Azerbaijan has claimed to have signed a deal with Bernie Ecclestone which would see the nation host the 2016 European Grand Prix, with a race around the streets of the capital Baku. This comes only several months prior to the inaugural Russian Grand Prix in October around the Sochi Winter Olympic Park, with an official announcement apparently imminent regarding Formula 1’s involvement in the former Soviet state.
With the European Grand Prix seemingly dropped from the F1 calendar after the sport’s participation around Spain’s Valencia Street Circuit in 2012, plans seem to be continuing to gather momentum linking a return of the event around the streets of Baku in Azerbaijan. The planned event would be run only a year after the European Games, with the nation’s Minister of Youth and Sports claiming to have a deal signed with Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone with an official announcement to follow imminently.
“We have signed the deal with Bernie Ecclestone and will announce it officially with an event in Baku shortly,” explained Azad Rahimov, Azerbaijan’s Minister of Youth and Sports, to the Inside the Games website.
Motorsport around the streets of Baku is no new concept with a non-Championship GT3 race, The City Challenge Baku, taking place throughout the last two years on a 4.4km circuit around Crystal Hall and the National Flag Square. Last season a crowd of around 50,000 lined the track to watch the race, which was eventually won by Stéphane Ortelli and Laurens Vanthoor. Despite Azerbaijan’s insistence at having a deal signed by Mr. Ecclestone, this far from confirms that the proposed race will go ahead, as has been witnessed in New Jersey with their planned street race.
With the length of a Formula 1 season continuing to ebb and flow between 19 and 20 races, the addition of more races could well spark the end for others currently on the calendar. For the current season, the addition of Russia and Austria sparked the end of the Korean and Indian Grands Prix, with the latter still holding hopes of returning to the calendar in 2015. Should the planned race in New Jersey finally take place, along with the race in Azerbaijan, the Formula 1 calendar will once again reach a point where further races could face the axe to avoid a calendar of more than 21 or even 22 races.
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