Baku race chief Arif Rahimov says Formula 1’s new CEO Chase Carey phoned him to apologise for remarks made by Liberty Media about the event not being good for the sport.
Liberty president and CEO Greg Maffei caused a stir earlier this year when he suggested that races like Baku had only been added to the F1 calendar by Bernie Ecclestone for money reasons.
"Frankly Bernie's attitude was, 'How much can I extract from them?' I heard him call them the victims! 'How much can I extract, how much up front?' ” said Maffei.
"So we end up with races in places like Baku in Azerbaijan, where they paid us a big race fee, but it does nothing to build the long-term brand and health of the business.”
Rahimov responded at the time in saying he believed Maffei had been "ignorant" in his claims and he said in Bahrain on Friday that Carey supported his view.
“I have spoken to Chase,” explained Rahimov. “It was about a different topic but this had to be brought up, and we kind of realised that it was not everyone who shared this opinion.
“He [Carey] was apologetic about what happened, he really sounded like he completely disagreed with what had been said. He was really upset about the situation and that it was brought to this level. It was good to hear from Chase that he didn’t share the opinion.”
He added: “I think we are finished with it, and will just get on and show everyone who has not been to the race that we are doing a great job and it will be a great race.”
Rahimov said that Carey had indicated full support for keeping Baku on the calendar, which has a 10-year deal in place - although a break clause does exist after five-years.
“He is really excited about the race. He really wants to come and see the race, and he has heard a lot of good things. He feels we are a strategic partner to F1, and he really wants to keep the race.
“It was a good talk we had over the phone and it was good to know that not everyone is sharing the opinion of Greg Maffei in F1.”
Regarding the break clause, Rahimov has said his company is minded to keep the event longer term – even though he would like some revised terms.
“We know what we want, and how we can improve on the contract, but at this time of the year we are just concentrating on the race,” he said.
Early indications from ticket sales suggest that the event could attract around 35,000 spectators this year, which would be twice as many as last year.
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