The Formula 1 show will make its maiden appearance in the former Soviet state of Azerbaijan from 2016 onwards, the country’s government has confirmed. The event will be known as the ‘European Grand Prix’ and will take place on a street circuit layout in the country’s capital, Baku.
The country had plans to join the 2015 schedule, but the national government and F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone have elected to delay proceedings by a year.
“I am delighted to officially announce that we have signed a contract to bring Formula 1 racing to Baku in 2016,” Azad Rahimov, Minister of Youth and Sport for Azerbaijan, said of the country’s future Grand Prix.
“Our location at the crossroads of eastern Europe and western Asia is a new frontier for Formula 1 racing. Azerbaijan is a modern European country that has established a reputation as a centre of sporting excellence.”
Ubiquitous circuit designer Hermann Tilke will pen the street circuit layout, which will have its pits and paddock facilities house around the historic Azadliq Square.
The country has been on the international motorsport calendar for the last two years, staging a round of the FIA GT Series (now known as the Blancpain Sprint Series) on a 4.37-kilometre street circuit on the capital’s Caspian Sea shoreline.
Outside of its two GT races, the country has next to no motorsport heritage, and it’s hardly a bedrock of transparent governance either. The Transparency International commission ranked it outside the top-100 countries, giving it a similar corruption ranking to neighboring Russia.
That effectively makes Azerbaijan the worst-ranked country where Formula 1′s footprint will be imprinted in the last twenty years. The likes of India (94th), China (80th), Brazil (72nd), Italy (69th) and Bahrain (57th) are all better ranked – although hardly flatteringly – and the announcement of Azerbaijan’s arrival will simply continue to support the theory that Ecclestone and the sport’s Commercial Rights Holders are continuing to chase the countries with the biggest cheque books.
The team principal attending Friday’s FIA Press Conference at the Hungarian Grand Prix were keen to avoid criticism of the decision, in addition questions about whether the sport should abandon the inaugural Russian Grand Prix given the continually escalating unrest between Russia and the Ukraine.
Image via Silk Way Travel