Azerbaijan confirms it will host grand prix in 2016

2016 F1 season

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Azerbaijan will join the Formula One calendar in 2016, Bernie Ecclestone has confirmed.

The first Azerbaijan Grand Prix will take place on a street circuit designed by Hermann Tilke in the country’s capital Baku, which has a population of 2.1 million.

The circuit will use the Azadliq Square as the location of its start/finish straight.

Azerbaijan’s Minister of Youth and Sport Azad Rahimov said: “Our location at the crossroads of eastern Europe and western Asia is a new frontier for Formula One racing.”

“Azerbaijan is a modern European country that has established a reputation as a centre of sporting excellence.”

Baku held the season finale of last year’s FIA GT championship:

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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68 comments on “Azerbaijan confirms it will host grand prix in 2016”

  1. Perhaps a bit of a push for the Hungarians to up their fee just before their Grand Prix weekend? We have it until 2021, but as we know in F1, that doesn’t always mean anything…

  2. Bernie didn’t learn from the Korean GP I see. Go back to Magny Cours or something.

    1. But money!

    2. The Korean race was fairly remote. This is in the country’s capital city.

      1. David Thompson
        25th July 2014, 19:13

        The whole country of Azerbaijan is more than fairly remote. As well as corrupt, autocratic, and very poor ($8,000 per capita anuual income). Plus there’s religious and ethnic strife.
        But so long as Bernie gets his $30 million . . .

        1. But it at least has a larger local population. It isn’t really all that much more remote than Sochi, but at least you can presumably fly to Baku. It is a shame though that as a ‘European’ (I thought south of the Caucasus was Asia, but I guess Azerbaijan must be more aligned with Europe culturally) race it is such a trek for just about anybody from Europe. Especially as it will apparently be called the ‘European Grand Prix’.

    3. Monisha Kaltenborn said:

      “We go to countries where it might be exciting, like in India for the first or second time, but to establish a sport there is very, very tough”

      “If we cannot keep or even reach out to our fans and connect to our people here [in Europe], how should we manage to get new fans where there is not motorsport heritage or history?”

      “So I think it is really high time that we try to find this connectivity to the people and it has to be through the sport and the show.”


  3. Oh great, another pointless money race. Maybe they can host the GP of North Bahrain, GP of South Bahrain, GP of Middle Bahrain.

    1. The F1 World Bahrain Championship :)

  4. I’m sorry, but anything that involves Bernie Ecclestone and Hermann Tilke is rubbish. Money and boring traks basically.

  5. Azerbaijan ?!?!? Jeeeeeez……. ! Go back to France !

    1. france had their chance, and failed with the miserable magny cours.

      1. They could always try Sarthe Bugatti, Paul Ricard, or tart up Dijon.

        1. Please not Bugatti. That would be a horrible circuit for F1.

      2. It’s unfair to judge France history and heritage in motorsport because of a single circuit. like @raceprouk pointed out there are others circuits that can host a F1 GP in France better than these crappy Tilkedrome in countries that have no interests in F1. BTW in the 80’s when then french GP was held in Paul Ricard the grandstands used to be full of crowds and the racing was quite good. Lemans also can teach something in this case.

        1. @tifoso1989 the problem isn’t just packed grandstands or not. I believe if F1 came to Argentina, the grandstands would be FULL year after year, regardless of the prices. Because we love it.

          But I doubt F1 makes money from tickets alone. Probably Magny Cours had nothing worthy for F1 as a business. So they droped it and efforts to revive it failed.

          Azerbaijan, while exotic, surely attracks Bernie more and we know the guy. He cares quite little towards people, tradition or whatever…

          1. David Thompson
            25th July 2014, 19:18

            “regardless of the prices”???
            About 4,000 Argentine pesos for a 3-day grandstand seat? That’s roughly the Austin GP price; about half the per capita annual income in your country.

          2. David Thompson
            25th July 2014, 19:20

            Sorry, Fer no.65. I messed up the currency conversion. The correct fraction is 5% – still a big hunk.

  6. Another motor race in another motor racing backwater.
    Nice one Bernie.

  7. I think this is awesome news. If the track design doesn’t fail that is. And, on top of everything, this, I expect, would be much cheaper than going to Russian GP (besides plane tickets).

    1. but I do agree with posters above, I myself would probably rather see France back in the calendar)

  8. Ridiculous….

  9. petebaldwin (@)
    25th July 2014, 11:23

    Personally, I’m not really too bothered what country the race is in providing the track is decent.

    Everyone moans and moans and moans about Tilke, but two of the best races this year have taken pace on “Tilkedromes.”

    I couldn’t care less how many people turn up to watch the race. That’s for the promoters to worry about. There weren’t that many at Hockenheim but that didn’t affect the quality of the race.

    1. This is the funny thing, isn’t it?

      We love our classic tracks, and we still need some of them, but realistically, the Tilke tracks (on the whole) do provide some decent races, or at least a fair few overtakes.

