John Floyd
Motorsport columnist
2 minute read
26 Apr 2019
5:18 pm

Baku tailor-made for an upset

John Floyd

Liberty’s attempts to reach a greater audience is focused on Eastern countries and the US, with bargain basement prices offered to potential new hosts.

BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - APRIL 29: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes WO9 on track during the Azerbaijan Formula One Grand Prix at Baku City Circuit on April 29, 2018 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

This weekend it is off to Baku, capital of Azerbaijan, for round four of the 2019 Formula 1 Championship.

A street circuit with a difference, measuring six kilometres, it is the second longest track on the F1 calendar. It provides a blend of tight corners in the old parts of the city and fast straights in the commercial sector.

The tight section sees frequent crashes. For me, watching the remains of extremely expensive high technology automobiles being recovered, as the rest of the field cruise around with ever cooling tyres behind the safety car, is not rewarding. But I must admit that such tracks have produced real upsets and I hope that will be the case this weekend, rather than the procession we witnessed in Shanghai. Hopefully, we will be entertained with really close racing involving multiple teams and without the intervention of team orders.

I relish the thought of a wheel to wheel battle between Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc mixing it with Bottas, Hamilton and Vettel.

I read that Liberty Media’s Commercial Chief Sean Bratches is at it again following reports from the Shanghai weekend. It appears a second Chinese Grand Prix is on the cards – a street race, possibly in Beijing. Bratches is reported as saying: “We would be highly interested in a street race.

“It would be a nice juxtaposition to the purpose-built, extraordinary Shanghai facility.” Again, he uttered the repetitive mantra of “we intend to bring our show to the people”.

That got me thinking. The Shanghai complex has not packed the fans in as was expected from the first Grand Prix held there in 2004. Over the years there have been reports of students and children being bused to the track to fill the many empty grandstands.

In fact, rumours are that several grandstands were removed as empty seats are not good for television audiences. So why do the fans not turn up? Perhaps China lacking a Formula One heritage is part of the problem.

Liberty’s attempts to reach a greater audience is focused on Eastern countries and the US, with bargain basement prices offered to potential new hosts.

When will they realise they have several classic circuits, each of them with an established fan base, but owners and organisers are struggling with the exorbitant hosting fees for F1? Just to give you a few more bad dreams, it is reported the powers that be are once more toying with the idea of improving the spectacle of qualifying for “the fans”. Now, we all remember the disastrous outcome last time that happened…

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