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Azerbaijan confirms 2016 slot as Grand Prix of Europe
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BAKU WORLD CHALLENGE
Posted By: Justin Hynes  |  25 Jul 2014   |  11:00 am GMT  |  84 comments

Following Wednesday’s announcement that Mexico will return to F1 next year, Azerbaijan this morning revealed that it will join the grand prix calendar in 2016, hosting a new iteration of the European Grand Prix in the country’s capital, Baku.

“I am delighted to officially announce that we have signed a contract to bring Formula One racing to Baku in 2016. Our location at the crossroads of eastern Europe and western Asia is a new frontier for Formula One racing,” said Azerbaijan’s Minister of Youth and Sport, Azad Rahimov.

“Azerbaijan is a modern European country that has established a reputation as a centre of sporting excellence. The deal to bring Formula One racing to Baku is a very significant new chapter in our ongoing success to attract the world’s largest sporting events to our country,” he added.

With Azerbaijan located on the shores of the Caspian Sea, it might seem like stretching a point to brand the event as a European Grand Prix, but the country has been a member of the Council of Europe since 2001 and plays its international football as a member of UEFA. Rather than brand the race as the Grand Prix of Azerbaijan, the choice of the European Grand Prix as a title signifies a desire to more closely align the former Soviet Republic with its western neighbours.

The new race will take place a street circuit in Baku, against a backdrop of the city’s medieval Old City and the Caspian Sea. While the design of the street circuit has yet to be finalised, Rahimov revealed that it is envisaged that Baku’s Azadliq Square will accommodate the race start, main grandstand and pits and that the racetrack will include major roads and landmarks such as Neftchilar Avenue, Government House and Maiden Tower.

Baku has hosted street racing before, with an event known as the City Challenge Baku, featuring GT3-spec cars, taking place in 2012. The FIA GT Championship took over last year with its Baku World Challenge, racing on a new 4.380km circuit (pictured above) around Crystal Hall – the venue built to host the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest – and the National Flag Square. The Baku World Challenge event will form the final round of this year’s Blancpain Sprint Series sportscar race in November.

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84 Comments
  1. aezy_doc says:

    What? Erm, why? This will go the way of India and Turkey.

    1. Tim Scarratt says:

      Why?

      Because $$$.

  2. Anil says:

    Hopefully the layout is more like Canada rather than Singapore or the dreaded Valencia.

    1. tom says:

      What was wrong with Valencia? Why is everyone so freaking negative about new circuits all the time?

      1. Trent says:

        Yeah, we’re sometimes a pessimistic bunch, us F1 fans.
        If you look back to some of the older street tracks – Adelaide, Long Beach etc, they produced some pretty outstanding races. Not sure what the key is, but I think Canada produces a spectacle because it’s still possible to hit the wall, so mistakes are genuinely punished, and you can appreciate the skill of the driver that much more.

        Interesting that everyone has written this off on the day of the story breaking.

        I think we should give it a chance.

      2. al says:

        Valencia ?

        Did anybody ever manage to stay awake for a whole race there ?

  3. radohc says:

    oh well, the most European country of all :)

    1. ngwe23 says:

      LOL I had to look it up on Google Maps and its next to Iran. Very European….

      1. AlexD says:

        Sometimes you read all these news about F1 and you really ask yourself – is this for real? Double points, engines with no sound and now European GP in a typical Asian country? One week you hear Wolff challenging F1 to turn on toward fans and one week later you see F1 “Walking the talk”……….I can only hope that F1 audience will keep shrinking…dramatically and that Bernie will be out of money….sponsors dropping, teams dropping. This is the only way for F1 to be saved….

      2. Sebee says:

        AlexD,

        I think you’ll find that’s the way off the cliff into irrelevance. Honestly, I don’t know what F1 should do.

        You know the saying, to do nothing is to go backwards. But last 5 years didn’t feel like we were going backwards, did it? I think the show was quite good overall.

