The race promoter company will be a subsidiary of the Ministry of Sport. Although the average man in the street does not consider this to be Europe, bureaucrats deem the country to be part of the rather arbitrary “continental Europe”, despite the fact that it is more than 1200 miles east of the nearest EU country.
The country, which does not fare well in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, ranking 127th out of 177, has nonetheless been chosen to host the first European Games athletics competition in 2015, and the word is that the government would like their race to be called the European Grand Prix.
The Shia Muslim state relies on its oil and gas to a spectacular extent but wants to use the money it is generating to invest in non-energy sectors, in order to diversify the economy in preparation for when the oil runs out.
There is little to be gained from F1 being in a country that is of no strategic relevance and which has a population that is about the same size as the Greater London area. Baku, the capital, boasts around two million people. Azerbaijan wants to be seen to be moving closer to Europe because it is building pipelines to pump natural gas to Italy, by way of Turkey and Greece, to help the EU reduce its reliance on Russian fuel.
The project, which was confirmed in January, will cost £45 billion. If the race goes ahead, it will add an exotic new location to the F1 calendar, although it should be noted that attempts to hold a race in neighbouring Turkey proved to be a huge failure, with the government there losing large sums of money.
Oh well, I am sure it will be a fun experience – even if the government might not enjoy it quite as much as it thinks it will.