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Baku race promoter hits out at Liberty Media chief

Arif Rahimov, the promoter of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, has hit out at criticism of the race by Greg Maffei, the chief executive of Formula One parent company Liberty Media.

Maffei, who has made a number of outspoken statements in recent months, said last week that the race in Baku did “nothing to build the long-term brand and health of the business.”

Rahimov responded to the comments by telling the Reuters news agency: “It does upset us, obviously. Mr Maffei has been involved in F1 for less than half a year. We've been working on this project for three years now so we have more experience with F1 than them. I think saying something like this is ignorant, but we'll see.”

The race in Azerbaijan made its debut on the F1 calendar last year.

Last week, Maffei said at a conference that F1 had ended up “in places like Baku” due to the previous business model of the series favouring destinations that paid big hosting fees.

“Our job is to find partners who pay us well but also help us to build the product and it is incumbent upon us to bring best practice,” he added.

"We truly believe the race was a success,” Rahimov said, referring back to the 2016 event. “It was something that was commented on from all the various stakeholders across the board. The fans loved the racing action, they loved what they saw as entertainment.

“It was a success for the drivers because it was a challenging track which was very unforgiving and which was very interesting for the drivers as well. It was a great race, it was a great show. I find it hard to understand how someone who has not attended the race or the event can be commenting on our race in a bad manner.”

Rahimov said that Baku had a 10-year contract that is a binding agreement for five years. “The only way by which this contract can be ended is upon mutual agreement,” he said. “We contribute to a large chunk of F1 revenues and I believe it would be a loss for them if they were to make the decision to stop the race in Azerbaijan.”

Rahimov added that the organisers of the race had “never had a conversation or dialogue” from a business perspective.