NEW RACE ON CALENDAR: The city of Baku (pictured here) in Azerbaijan is set to host an F1 race on its stunning streets in July 2016. Image: Shutterstock
LONDON, England - The inaugural 2015 European Games has established Baku on the sporting map but the Azeri capital is already gearing up for a far bigger spectacle in 2016 - an F1 race through its stunning streets.
Azerbaijan's F1 debut was originally pencilled in for 2015 but a contract was signed in 2014 for a 2016 European GP and work has since been underway in Baku to prepare for its biggest sporting event yet.
WORK IN PROGRESS
Baku GP head of operations, Chingiz Mehdiyev, said while standing on what will be the race's start grid: "Baku is on track. We are working on the project, we have almost completed the project, now we are going through some stages of homologation and after that can start building.
"There are some civil works that will need to be done - the race will be in the city and we are going to start ordering the fencing - so it will be prepared in advance and before the race we will be totally ready."
A 6km track has been confirmed that will include the stunning architecture of the old city, multi-million Rand developments in the city centre, and the glittering Caspian Sea coast.
The 20-curve track will be lapped 51 times with cars reaching 340km/h which, according to Mehdiyev, is the fastest of any race on the 2015 F1 calendar.
Mehdiyev said: "The race will be just fantastic. It will go along the coast - a unique part of the track - and around the old city, a Unesco heritage area with very stiff turns, inclines, declines. I think it will be a challenge for the drivers."
FUTURE NIGHT RACE?
The first race, scheduled for July 2016, will be in daylight but in following years "the possibility of staging the event at night is very plausible and exciting".
Azerbaijan only has a short history of staging sporting events but the race will place the country, with a young population providing a potentially lucrative new market, in the sporting spotlight.
Azerbaijan's minister for youth and sport, Azad Rahimov, told Reuters: "It's very important to put us on the sporting map, positioning the country on the map of the world and, of course, to excite the young people.
"We are a very sporty country with a very young population - 66% of people in Azerbaijan are younger than 55."
Asked where he believed Baku would rank on the F1 calendar after its inaugural GP, Mehdiyev replied: "As one of the best races in the world."
MAKING ITS MARK IN F1: Pictured here is a map of Azerbaijan and its neighbouring countries. The city of Baku (centre right) will host its inaugural F1 race in 2016. Image: Shutterstock
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