So here we are in a World Championship that is having trouble supporting 10 teams despite having revenues of $1.8 billion per year and some bright spark has decided that it is necessary to have the extra expense of a 21st race, despite agreements being in place that the championship would be limited (for various reasons) to 20 races. This means that the revenues will rise because you can bet that Azerbaijan is paying through the nose for the privilege, which it hopes will somehow help turn its reputation from that of being a tinpot dictatorship rich with oil into a lovely friendly democracy where everyone can speak their mind. The CIA describes Azerbajian as follows: “Corruption in the country is widespread, and the government, which eliminated presidential term limits in a 2009 referendum, has been accused of authoritarianism. Although the poverty rate has been reduced and infrastructure investment has increased substantially in recent years due to revenue from oil and gas production, reforms have not adequately addressed weaknesses in most government institutions, particularly in the education and health sectors, as well as the court system.”
Human Rights Watch says: “Azerbaijan’s government has escalated repression against its critics, marking a dramatic deterioration in an already poor rights record. In recent years, dozens of human rights defenders, political and civil activists, journalists, and bloggers have been arrested or imprisoned on politically motivated charges, prompting others to flee the country or go into hiding. Bank accounts of independent civic groups and their leaders have been frozen, impeding their work, or in some cases forcing them to shut down entirely. New legal regulations make it almost impossible for independent groups to get foreign funding. While criticizing the increasing crackdown, Azerbaijan’s international partners have failed to secure rights improvements.”
Bernie Ecclestone was quoted some months ago saying that that the Formula One group had had a look at the human rights issue and it was’t a problem. I guess that negates the views of the above organisations and makes F1 so much more attractive to sponsors. We will be hosting a European GP in a country that is majority-Turkic and majority-Shia Muslim, which has a population of 9.6 million (smaller than London) with the majority of them scratching a living. Hardly a coming new consumer market when F1 could be concentrating on the United States of America, where there are 300 million people with money to spend.
What happened to the teams saying that they would need to rotate staff in order to do 21 races? Are they now so bloated that they can do that? It is daft. It is particularly daft to be going to a new race in Baku.
Where is the strategic thinking in all of this?