The Formula One season hasn’t even started and the series’ new owners are already considering how to shake up the schedule. Fortunately for those of us less fond of F1 swinging by oppressive dictatorships for races, one of the first grands prix new F1 overlords Liberty Media criticized was the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Liberty Media CEO and president Greg Maffei put the blame on Bernie for scheduling high-dollar rounds like Baku, which he believes do nothing for the series as a whole. As spoken to a Deutsche Bank conference and quoted by Autosport:
I think it’s our job to do far more to help the promoters to be successful. Frankly Bernie’s attitude was, “How much can I extract from them?”
I heard him call them the victims - “How much can I extract, how much up front?”
So we end up with races in places like Baku in Azerbaijan, where they paid us a big race fee, but it does nothing to build the long-term brand and health of the business.
Our job is to find partners who pay us well, but also help us to build the product.
Maffei highlighted Singapore, Mexico and Abu Dhabi as model grands prix in his speech as well.
Naturally, this didn’t sit well with Azerbaijan Grand Prix promoter Arif Rahimov, who told Reuters that Maffei has only been working on F1 for less than half a year so he shouldn’t be talking at this point. Baku has been involved with F1 for three years, by contrast.
To Rahimov’s credit, the grand prix in Baku did get double-booked with the 24 Hours of Le Mans in a way that made F1 an afterthought to many race fans who weren’t happy about F1 starting their race over the last part of Le Mans. F1 driver Sebastian Vettel infamously interrupted the press conference to ask what happened at Le Mans. Without the schedule conflict this year, it should at least reach a wider audience.
The Azerbaijan Grand Prix is under a 10-year contract that can only be ended by mutual agreement in its first five years.