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Maffei hits out at Azerbaijan event

NEWS STORY
14/03/2017

While the self-congratulatory banners around the circuit insisted 'well done Baku', Liberty Media's chief executive Greg Maffei appears to think the signs should have actually read: 'sort yourselves out, get your act together and do more for F1'.

In recent years, the sport has welcomed all manner of countries to the calendar, including Abu Dhabi, Turkey, Russia, South Korea, India and, last year, Azerbaijan.

All have paid handsomely to host races, and then built race tracks on which to host those races, in order to put their countries on the map, joining a prestigious calendar the includes the likes of Great Britain, Brazil, Italy and Monaco.

They pay vast fees to the sport for the rights to host races which they hope will not only attract visitors for the race but throughout the rest of the year, hoping that some of the F1 glamour will rub off on them.

Well, not according to Greg Maffei.

Indeed, according to the sport's deputy chairman, events such as these join the calendar to promote F1.

BBC Azeri quotes Maffei as telling a recent conference in Florida that the Azerbaijan event "does nothing to build the long-term brand and health of the business."

Now, while few fans were taken with the event, like many of the recent additions to the calendar, the drivers were complimentary believing that in time the street track will prove popular, with the 2017 regulations making it even more challenging.

While only 18,500 race day tickets were sold for the inaugural event, and only 30% to foreign buyers, tickets sales for this year's race are already up, a further boost coming in the shape of the event not clashing with Le Mans as it did in 2016.

The organisers have a ten-year deal with a five-year break clause and only last month Arif Rahimov, son of the Youth & Sports Minister Azad Rahimov, claimed that there are was an "increase of tourist inflow in Azerbaijan in the first half of 2016, which grew 20-fold".

None of this appears to matter to Maffei however, who in what has to be a monumental case of biting the hand that feeds F1, a gaffe more than worthy of Bernie Ecclestone, claims that none of which matters to F1.

Admitting that the driving force behind finding new hosts and events has been: "How much can I extract? How much upfront?", he continued "So we end up with races in places like Baku in Azerbaijan where they paid us a big race fee but it does nothing to build the long-term brand and health of the business.

"Our job is to find partners that pay us well but also help us to build the product and it is incumbent upon us to bring best practice," BBC Azeri further quotes him as saying.

"Some of the races which are considered the most exciting: Abu Dhabi, Singapore night race, Mexico City. What is going on well in those races? We need to share that better with promoters in each of the cities where things are less successful.

"It is both incumbent upon us to help but it is also recognising a new one, the first thing they are going to do is say 'I'm paying too much'. There is some expected noise and we are working on trying to quell that and help them."

It remains to be seen whether organisers agree and work harder this year to promote the sport, or whether Maffei is seen as Liberty's version of Gerald Ratner.

After all, imagine the public outcry there would be if Silverstone - for example - were to secure government funding to save the British Grand Prix, and Mr Maffei was to subsequently claim that the event isn't about Britain but promoting the sport.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by mittagongcalling, 16/03/2017 1:48

"Did he mention ABU DHABI??????????????????????"

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2. Posted by Burton, 14/03/2017 20:46

"it is a gaffe in the sense of him saying it publicly, but it is a proper criticism of the ghastly Ecclestone model and he's also apparently open to helping promoters and making it a proper two-way collaboration instead of just a milking. So, not as bad as first seemed."

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3. Posted by Jeremysmith, 14/03/2017 18:29

"I could not agree with him more ..."

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