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Motor racing-Azerbaijan F1 promoter expecting sell-out despite Ukraine war

Motor racing-Azerbaijan F1 promoter expecting sell-out despite Ukraine war

reuters.com · 06/09/2022 10:25
Motor racing-Azerbaijan F1 promoter expecting sell-out despite Ukraine war

By Abhishek Takle

- The promoter of Formula One's Azerbaijan Grand Prix is expecting Sunday's race around the streets of the capital Baku to be a sell-out despite the war in Ukraine affecting ticket sales to Russian fans.

"Right now we’ve sold more tickets to the internationals than we have to the locals but we are kind of a very last minute market and we see that we get sold out ... on a Friday just before the event," Baku City Circuit's executive director Arif Rahimov told reporters.

"Some of the grandstands are already sold out, some of the grandstands are very close to their capacity.

"So we are looking to be sold out this weekend for sure."

Azerbaijan a former member of the Soviet Union which borders Russia, joined the Formula One calendar in 2016 with a race around the streets of its capital Baku.

The event, which has acquired a reputation for serving up unpredictable thrillers with no driver having won more than once, was absent from the calendar in 2020 and ran behind closed doors last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The race, whose contract keeps it on the calendar until 2024, has proven to be popular with Russian fans, said Rahimov.

"We are missing out on the Russian fans due to the difficulties," he said, adding fans flying in from Europe were also finding travel to Azerbaijan tricky with Moscow no longer a viable transit hub.

"But on a good note ... we are at between 25 and 30% international spectators this year as it looks from the current numbers and this is more than the 22% that we had in 2019.

"So if we had the full Russian spectator group that we used to have in the previous years I think we would beat all the records this year."

Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, calling it a "special operation" to disarm and "denazify" its neighbour.

Formula One terminated its contract with the promoter of the Russian Grand Prix, which joined the calendar in 2014 with a race around the Sochi Olympic Park, in the wake of the country's actions.

"Unfortunately, it is what it is," said Rahimov.

"But even with the current difficulties, we are still performing much better on the international spectator side which is very pleasing for us."

(Reporting by Abhishek Takle; editing by Toby Davis)