cart racing in a warehouse, and the track was wider there !"

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3. Posted by nonickname, 21/06/2016 13:50

"Strange.. for a change I rather enjoyed the race. Plenty of overtaking and a very sensible approach from the drivers."

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4. Posted by Cobra Driver, 21/06/2016 13:11

"As for the Baku circuit...Mickey Mouse. Another Tilke success.
"

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5. Posted by Kkiirmki, 21/06/2016 10:19

""We showed what Baku is: great racing along with a great city"...is he kidding? This was easily the worst race of the season, and this is a championship with Abu Dhabi on the calendar. Honestly, who cares what the drivers think? We, the spectators are the ones watching the race, it needs to entertain us, not the drivers. "

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