Baku gears up for Formula One debut

Wed Jun 24, 2015 12:40pm EDT
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By Tom Hayward

BAKU (Reuters) - The inaugural European Games has established Baku on the sporting map but the Azeri capital is already gearing up for a far bigger spectacle next year -- a Formula One race through its stunning streets.

Azerbaijan’s Formula One debut was originally penciled in for 2015, but a contract was signed last year for a 2016 Grand Prix of Europe and work has since been underway in Baku to prepare for its highest-profile sporting event yet.

“Baku is on track,” Chingiz Mehdiyev, head of operations for the Baku Grand Prix, told Reuters on Wednesday, standing on what will be the race's start grid, adjacent to the iconic Azadliq Square.

“We are working on the project, we have almost completed the project, now we are going through some stages of homologation and after that stage we can already start working on actually building.

“There are some civil works that need to be done, because our race is within 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 6.007 km track has been confirmed, taking in the stunning architecture of the old city, multi-million dollar developments in the city center and the glittering Caspian seashore.

The 20-corner track will be lapped 51 times with cars reaching speeds of 340 km per hour, which, according to Mehdiyev, is the fastest single speed at any race currently on the Formula One calendar.

“Actually, because it is within the city I think the race will be just fantastic," he said. "The race will go along the seaside and also it is a unique part of the track.   Continued...