November 30, 2015 / 3:24 PM / 3 years ago

Baku thinks big and small for F1 debut

ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Azerbaijan’s big debut on the Formula One calendar next June looks sure to be sold out because local organizers are planning on selling only 28,000 tickets for the race in Baku.

The small number compares with the 135,000 who attended Mexico’s return last month after a 23-year absence and 120,000 who watched now-triple world champion Lewis Hamilton triumph at Silverstone.

Race promoter and circuit CEO Arif Rahimov told reporters at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that Baku had only 9,500 hotel rooms with Formula One stakeholders taking up some 2,500.

“So we are left with 7,000 rooms which is about 10,000 visitors that we can host,” he said.

“That is the maximum capacity that we can invite to Azerbaijan. We are confident we will sell out on the international tickets because this is a very limited amount of tickets that will go fast.

“We are not limiting sales to 10,000 but before people book their F1 ticket they need to make sure they have a place to stay,” he added.

Rahimov said there would be 20,000 seats in grandstands and the remainder general admission tickets.

Numbers might go up in subsequent years if space could be found for more grandstands but the geographical constraints of a street circuit near old city walls and the Caspian seashore made that hard.

Asked whether that would make tickets more expensive in order to recoup some of the costs, Rahimov said they would remain reasonable.

“It is a private initiative but we are supported by the government,” he said. “The primary objective is to promote our city from the tourist point of view and investments.”

The race — billed as the Grand Prix of Europe — will be on the same weekend as the Le Mans 24 Hours sportscar classic, which this year drew some 250,000 fans to the French circuit. Rahimov said he hoped a clash could be avoided in future.

“It is a very unique season in 2016 with 21 races. It is really hard not to clash with any major sporting event,” he said.

“We are clashing with Le Mans. We are clashing with the European (soccer) championships. If it was not us, it would have been another race clashing with Le Mans.

“For the coming years we are going to try to avoid clashes as much as possible.”

Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Justin Palmer

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