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Formula 1 Azerbaijan GP

Baku organiser insists F1 qualifying/Le Mans start clash no concern

Baku Formula 1's chief insists that the direct clash between qualifying for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix and the start of the Le Mans 24 Hours is no cause for concern.

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M, Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes W12, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB16B, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, and Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB16B

The later-than-standard timetable for the Baku weekend means that the 6pm slot for Saturday's F1 qualifying session coincides with the 4pm French start time for the world-famous sportscar race.

But although that means motorsport fans will have a choice to make between watching F1 or the Le Mans start, Azerbaijan Grand Prix executive director Arif Rahimov thinks that the timing is nothing to be worried about.

Asked by Autosport about the clash, Rahimov said: "The most important part of Le Mans is the start of the race. But then the most important part of the qualifying is the end of the qualifying.

"So I think with that, we can have the TV audience watch both: the start of Le Mans and the end of the qualifying."

Rahimov said that there had not been much discussion with F1 and the FIA over the direct clash, as the Baku timetable was dictated by a "a lot of factors".

"There are our internal factors here and all the other bits and pieces that we have to do on Saturday, like the F2 race," he said.

"So there is not usually as much choice with how to move things around time wise.

"But like I mentioned, I'd be disappointed if the start of Le Mans was clashing with the end of the qualifying. Since it's clashing with the start, I think that will still bring all the spectators in."

Mick Schumacher, Haas VF-21

Mick Schumacher, Haas VF-21

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Baku is on course for a sell-out this weekend after opening up to spectators again, with a larger number of international visitors buying tickets than before the pandemic.

Baku's place on the F1 calendar is assured until at least 2024, with a contract having been extended back in 2021.

However, what could change in the future is its race date with F1 looking to group races geographically together to help improve travel logistics and sustainability.

That means a repeat of the Baku/Canada double-header that is taking place this year is unlikely to be repeated.

Rahimov said however that Baku was determined to keep its race in June, as moving it any earlier in the year would cause problems because of the weather.

"We really struggled in the past when we had the race in April," he said.

"We have to start building pretty much three months before the start of the race so, if we're in April, then that brings us back all the way to winter. It's extremely hard to do the set-up.

"Also, for example this year, April here was quite bad in terms of the weather, it was windy, it was cold and rainy. And I don't think we can risk having anything like that during the race because you want to have full grandstands.

"You want to have spectators, that's part of the overall picture. So we're very happy with the date in June and I really want to stay with that."

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