Azerbaijan Grand Prix Promoter Fires Back at Liberty Media

Arif Rahimov, Promoter of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix has fired back at Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei after being the topic of sharp criticism from the new F1 ownership.

Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR11. 18.06.2016. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 8, European Grand Prix, Baku Street Circuit, Azerbaijan, Qualifying Day.
Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR11.
18.06.2016. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 8, European Grand Prix, Baku Street Circuit, Azerbaijan, Qualifying Day.

Transitions of power are rarely ever clean. Although Liberty Media’s takeover of Formula One seemed to go off without a hitch, it was always a matter of waiting to see what would happen over the coming months. Now, it appears that we’re seeing the first signs of how Liberty Media will treat Formula One’s past associates. During the Deutsche Bank conference in Florida last week, Greg Maffei – Liberty Media’s CEO and president – singled out Baku as a prime example of a circuit that did little to boost the growth of the world-famous Motorsport.

Maffei cited the way that former F1 Supremo Bernie Ecclestone ran things, and pointed that Liberty Media is solely focused on growth – not extracting the most money out of their partners:

“I think it’s our job to do far more to help the promoters to be successful. Frankly Bernie’s attitude was, ‘How much can I extract from them?’ I heard him call them the victims – ‘How much can I extract, how much up front?’

So we end up with races in places like Baku in Azerbaijan, where they paid us a big race fee, but it does nothing to build the long-term brand and health of the business.

Our job is to find partners who pay us well, but also help us to build the product.” – Greg Maffei

BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 18: Daniil Kvyat of Russia driving the (26) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR11 Ferrari 060/5 turbo on track during qualifying for the European Formula One Grand Prix at Baku City Circuit on June 18, 2016 in Baku, Azerbaijan.  (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)
BAKU, AZERBAIJAN – JUNE 18: Daniil Kvyat of Russia driving the (26) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR11 Ferrari 060/5 turbo on track during qualifying for the European Formula One Grand Prix at Baku City Circuit on June 18, 2016 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

Maffei’s words have not fallen on deaf ears, as Arif Rahimov, Promoter for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, was quick to fire back a retaliatory salvo at Maffei:

“It does upset us obviously. 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 then them. I think saying something like this is ignorant, but we’ll see.” – Arif Rahimov

How the future of the Baku circuit remains to be seen, but it stands to reason that as the owners of the sport, Liberty Media will get the final say in negotiations – for better or worse.