        I don’t know what I would do if I was in charge. I think those changes we shoot off like rapid fire would be much harder to implement. Granted killing double points is a no brainer. But the rest? Can you do 2 engine types? I mean, given a choice to switch to a V8, wouldn’t everyone except Mercedes (and Williams) do it in a blink?

    2. Sebee says:

      I’ve had this conversation a number of times.

      I’m American. I live in California. You?
      I’m European, from Azerbaijan.

      Honestly, it happens all the time. You just land in Berlin and take the ICE and you’re there.

      1. C63 says:

        I’m American. I live in California. You?..

        I’m German. I live in Monaco/Switzerland (delete as required) :-)

        With reference to the switch back to V8′s; sure, any team can switch back whenever they wish. Oh, one thing though – 100kg fuel limit still applies. What’s that? Sticking with the new power trains then. Ok, fair enough ;-)

      2. Sebee says:

        C63, why didn’t you use the example you know you wanted to.

        I’m American. I live in California. You?
        I’m British, from Monaco-chester.

  4. Gaz Boy says:

    What month is Baku most likely to host the grand prix? Although I suspect the FIA are putting together a draft calender at this moment in time.

    1. Random 79 says:

      Draft calendar or daft calendar? ;)

  5. Kristiane says:

    Bernie, you can never be too wealthy, can you?

    1. Gaz Boy says:

      Mr E’s mantra: the belief in the primacy of money………over anything else.

  6. RacingFanatic says:

    Really? Why couldn’t we go somewhere interesting, exciting and historic like Imola, Estoril, Brand Hatch, Clermont-Ferrand, old nurburgring (year right like that’ll ever happen again :( )

    So sick of all the boring new tracks in F1..

    1. Chris says:

      TBF, Imola and Estoril are hardly exciting tracks!! I like street racing!!

    2. Ben Z says:

      Had a look at the track on Youtube. – another F1 race I wont bother to get out of bed to watch.

    3. moxlox says:

      Well Azerbaijan sounds very interesting to me as a place. I bet most people, me included, know little about it, so even just in that aspect it holds interest to find out about this part of the world. I remember when I first went to the Hungarian Grand Prix it was an opportunity to find out about a place I’d probably not visit otherwise; and Budapest is wonderful.

      The worry is another street circuit, which usually are pretty dull to watch racing on. Another Valencia layout is not what the sport needs.

    4. Olivier says:

      It is because Azebaijan is an oil state apparently.

      Unbelievable.

      And very symptomatic.

      Really, there are far too many GPs on the calendar. It doesn’t matter to have one bad weekend. You have 20+ other ones to erase the bad memories. In this context it does make sense to grant double points on the classic circuits. But that is another topic …

  7. AlexD says:

    And how it is Europe? :-)

    1. Panayiotis says:

      I guess we have become Eurovision…

    2. Sebee says:

      We’re going to have a new race in Azerjaban.

      Where?

      Azberajaban.

      Where?

      Azebarjan

      Where?

      Ah screw it, no one knows how to spell it or where it is. Call it European Grand Prix.

      Done.

  8. Matt says:

    Another boring street circuit in another oil rich country. Nice to know that F1 management is keeping up with the recent tradition of ignoring what the fans want and going after the money to line their bulging pockets. Thanks for that Bernie!

  9. jcmt says:

    This site is supposed to give up to date news of F1, but an hour and a half after P1 there is no news or or results, unlike BBC and SKY websites. There seems to be more emphasis on fancy design than giving easily read news and comment.

    1. James Allen says:

      We have never covered FP1- it’s a test session basically. We do FP2, quali and race plus insights on topics of the moment

      1. Tickety-boo says:

        And bloomin’ good it is too (the coverage that is).

      2. Mohammed almomen says:

        Hey james top work, but why not cover it ? If rather come to this website for my f1 fix than jump around other websites. I love this website a lot and would rather just use this than anything else. Again thanks for all the hard work!

      3. Jcmt says:

        The headline on the NEWS page does say ” Up to the minute comment and analysis on F1 by JA”. But apparently P1 is not worthy of comment or analysis?

