Baku rules out F1 race date swap with Turkish GP

The Azerbaijan Grand Prix has ruled out a date swap with Turkey to help resolve Formula 1’s current travel headache due to its Euro 2020 hosting commitments.

Turkey was added to the 2021 calendar as a replacement for the cancelled Canadian Grand Prix at the end of April, taking the June 13 date slot, one week after the Azerbaijan race in Baku.

But fresh doubts were raised of the race after Turkey was added to the UK’s ‘red list’ for travel, meaning anyone returning to the UK would have to complete a 10-day quarantine in a government-approved hotel. 

One suggested solution was a date swap for Azerbaijan and Turkey, ensuring that UK-based staff would be able to spend enough time outside of Turkey before returning home to avoid the 10-day quarantine.

But Baku City Circuit executive director Arif Rahimov said a date swap was not feasible given Baku would be hosting a UEFA Euro 2020 match the following weekend.

Wales will play Switzerland at the Olympic Stadium in Baku on 12 June, in the first of five games the city will host of the delayed football tournament.

“There were talks, but in our case, our race weekend is really fixed,” Rahimov told select media including Motorsport.com in a media briefing on Wednesday.

“It was kind of squeezed in-between all the other events happening in the city, because the football is still going ahead.

“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 in terms of we’re not very flexible this year.

“I guess if it was any other year where we’re the only major event on the calendar of Baku, then yeah, that could have been an option. But not this year.”

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F1 is still evaluating options for the Turkish Grand Prix and potential replacements, including the staging of an additional event at one of the existing European rounds.

Azerbaijan will return to the F1 calendar this year following the cancellation of last year’s race due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but announced in March that it would run the race without spectators. 

Rahimov explained that the organisers in Baku were left with “doing 40% of the work” due to the sizeable number of fan events typically put on surrounding the race.

“We’ve done so many things for them in previous years, all the entertainments along the promenade,” Rahimov said.

“We’ve done concerts, we usually do three concerts every year, just for the race, doing afterparties, and pit lane walks, you name it, there’s a lot of stuff to be done for the spectators, which we’re not doing this year.

“The only thing left is obviously taking care of things during the pandemic, and making sure that everyone is safe. That corresponds to people working for the circuit, like our contractors and all the stakeholders.

“For that, we’re taking the usual precautions, wearing masks, personal hygiene, all those things mandated by WHO and in our country.

“I wouldn’t say it’s complicated. It’s just different, unfortunately to the worse side.”

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