      Those old classic tracks were generally built in an era of completely different cars to what we have today.

      But overall, I think people are perhaps a little more disappointed regarding its location more than anything.

      I’m sure people would be pleased to hear of a new GP track being designed in France.

      I was lucky enough to go to Apex Circuit Design and see a sneak peak at a track designed by Apex, in conjunction with Alain Prost, for a French GP proposal. I also got to see an Australian GP proposal, which was a pretty neat circuit resembling Kuala Lumpa.

      1. David Thompson
        25th July 2014, 20:02

        And I, for one, miss them both.

  10. Liam McShane (@)
    25th July 2014, 11:25

    So what exactly are these venues going to replace?

  11. Robert McKay
    25th July 2014, 11:26

    Other articles I’ve seen suggest it is going to be run under the European GP moniker.


    Does it suggest people are less interested in the “Azerbaijan Grand Prix”?

    1. petebaldwin (@)
      25th July 2014, 11:28

      I’d be amazed if it wasn’t called the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. They are promoting the country like crazy sponsoring various football teams so they wouldn’t want to lose out on having their name on the world’s lips for a weekend.

      1. The Azerbaijani government seem to have been making strides to increase the perception of their country as European, rather than Central Asian. Hosting an international event with a European title (and no doubt flags to accompany it) will from their point of view presumably help create the perception of Baku as European city.

        1. Well, no part of Azerbaijan is even close to Central Asia, it’s rather European vs Middle Eastern, or post-Soviet.

      2. @petebaldwin Yep, it’s going to be called the European Grand Prix source

        1. David Thompson
          25th July 2014, 20:06

          “Two thirds of Azerbaijan is rich in oil and natural gas.” – Wikipedia
          And is independent of Russia. For the time being.

  12. Remember when Azerbaijan and F1 where mentioned in the same sentence? Yeah, me neither.

    1. To be fair though, I can hardly remember when Azerbaijan was mentioned in a sentence, period.

  13. I don’t think it’s a bad thing so long as it doesn’t replace a classic circuit. However, the inaugural race in Baku seems to be coinciding with the year that Ecclestone said he would drop Monza… oh dear.

  14. So we’ve had Turkey, Korea, India, Valencia – all dismal failures. What chance has this one got.

    1. Turkey was a good track, and worth the effort. Korea was worth an effort too, though it didn’t succeed, at least it was tried. Valencia was not needed as they already have enough European races, and the track was dreadful. Inida is a country worth revisiting in the future.

      1. @kpcart
        Agreed mate, the track at Turkey was pretty bloody good, it just wasn’t the place for a race.
        The same goes for China really, not a bad track, facilities very good from all accounts but its 2-3 hours from Shanghai. I have spoken to a few teams and journalists at some races and they say don’t bother going, not worth the effort. They said the same of India & Korea (gone now of course).

        Back to France would work but why not give Imola a refurb and get back there??

        1. Imola has already had a refurb and is now fit enough to host an F1 race after receiving a ‘1’ FIA homologation rating in 2011.

    2. We’ve also had Malaysia, Singapore, and China, all of which have decent tracks and are decent events. India was not a dismal failure, and F1 may yet return there.

      1. @marsianwalrus

        We have had Malaysia for quite some time now(since 1999 maybe??). I went for the first time this year and can not rate this place much higher- it was awesome, and very humid :)
        The experience, the track, the people, all excellent!!

        Compare Melbourne, as a street circuit, to Sepang and as a patron Sepang is so much better. It is designed so the majority of spectators see 50-60% of the track (like Intelagos in a way).

        Monica (as always) makes smart comments- when F1 fans in your core areas, aka- Europe, are tuning out, maybe get those fans back instead of breaking new markets.

  15. Anyone else tend to shudder when they read the words “Bernie Ecclestone has confirmed”? My brain’s default response tends to be “Oh god, this can’t be good…”

    1. Personally, if Bernie Ecclestone confirmed that the sky is blue I’d have to look outside to check!

      1. Bernie confirms that the sky is blue I wanna see the check.

        The man does nothing that is not in his own financial best interest.

  16. I don’t like to see F1 going to another undemocratic country without any motor racing heritage but if FOM do not drop Monza or another classic circuit as a result and if Tilke makes a proper and original racing circuit (for a change) in Baku, then I am ready to tolerate it. I would love to see F1 race in New Zealand, France, South Africa, Portugal and several other countries before they start considering the likes of Azerbaijan but if there is good racing and if they can make some local fans happy, then well, welcome to the club.

    However, this is another case, which shows that F1 bosses do not have a long-term strategy and all they want is to sell their babies to the highest bidder here and now. Perhaps that is the ultimate reason for falling audience?