    2. AuraF1 says:

      I thought it was an in-depth analysis website and opinion piece outlet for James? If you want up to the minute stats etc you can go to one of the NEWS organisations that employ gigantic staff levels purely to do that surely?

    3. Random 79 says:

      Quality over quantity.

      1. Starbug1 says:

        +1

    4. aezy_doc says:

      It’s not a news site. It’s a blog. Big difference.

  10. Elissa says:

    Next we’ll be saying it’s neighbour Iran should be hosting the European Grand Prix…

    1. Christopher Cathles says:

      “Next we’ll be saying it’s neighbour Iran should be hosting the European Grand Prix…”

      … in which case it’ll be renamed “For-Mullah One”

    2. JOHN H says:

      Probably not a European GP but maybe one day it’s own. Before anyone starts to carry on about that, it looks likely that the Russian GP is going full steam ahead despite all of the mess it has caused in Ukraine. China has one and gee what a open and free society they are.
      Money talks!

  11. janis 1207 says:

    Yeah, well, first Russia, now it’s Azerbaijan, what next? North Korea? Provided they have the money, that is.
    BTW, F1 fraternity will now have a chance to enjoy the Baku’s road traffic anarchy. Worse than Delhi, in some aspects… .

    1. Sebee says:

      Honestly, I would like to see a GP from North Korea.

      I think many of us are fascinated with the country and it’s people. I remember when Departures went to North Korea, it was a fantastic look into the country. I love to see shows from there to give a glimpse of the place.

      Why do you think F1 went to Hungary in the first place? It was part of the east block and behind the iron curtain.

    2. KGBVD says:

      Don’t be silly. N Korea could never afford a race.

    3. Mark V says:

      Apparently Mongolia and Iceland are at the front of the queue to host GP’s.

  12. Average Lee says:

    Another dull street circuit to avoid watching.

    Stands will be packed with corporate for the first race, then three-quarters full for the second, third etc.

    What is the typical monthly salary in Azerbaijan?

  13. Moog says:

    I don’t mind the location and welcome new exciting tracks.
    However, street circuits suck (I don’t count Canada as one).

  14. Andrew M says:

    Well, the corruption perceptions index still puts Russia as the most corrupt nation to hold a grand prix, with Azerbaijan slotting into second now, and Mexico storming into third.

    That’s something, right?

  15. neffo says:

    An F1 race at the famous wizard prison?

    I presume dementors will be the track marshalls?

    1. Must be with BE as the head marshal, ya suppose? Always thought this was an imaginary place in ‘Ary Potter’s Wizarding World !!

  16. AuraF1 says:

    F1 continues to pore over the Human Rights Watch annual report in a race for those countries that get red flagged and shout, ‘ hurrah! We’ve got a new winner! These guys make China look cuddly!’

    Yes, yes, I know sport and politics shouldn’t mix but there are teams struggling with sponsors jumping ship each year and humiliating the golden geese is not long term thinking.

    1. Curro says:

      How narrow-minded. What about the US?

    2. Sebee says:

      Tears for Fears said it best, it’ a “Mad World”.

      There are people who are tasked with protection of human rights. Bernie/FOM/FIA are tasked with giving us F1 cars that look good and sound right, race tracks that provide action, and most importantly double points. If Lewis loses thanks to double points, will you consider it a human rights violation?

    3. Neil Jenney says:

      I was about to post this when I saw your comment and thought it fit here:

      I’m upset about double points, mid-season rule changes, Tilkedromes, etc., etc., etc. The following bothers me more than all F1′s internal issues. I’m quoting Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2014.

      “The Azerbaijani government’s poor record on freedom of expression, assembly, and association dramatically deteriorated during the year. The authorities arrested dozens of political activists on bogus charges, imprisoned critical journalists, broke up several peaceful public demonstrations, and adopted legislation that further restricted fundamental freedoms. This crackdown was the backdrop for the October 2013 presidential election, in which incumbent President Ilham Aliyev was re-elected for a third term with 84.5 percent of the vote.”

      I passionately love this sport but I don’t know what to think any more.

