Baku will play host to its fifth F1 grand prix this weekend and holds a contract that runs until the end of 2024, having had its contract extended by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the event to be cancelled in 2020.
"We are talking with them just to set up the framework. We’re not that deep into the negotiation period as of now,” said Baku City Circuit executive director Arif Rahimov when asked by Crash.net if negotiations over a new deal had started.
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Baku has become renowned for being one of F1’s most exciting races with four different winners from the first four events, while the potential for drama is always high due to the street circuit’s challenging, high-speed layout.
Asked by Crash.net if the unpredictable nature of the race helps to strengthen its case for a new deal, Rahimov said: “I’d like to hope so!
“I’ve seen the comments from the general public on social media, including the F1 social media and the teams and what we see is a lot of positivity, especially from the international crowd and the die-hard motorsport fans.
“They love this race, they love the unexpected factor of the race and I’ve seen some comments putting us on a par with some of the historical races, the traditional races.
“The only thing we are missing right now is the history, we’ve only had six races but it will be our dream to be a historic track with a lot of action like places like Monza, Monaco, and Spa.
“If we have the chance to have a longer contract it will definitely put Baku on with those traditional, historic, super tracks.”
And Rahimov insisted he is not worried about the competition for a spot on the F1 calendar with an influx of new countries interested in hosting a race.
“There’s a lot of non-traditional countries interested, but we’ve kind of switched from being a new race to being a more established race and something fans are looking forward to,” he said.
“So I’m not worried about this competition because now we have a lot more to offer to F1 than just being a part in their revenues. It’s actually something that people praise and want to see on their TV screen.”
F1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix can’t risk calendar date reshuffle
F1 is understood to be planning to group more races by region for 2023 in a bid to ease freight and logistic-related complications amid its ongoing push to be more sustainable.
Baku is running back-to-back with Canada this season but Rahimov stressed the event cannot risk being shuffled away from its current June slot due to weather concerns and the three-month lead up time required to build the track.
“The weather, the overall climate, the city and the certain specifics of the race is important,” he explained. “We really struggled in the past when we had the race in April.
“We have to build the circuit several months before the race. We have to start building pretty much three months before the start of the race. So if we’re in April, that brings us all the way back to winter and it’s extremely hard to do the set-up.
“Also for example, this year April here was quite bad in terms of the weather. It was windy, cold and rainy and I don’t think we can risk anything like that during the race.
“I think that is more important than trying to organise logistics in a better way, because you want to have full grandstands, that’s part of the overall picture. We’re very happy with the date in June and I really want this date to stay.”
Asked if a consistent date is important to Baku, Rahimov said: “People know that Monaco is the last weekend of May for example.
“Obviously the middle of June for us has been established as kind of a date for Baku and I really want to keep that date. I know the complexity of logistics for F1, I know the complexity of getting from here to Canada etc.
"You can’t bring Canada to be the season start in March because people will freeze. It’s a similar story here in Baku, we can’t just keep shuffling things around and just expect and pray for the better weather.
“That’s what concerns me the most, the weather effect, it directly affects our sales. So that’s really important for us to stay in June.”