Ecclestone is trying to add Baku to F1’s roster of night races, which are already held in Singapore and Bahrain. Everyone else seems to think this unwise.
Fortunately, this particular idea of his has nothing to do with partnering with another oppressive regime. But racing in Baku at night, as relatively harmless as it may seem, is not the most cost-efficient option for the track’s organisers. None of them are willing to shoulder the significant logistical and financial challenges of fixing lights all over the track.
“Having a night race adds quite a bit of complication. The lighting you need for broadcast is very complicated. Obviously, it needs to be installed and dismantled every year, like they do it in Singapore. It’s around $20m — that’s what I heard from other promoters, that’s around the right figure — and it’s additional power.”
Arif Rahimov, race promoter
But not only would a night race be expensive and absurdly hard work to implement, it would also be wholly unnecessary. A Grand Prix in Baku is quite enough of a talking point on its own and doesn’t need extra gimmicks to attract the attention of the F1 fans. Rahimov thinks that Ecclestone’s idea will only start to be practical when the novelty of racing in Azerbaijan wears off for most.
“In Singapore they wanted this unique selling point. I think we have enough in this city to sell it. Maybe sometime down the line, when people get used to this track and they conceive it as just another race to go to — if they do — we’ll try to stir things up and introduce a new element to it. I think at the moment for the next five to six years, it’s going to be a must-go-to event and what we have is enough.”
However the enticing the idea of a night race may be for you personally, you’ll have to agree that the Baku Grand Prix has indeed been generating enough press on its own. And this is not least because of the fact that it’s occurring in a nation where serious atrocities are perpetuated to keep people cowed and silent. Instead of skirting around the issues with discussions about lighting, let’s talk about what F1 and Ecclestone are helping to mask and endorse beneath a veneer of glitz and glory.