    4. Grabyrdy says:

      Yep. And when the question was put to the team chiefs at the Press Conference today, there was a resounding SILENCE. These guys just seem to enjoy being screwed by Bernie and CVC (about which, obviously, they couldn’t comment either). Keep re-arranging the deckchairs guys, and the only interesting thing about the band is whether it’ll make 2 or 3 stops.

      1. Olivier says:

        +1

        To quote Desmond Tutu:

        “If You Are Neutral On Situations Of Injustice, You Have Chosen The Side Of The Oppressor.”

    5. Random 79 says:

      It always makes me giggle when someone says long term thinking in relation to F1 ;)

      I’m going to put you on the spot now AuraF1: Considering we already have races in places like Australia and Canada, what’s your pick for a new nice country to host a new F1 race?

      1. Jason says:

        new zealand

      2. Random 79 says:

        Good call :)

  17. forzaminardi says:

    I do like new tracks and new races but the morals of F1 are gradually putting me off. Money money money, more and more every day.

  18. Sujith says:

    That settles it then. The $400 million circuit in India is gonna just sit there open for the Circus perhaps?

    1. Sebee says:

      Hey, build this at a cost of $400 million. If you don’t pay me $40M annually to host a race, it’s going to be a wasted $400M.

      Would that $400M be better spent on facilities in India to eliminate public defication, recently found to be a significant contributing factor to high child mortality rate there?

      How is it Bernie’s fault that some countries have their priorities out of whack? He’s just a sales man selling a product.

    2. Vivek says:

      I remember being surprised when they announced the circuit was to be built in Delhi. The Indian motorsports scene, such as it is, is completely centered around the south. Both Karthikeyan and Chandok (Vicky and Karun) come from Chennai after all.
      That track has always been a burden. Nothing ever took place there other than F1 because no one cared. Pity really.

  19. Michael Brown says:

    This is just getting ridiculous, farcical even. F1 has totally lost its way, and it won’t be long before it’s irreversibly ruined.

    Very sad indeed.

  20. JOS says:

    Bordering Iran? East of Turkey? European?
    Why not use it’s own name?

    My understanding of the “European” title was for the 2nd GP in a country that already had one. e.g. Valencia, Brands Hatch, Nurburg, Donington.

  21. van orten says:

    Well the last race in Valencia in 2012 with the longer drs zone was rather electrifying. So street circuits can be thrilling with lots of overtaking and action. Singapur needs a longer straight

  22. Richard says:

    Great news! Even more empty grand stands! To call it the European Grand Prix is even a bigger joke. Will be exactly the same as India, a country which has no intrest, whatsoever, in Formula One.

  23. F1inDeutschland says:

    Moreover, in 2017 the Grand Prix of Africa will be held in Norway, Vladimir Putin will be all 4 stewards, Sepp Blatter will wave the chequered flag (despite having promised not to) and the tickets will be sold exclusively via email by a Nigerian prince… At least we won’t need any post-race debate about why the grandstands were half empty.

  24. KGBVD says:

    This actually strikes me as a properly exotic location. For some reason the idea of it is sitting better with me than a lot of other expansion races recently.

    Quite frankly, better this than Magny Cours.

  25. Carlos Marques says:

    As a rule I don’t watch races in Hermann Tilke-ish circuits. This circuit fits that criteria.

    C’mon. How about letting someone else design a circuit for once? Or at least have someone look at why the classics like Silverstone and Monza are so much better than the new circuits? The old circuits are dangerous and/or follow the contour of the land. They don’t feel artificial. The new circuits are flat- in more ways than one.

    I wish all the best to Azerbaijan, but I do wish they would go back to Imola. We all have good and bad memories of that place. It may not offer great racing, but it demands the very best of every racer and every corner is a potential accident waiting to happen. It separates the men from the boys, and that’s what we like to see.

  26. Tom says:

    I’ve been to Azerbaijan several times and I can assure any F1 fan who wants to go there will have a lovely time. All the comforts of Europe without any of the prices. Not sure what they’ll manage to do for a track though.

