Exclusive: Korean GP dropped to make way for race in Azerbaijan
Bernie Ecclestone has revealed that the Korean Grand Prix will be kept off the Formula One calendar next year to make way for a race in the oil-rich country of Azerbaijan. The F1 chief executive has ruled out a return to South Korea and said: “I don’t want to go back there.”
The South Korea race was dropped this year after complaints about poor facilities and low attendance at the track in the province of Jeollanam-do, 200 miles from the country’s capital, Seoul. Unlike South Korea, Azerbaijan’s race will be in their capital, taking place on the streets of Baku.
“Baku has been signed. It will start in 2015 and will replace Korea,” Ecclestone said. “They did a good job with the track but what they forgot to do was build all the things they wanted to build.”
The Koreans constructed a 3.5-mile track alongside a harbour promenade which was expected to be lined with shops, restaurants, cafes and exhibition facilities. Many of them have not materialised since the inaugural race in 2010 as organisers struggled with the £160m estimated building cost of the track and the £13m annual fee for the race.
It is understood that the race in Baku will bring F1 around £24m every year and, unlike the track in South Korea, it has some motorsport heritage. Sports cars have raced on the streets of Baku since 2012 and the city now hosts the final of the Blancpain Sprint Series, which features cars from Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche.
The deal to host an F1 race in Baku was brokered by former Renault F1 team principal Flavio Briatore. “Briatore approached the president of Azerbaijan,” said a source close to the project. “Briatore put the idea in the mind of the president of the country and that got things going.”