The Azerbaijan Grand Prix is unable to move its date to help ease travel issues for Formula 1 teams surrounding the following race in Turkey, amid ongoing uncertainty that the latter event will happen.
F1 announced the Turkish Grand Prix as Canada’s replacement only last month following the cancellation of the race in Montreal due to COVID-19 restrictions. However, last week Turkey was put on the UK’s “red” travel list, meaning all those returning from the country would have to quarantine in government hotels for 10 days.
As the pair form a back-to-back pairing on June 6 and 13 respectively, if Turkey was switched to take place before Baku (pictured above in 2019) then F1 personnel staying in Azerbaijan for 10 days would be able to avoid the strict quarantine when returning to the UK. But after brief discussions regarding such a move, Baku City Circuit executive director Arif Rahimov says that solution is not possible.
“There were talks but in our case our race weekend date is really fixed,” Rahimov said. “It was kind of squeezed in between all of the other events that are happening in the city because the football (Euro 2020) is still going ahead, and the first game will be on June 12, which is on the Saturday following the race weekend.
“So, there is not much that we can do — we’re not very flexible this year. I guess if it was any other year when we were just the only major event on the calendar in Baku, then that could have been an option, but not this year.”
Despite being geographically closer than Canada, Rahimov also says the pairing of the two races on the calendar is not as logistically simple as it may appear.
“It seems like it’s a very logistically easy mix, but it’s not. I think logistically speaking, Baku and Sochi (Russia) would be a better match than Baku and Turkey, purely because Turkey is a drive-to race and Baku is a flyaway. So if we’re back to back with Turkey what would happen is (F1) would have to fly back to their base in the UK and then truck all the cars and teams to Istanbul, which I don’t think is possible.
“It hasn’t been done so far. I don’t know how it was planned to be done this year but it’s never been done before in F1 history, that I can remember. It’s usually that the fly-to and the drive-to races have a weekend in between — there’s a gap.”
Rahimov emphasized the importance of Baku being able to host its race as planned, having committed to returning to the calendar despite not allowing fans to attend at present.
“I think it’s important for us as a country to show we’re also en route to getting done with COVID and bringing the country out of this pandemic scenario we’ve been in for the past year. Countries are trying to show this to the world with different events and things that they do and different announcements.
“For us in Baku, in Azerbaijan, it was very important to show it with the events we had planned. We’re going back and doing them. Obviously we’re not doing them as they were prior to COVID but we’re still doing them and we’ll get there — next year I hope it will be a full-on event with the concerts, with the spectators. So I think that’s the right message to send to the world, that we’re organized and we’re fighting this disease and we’re en route to going back to normal.”
F1 is expected to provide an update regarding the Turkish Grand Prix before next week’s event in Monaco.