    1. AlexD says:

      But how is this Europe, geographicaly?

      1. Howard P says:

        They’re in the Eurovision Song Contest

  27. Steve Zodiac says:

    Formula 1 isn’t that the quiet sport they have on the other side of the world?

    1. Sebee says:

      Are you trying to start a game? In one sentence describe F1?

      1. James Allen says:

        We have something fun lined up for the summer break along those lines but more engaging, watch out for it

  28. Pkara says:

    I think it’ll ne a great place to go
    EAST MEETS WEST NEAR THE CASPIEN SEA.
    Besides if Bernie needs a quick change of citizenship well theres Baku & Sochi .
    Interpol whats zat :-D
    we are Azerbaijani you are Azerbaijani Bernie :-D
    Please note James this is tongue and cheque! I mean cheek & no inferences to any ongoing issues :-)
    :-D

  29. paul.r says:

    i watched a round of the WEC. race there earlier this year doing a six hour enduro
    and i have to say, WHAT A LOAD OF RUBBISH this track is !!!
    an absolute waste of my life that ill never get back!
    if you think valencea is boring than you havnt seen anything
    though this was probably a slightly different track to what the f1 track will be, it wont be to much different
    i couldnt believe it, they ran the cars down a narrow side street between the slummy buildings where all the little old ladys had there washing out hanging over the balconies, it really was not pleasent to see
    if this place does get on the calender for real, it will be because bernie needs some more money to cover all the issues he has been going through lately, not because he has passion for the sport.

    1. RogerPGR says:

      WEC do not race in this country or on this track!

  30. Rich C says:

    Well at least they should have decent caviar.

  31. Gary Honey says:

    My big question, what race does Azerbaijan replace on the calendar. I heard doubt over Monza which, I think, would be a big loss. Went for Friday practice 2 years ago and the sense of history and atmosphere is like nothing else.

  32. Howard P says:

    I think it’s unfair that Singapore or China shouldn’t be called the European Grand Prix.

    Maybe Australia in the future?

    1. goonerf1 says:

      We’ll be going around the continent’s next lol :). Asian GP anybody? South American, North American, African? Or how about an ocean?

      We did actually have the Pacific Grand Prix years ago at Aida.

  33. goonerf1 says:

    There are only 2 reasons I can see for going to Baku, Azerbaijan.

    1. It’s an oil rich country.
    2. The manufacturers have probably opened plush new dealerships there.

    About sums it up doesn’t it?

    If F1 was about the racing anymore, we’d be going to circuits like this;

    http://www.gtplanet.net/forum/threads/potrero-de-los-funes-circuit.297851/

    If I win the euro millions :), I’d be setting up a championship with GP2 similar spec cars, turning the power up on the engines, playing with the aero regs to suit, and having races on circuits like this one around the world. A formula about driver skill, fan entertainment, and great racing, that doesn’t cost a fortune.

    Who wouldn’t tune in to watch that?

  34. Brad Withyman says:

    Ahh huh. Modern European country with a throwback style dictator. Nice work Burnie! F1 continues to slide downhill.

  35. Kristiane says:

    I never heard of Azerbaijan until I dug around Google Map and Wikipedia.

    With all these gimmicks like double points, DRS etc… there could be a good reason for the introduction of Azerbaijan: land mines, the ability to fire bazookas at your opponent. Think about it, it’s right next to places like Iran where the politics are unstable and there’s always conflicts, the ideal backdrop for such gimmicks!

    Heck they might even do what Mario Karts do and introduce the abilities to drop oil, bananas and fire turtle shells. Hang on… they might do that in Japan where the game Mario Karts was created.

  36. Folkdisco says:

    At least India and Turkey know where they are. Azerbaijan may wish to be associated with Europe, but it isn’t in Europe, it’s in Asia. The usual. F1 claiming to keep out of politics, whilst guzzling down dollars from any nation in need of an expensive PR injection. This is not the way any sport should be run, and it will have consequences in the medium and longer term. Bernie and CVC don’t care, but what are the FIA playing at?

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