Nigar Arpadarai: "Formula 1 has seriously affected Azerbaijan, both economically and in terms of image"
In April 2019, Baku will host the Formula 1 race for the 4th time. The competition called Azerbaijan Grand Prix is considered to be one of the most spectacular. Vestnik Kavkaza spoke with head of the Marketing and Communications Department of the Baku City Circuit Nigar Arpadarai about how the city and the organizers are preparing for the next royal race in the center of Baku.
- What can fans expect from the Azerbaijan Grand Prix? What will change in the preparation process?
- I think that all the fans - both local and foreign - know that our race is quite unusual and interesting. The last year's race was the best in the season, we do not know the result of this year, but it is obvious that the race is among the best ones. The next season also promises to be very interesting. Now the teams are changing pilots, they too have their own changes. All of them are very ambitious, everyone wants to win. The configuration of our circuit is very interesting and complicated. The racers have an opportunity to maneuver and outdrive.
There will be a large entertainment program. On Primorsky Boulevard, there is one of the Formula 1 largest entertainment zones - its length is two kilometers. There are a lot of gaming centers, entertainment centers for both children and adults. Concerts are also an integral part of our Grand Prix. The world stars will perform during these three days. We try to make sure that a person can come with his family and stay with us during all these three or four days. Every time the interest of spectators is growing.
- Do you consider an expansion of the tribunes?
- Not yet, because this is a city circuit. It is easier to make changes at the suburban circuit than at the city one. Therefore, we are revising the corporate client's tribunes - we have private zones for them. Probably, we will change something in this direction. But overall, the stands will remain the same. We try to have a good overview from each one. If we install a tribune in the place where there is a bad overview or the cars are passing too quickly, then it will be not interesting for the spectators.
- When will the tickets go on sale?
- Most likely, by the end of October.
- Do you plan any benefits for the local spectators?
- For sure. Formula 1 is quite an expensive sport, and the tickets around the world are expensive. But every year we try to make discounts for Azerbaijanis. Sale of tickets will start with a discount campaign.
- How do you plan to entertain fans in terms of non-sports events?
- As I have already mentioned, each time, there are special programs on Primorsky Boulevard. Last year there were not three, but six concerts - the DJs performed as well. This year, too, there will be something that will attract a lot of people.
- The Azerbaijan Grand Prix is one of the few races that meet the new concept of the Formula 1 administration to hold a large-scale festival, where the race is one of its elements. Are there specific ideas on how to expand the range of proposals for the clients?
-We chose this path for ourselves from the very beginning because we want to attract not only motorsport fans but also those who just want to see Baku, the tourist potential of the country. That is, we hope that people will come to attend concerts and watch the races.
- Will you attract new sponsors this year?
- Most likely, we will, but the results will be known after the negotiations with the sponsors.
- Is the fact that the race will be held in spring but not in summer attract fewer people?
- There are different opinions on this matter. In the beginning, the races took place in summer, but some Europeans complain that it is very hot in Baku in summer. They were happy to sit in the stands in April when there was no heat. Last year, in April, we had 30% more foreign viewers. However, summer is preferable as we have more time for the construction of the circuit, tribunes and so on.
- This year, probably, there is much more to be built?
- Yes, because everything was completely disassembled. We depend on the weather. But now we have some experience, so everything will be accomplished by spring.
-In many countries, the holders of the right for Grand Prix at the same time also have the rights for the TV broadcast. How can you raise interest in the television broadcast of motorsport and Formula 1 in Azerbaijan? Do you have any ideas?
- Idman TV is an official channel that has the rights to broadcast Formula 1. At the same time, we have many ideas about how to expand the fan club in the country. Now the fan club is growing, as the race is taking place in the center of the city, which is of great interest. During the first year, people asked whether Baku needed Formula-1, but now it is obvious that it is necessary. We receive feedback through social pages, social media, and through many researches that we conduct.
Now we are asked completely different questions - about the pilots, Formula 1 and technical details. People's interest is growing. Therefore, we will work with this audience. The previous year, we held a regional championship on the F1 simulators ‘Your speed formula’ among young people in six regions. A lot of young people came to play. We will continue to hold such kind of events so that the interest will grow not only in Baku but also in the regions.
- Recent years, there are rumors that Baku will not hold Formula 1 after the next two seasons of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. There were the negotiations with the Liberty Media. Is there any certainty?
- The negotiations are still going on. As soon as they are over, we will announce the results.
- Has Formula 1 changed Baku’s appearance in terms of image positioning and promoting of motorsport?
- Formula 1 is one of those events, one of those sports that seriously influenced our country economically and in terms of image, reputation. PwC conducted a study, according to which, an impressive amount of money - $ 277 million of direct and indirect income - was received during the first two years. We can estimate the results and incomes by how many people come to the country, by how many rooms in hotels are booked, how restaurants work, the entire service sector. The expenses are reduced from year to year because we do not change asphalt, we use the same stands, the same pit building. We have a huge team, volunteers. This is an economic effect.
As for the image, now, when you go abroad and say that you are from Baku, everyone immediately remembers Formula-1. It is very serious. We are in the list of the top twenty countries that are holding the Formula-1 races. Can you imagine how many countries would like to hold this race? But they do not have such an opportunity. And we hold these races along with Singapore, Great Britain, Belgium, Italy, America, Japan, and we are very proud of this.