DRIVE FOR SUCCESS

Azerbaijan 2016 | SPORTS & TOURISM | FOCUS: FORMULA 1

Azerbaijan is set to be the host for the 2016 Formula One Grand Prix of Europe, one of the most watched sporting events in the world.

In a country that has successfully hosted both the Eurovision Song Contest and the inaugural European Games within the past three years, it comes as no surprise that another international spectacle will arrive to Baku in June of 2016. Long known as an event matched in its grandiosity only by its attraction of wealth, the 2016 Formula One Grand Prix of Europe is set to be the largest event of the year for Azerbaijan.

To put the level of grandeur of this event into perspective, the Formula One racing season is the most watched annual sporting series in the world. The previous Formula One season, for example, attracted around 500 million viewers from all over the world. The international viewership for the Formula One races is eclipsed in worldwide TV ratings only by the World Cup and the Olympics. This will also be the first Grand Prix of Europe to take place since 2012, elevating the already frenzied international anticipation. Baku is truly set to be on one of the world's largest stages as the host of this race.

The decision was made for this race to take place on a street track. The layout of the track, which takes place in the heart of Baku, was unveiled to the public at a press conference with the Azerbaijani Minister of Youth and Sport, Azad Rahimov, and Formula One Group CEO, Bernie Ecclestone. Designed by the world renowned Tilke Engineering firm, the second longest track in this season's race calendar measures slightly more than 6km in length and has been designed to show off all of the treasures of the city. From the stunning views of the promenade on the seaside, to impressive skyscrapers and various feats of architecture around downtown Baku, this attractive landscape is sure to attract the eye of even the most casual Formula One aficionados. The track also includes an excursion around the Old City, an ancient and UNESCO protected relic of Azerbaijani history. With one area of the track designed to encourage high-octane acceleration, Formula One drivers will be achieving speeds that top out around 340 km/h thrilling fans and spectators alike.

In preparation for this event, the city has planned some infrastructure improvement projects ahead of the race. To ensure the high-quality of the street track, the city is replacing the asphalt pavement on some of the roads. Further construction plans for the event, such as the construction of the grandstands, are scheduled to take place closer to the scheduled date, minimizing interference in the city's daily operations. Baku will be transformed to feature many different grandstands situated to view the most exciting and engaging parts of the track. Azerbaijan will also construct a town for the Formula One teams in front of the Government House in Baku. The country is set to spend over $60 million in organizing the first phase of the event.

Minister of Youth and Sport Rahimov expects Baku to receive around 11,000 international fans to fly in for the race, excluding the 2,500 people affiliated with the Formula One organization that will also be present for the race. The number of outside guests is smaller than typical Formula One attendance rates due to the fact that Baku does not have the capacity to host a gigantic figure of guests, with a city-wide availability of around 10,000 hotel rooms. Tickets for the race went online in December, coinciding with “Six Months to Go" promotional events that were taking place in Baku. There is an assortment of ticket options available for many different grandstand locations around the track, including the Absheron Grandstand, which will have a view of the start and finish line. The event is offering 30,000 tickets, of which 10,000 are for general admission and 20,000 are seated tickets.

Azerbaijan will receive a level of international exposure unmatched in the country's history, mostly due to the widespread broadcasting of the race on television sets all over the world. While hosting Eurovision and the European Games were certainly big platforms, they do not approach the enormous viewership figures of Formula One. In addition to jumpstarting the tourism industry of the country, this event will simply raise international awareness of Azerbaijan all over the world.