Start of Formula 1 in Baku marred by double accident
The fourth stage of the Formula 1 races began with an incident on the Azerbaijan circuit: the F1 car of George Russel – the driver for the British Williams team – got caught on a drain cover.
Meanwhile, the crane of a tow truck sent in to take away the damaged vehicle bumped into a pedestrian overpass. The crane broke, and oil spilled onto the vehicle being towed.
Drain covers are supposed to be welded down because of the low pressure created by racing cars as they drive over the tracks – this can cause the drain cover to fly out. However, the drain cover that was sucked up by Russell’s car was not welded down. Entries onto the track have been suspended. The International Automobile Federation is going to check all the covers of the Baku track.
The F1 races are taking place in Azerbaijan for the fourth time. While officials say that the event is an opportunity for the country to improve its image and develop tourism, many citizens complain of the inconveniences it causes.
The cost of Azerbaijan to conduct races this year was lower than before, particularly because money was saved by reducing the advertising budget, Baku City Circuit employee Nigar Arpadaray said.
Development of tourism
One of the main advantages of holding the Formula 1 races in Baku is its positive effect on tourism.
Samir Dubendi, chairman of the Association of Hotels and Restaurants of Azerbaijan, told Trend.az that the races have resulted in almost 95% of Baku hotels being filled.
“Thanks to this event, Azerbaijan is opening to the world as a new tourist destination. Tourists come before the races and stay after them. They become acquainted with the touristic opportunities of Azerbaijan. “This is an elite sport and its fans are wealthy people. We must present them with new tourism products, such as tours to the various regions of the country,” said Dubendi.
A blocked off city centre
The main feature of races in Baku is that they pass through the city streets. Thus, several central streets are inaccessible to traffic and pedestrians whenever the races come to town. For several days, entrance to the seaside boulevard, one of the most popular walking places, is completely restricted.
Comments from social networks:
“Why do we need to hold races in the centre and thus poison people?! After all, there are plenty of places on the outskirts where they will not interfere with anyone.”
“The only plus of Formula 1 in Baku is that there are almost no cars in the city centre, and people walk a lot.”
“Because of these fences, the centre looks like a zoo or a ghetto!”
“Many thanks to the organisers of Formula 1!”
A disrupted concert
The British singer Sam Smith was scheduled to perform as part of the event. However, the concert was canceled last minute with organizers citing health problems.
Smith was replaced by singer Jessie Jay.
There will also be concerts by several other foreign performers. Buying a ticket for the entire racing weekend allows access to a number of other entertainment events as well.
The contract for the Baku circuit was supposed to end this year, but Azerbaijan extended it for another three years.
The races will continue until 28 April. Ten teams of two drivers in each team take part in the race. The length of the racetrack is just over six kilometres.