Baku resurfacing underway as Azerbaijan chases new long-term F1 deal

Thomas Maher
Mercedes' George Russell leads the midfield at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Baku, June 2022.

Mercedes' George Russell leads the midfield at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Baku, June 2022.

F1’s contract with the Azerbaijan Grand Prix comes to an end after this year’s race, but Baku has targetted a new, long-term deal.

Despite rumours of a signed long-term deal for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, the Baku City Circuit’s contract with Formula 1 comes to a close after April’s race.

The idiosyncratic Baku circuit has become a fan favourite over the past six years, having held its first race in 2016, with the long straights allowing the cars to hold top speed for exciting scraps into the braking areas, while the second sector sees the extremely narrow tarmac strip sinew its way through Baku’s ancient heart.

With more and more countries clamouring to host a Grand Prix on a seemingly endlessly expanding calendar, as well as America moving to three Grands Prix as of 2023 as Las Vegas joins the rota, negotiations to secure a new long-term deal for Baku are underway – but are yet to reach a conclusion.

“It’s no secret that we’re looking forward to a positive outcome,” Turab Teymurov, Baku City Circuit’s head of communications told select media, including, in Bahrain.

“But at the moment, we can’t really disclose the details of the negotiations.”

Re-surfacing ‘improving what we had in the past’

The circuit is undergoing extensive re-surfacing in a bid to reduce the bumpiness of the tarmac – last year’s race proved to be the nadir moment for the porpoising phenomenon that afflicted the F1 cars in the first half of the season. But, aside from the new surface, the circuit has no plans to change its layout.

“We’re not changing the track at all. Yes, resurfacing is happening at the moment. But, then again, the track is very unique,” Teymurov said.

“First of all, we’re hosting this F1 race in the heart of the city. The Baku track is very unique with the twisty sections, with the flat-out bits where drivers can get the maximum speeds, and then the UNESCO-protected walls at the narrowest piece of the track so I don’t think there is a need to change anything. And the resurfacing is just improving what we had in the past.” recommends

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Baku’s April race will be the first Sprint event of the 2023 season, potentially adding to the excitement of the entire weekend as the short race on Saturday is used to define the starting grid for Sunday.

Asked whether hosting the Sprint at a time when negotiations are underway might help Baku secure its future, Teymurov said he doubts whether it’ll have any effect.

“My personal opinion is, if we’re hosting, the show is going to be great,” he said.

“It is going to be positive but, regardless of that fact, what we’re looking forward to is just short-term, hosting another great race in April. I think we’re going to achieve that with the great team that we have.

“In the long term, we really want to become one of the established, most-visited, destinations rather than being a new kid on the block.

“We want to become an established Grand Prix race similar to Monaco and Monza and we’re really looking forward to a positive outcome for that to happen.”

Baku City Circuit undergoes a change of management

For 2023, this year’s race will be the first held under the management of a new General Director, with former executive director Arif Rahimov stepping away from the role.

Asked about why the change of management has taken place, Teymurov explained that it had been a mutual decision taken at top level.

“Our new boss, our new general director Maqsud Farzullayez has got very rich experience in the world of sports,” he said.

“He helped to host the 2015 European Games, he was in the organisations committee. Between Maqsud Farzullayev and Arif Rahimov, our former executive director, there was a mutual understanding and feeling that it was time for change.

“The strategy is to build on those successful six years that we have hosted and Arif Rahimov’s achievements do really speak for themselves. And just add to it, six years – add to it and host another dramatic, unexpected race in Azerbaijan this year.”