    1. @girts
      The President was re-elected with almost 85% of the votes in 2013, just because there’s evidence showing oposition groups were intimmidated, wrongfully arrested, denied the right of assembly and given virtually zero coverage from the less than free press within the country there is no reason to claim that Azerbaijan is undemocratic – if Bernie says they’re decent chaps who deserve to host a GP then who are we to disagree ?

      1. @beneboy Haha. My friend actually works for an Azerbaijani company and regularly visits the country. For sure, it is not another North Korea but it is obviously lead by an authoritarian regime where the president’s cult of personality plays a significant part in the country’s politics.

  17. What a shame, another race with empty stands except poor people paid to wave azerbaijan flags, like in the last WTCC race there.
    Bernie is desperate to find big money to keep his unfair and expensive business model intact.

    I propose a contest for the least attended race of the year, and I already know the 2016 winner.

    1. Or was it FIA GT?

      1. you don’t even know. WTCC and FIA GT are not good examples, a lot of people don’t care about them. F1 is different and will be promoted better.

        1. If it’s promoted as well as the German GP this year, they’ll be lucky to sell seven tickets.

    2. Lots of people watch F1 in Azerbaijan. If the ticket prices are reasonable, the stands are going to be packed.

      1. F1 tickets and reasonable prices are mutually exclusive.

        1. The ticket prices are set by the promotor, not FOM, excluding the paddock club.

          If the government is the promoter, which sounds likely, and they are using the race to market their country, both to their own people, and international spectators they may choose to set the ticket prices nice and low to ensure a good crowd, and make the even look like a big success. Kind of like of how they do it Malaysia.

  18. It could be quite a good street track – I hope it’s not a track limits fest or another boring Valencia.
    I hope they don’t use that GT layout – two of the world’s worst chicanes in one lap!
    But the third one (10:32 on the video) is faster and better, and the hairpin and swimming-poolish section look great.

    Better to start from scratch than ruin great old circuits by running them across a rounders field like Mexico.

    1. They won’t use the GT layout, because they’ve already confirmed that the start-finish straight will be on Azadlig square (which is not part of the GT track).

      this is the wide straight passing the Azadlig Square. Most of the landmarks are around that straight.

  19. Ah yes, Azerbaijan, that country with a massive motor sport heritage. Much better to go there than somewhere like Monza eh Bernie.

    No teams from there, no drivers from there, no previous interest in F1 but suddenly they get a race. Lets be frank, F1 is no longer a sport, it’s a tool Bernie can use to make money, that’s it. 10 years time it’ll the WWE of motor sport.

    1. maybe the race there will create interest in F1 in other parts of the world??? it is a world championship you know, not a grand anglo saxon championship. the race will create interest, and one day their might be an Azerbaijan driver. look at Poland, Kubica hit the stage, and now there are more top level polish drivers in international series popping up.
      Give the country a chance, Bernie is not doing anything different he has done the past 30 years, wheeling and dealing, but at least now he is taking the sport to the real world stage, not just Europe. People are bashing this country in the same way they bash any female that has a chance to enter F1.

      1. Poland has a rich history of motorsport, Poland was one of the first countries to hold a Rally back in the 1920’s and other motorsports, such as Speedway, are massive in Poland.

  20. Wow! that track looks really narrow! How do they expect cars to overtake?

    1. Exactly my thoughts ! Some guys here didn’t see the vid… it seems. Personally, wasn’t really worried about the country and/or going to a new country, the race is the most important, but the track in the video. It looks like another Monaco race -> few overtakes.

      1. They won’t be using that track for the F1; that’s just for the Blancpain series.

  21. It is all a BE ploy. With incredibly stupid decisions such as this, his lawyers in the bribery case in Germany will claim BE is suffering from early signs of dementia (just like the revolving door incident) and be acquitted from the bribery charges for sanity reasons.

    Obviously, if that fails and he makes another millions of Euros in the process, it is not bad for him.

  22. Finally Azerbaijan! The world is celebrating!

  23. Looks worse than South Korean track. Valencia – come back!

  24. I find interesting that for the past two days everyone has been full of praise for the Mexican GP coming back and yet when the Azerbaijan race is announced the majority disaproves it.

    My guess is that we the fans don’t like to see races in places where they’re not going to be appreciated, what happened with India and Korea is still in everyone’s minds (but apparently not Bernie’s).

  25. totocaster (@)
    25th July 2014, 17:07

    It’s my neighbour country I can get easily so in theory it’s good for me. BUT, be ready to pay Police money (for nothing, of course) on every step, corruption level in Azerbaijan is beyond anything I’ve seen. It’s like my country in 1991-93 (after soviet union collapsed.), but with golden bogs with marble floors. I’m happy for Azerbaijanis, but honestly, I would like to see France or/and Turkey instead.

  26. Would never have though of Azerbaijan as European so it seems a strange angle for them to push.

    Bernie is probably just thinking for eg. £25m per year you can be whatever you want to be!

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