BAKU, Azerbaijan -- The Azerbaijan Grand Prix will remain on the Formula One calendar for the next five years after a new deal was signed between race promoters and the sport on Tuesday.
The existing contract was due to expire after 2020's race but the new deal ensures the Baku street circuit remains in F1 until at least 2023. The former-soviet state first hosted a race in 2016 after signing an original ten-year deal with Formula One's previous CEO Bernie Ecclestone. However, last year the organisers of the race triggered a break clause in order to make the 2020 race the last of the original contract and bring F1's new owners, Liberty Media, to the negotiating table.
At an event in Baku on Tuesday, it was announced that an additional three-year deal had been agreed, which, according to Azerbaijan's minister of sport and youth, Azad Rahimov, allows the race "to maximise its commercial revenues through increased fan-engagement activities" and "offers a brand new sponsorship approach to engage local and regional businesses".
The renewal comes just one week after the Formula One Promoters Association [FOPA] -- a group of 16 promoters including Baku -- issued a statement raising concerns over the way the sport is being run. However, after Mexico distanced itself from the FOPA statement last week, Baku's announcement also appeared to be at odds with FOPA's stance as Rahimov was quoted saying the new deal was "never in question".
It is the sixth grand prix to renew its race deal since Liberty took charge of the sport in 2017, joining Belgium, China, Germany, Japan and Singapore in agreeing contract extensions. Vietnam's capital city Hanoi has also been secured from 2020 onwards as a new venue on the calendar.
"We are very pleased to have renewed this agreement which will see the Azerbaijan Grand Prix feature on the Formula One World Championship calendar for many years to come," F1 CEO Chase Carey said. "In just a short space of time, this race has become one of the most popular of the season, always producing closely fought and spectacular racing.
"The Republic of Azerbaijan provides a really excellent welcome to everyone in Formula One and the beautiful city of Baku is an amazing backdrop for the greatest motor racing show in the world. All fans of our sport should make a note in the diary for the 28th April, the date of the 2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix."
Rahimov added: "This is a truly proud day for all of us. The last few years have been a dream come true for the people of Baku as we have seen our race weekend grow from a simple idea into one of the most dramatic and exciting race weekends in F1's history. Already, we have played host to some of the sport's most iconic moments.
"I would also like to extend my special gratitude to Mr. Carey and everyone at Formula One for proving themselves to be such great friends to our race. This new agreement will allow our race to maximise its commercial revenues through increased fan-engagement activities and a brand new sponsorship approach to engage our local and regional businesses with Formula One's global platform.
"With these exciting opportunities in mind, extending our contract was never in question and we are delighted to stay in this wonderful sport for another five years at least."
After a relatively dull first race on the streets of Baku, the capital city has been the scene of two of the most spectacular grands prix of the last two years and has cemented itself as a fan favourite. The circuit skirts the city's old town and its UNESCO-protected city walls as well as featuring one of the longest flat-out stretches on the F1 calendar.