(Adds comments by F1 chairman)
Feb 5 (Reuters) - The Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku will stay on the calendar until at least 2023 after Formula One announced a contract renewal on Tuesday.
The renewal follows contract extensions in Belgium, China, Japan, Germany and Singapore since Liberty Media took control of the sport at the start of 2017.
“We are very pleased to have renewed this agreement,” F1 Chairman and CEO Chase Carey said in a statement. “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.”
Azerbaijan had said last year it wanted a reduction in its hosting fees after 2020 and more commercial benefits.
“This new agreement will allow our race to maximise its commercial revenues through increased fan-engagement activities and a new sponsorship approach,” Azerbaijan’s sports minister Azad Rahimov said.
“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.”
Five races on the 2019 calendar are out of contract this year, however, and the promoters’ association (FOPA) last week issued a statement voicing concern at Liberty’s handling of the sport since they took over.
Britain’s Silverstone circuit, Germany’s Hockenheim which had a one-year extension to 2019, Italy’s Monza, Spain’s Circuit de Catalunya and Mexico City face an uncertain future.
Race hosting fees make up a major part of Formula One’s revenues, and newer state-backed races such as Baku pay substantially more than those at historic European circuits like Silverstone.
The FOPA statement expressed concern about a reduction in free-to-air broadcasting, a “lack of clarity on new initiatives” and the risk of new races being introduced “to the detriment of existing events.”
Carey told ESPN television that the criticism was strange.
“The fact that a few of them wanted to find something to complain about, that’s life,” said the American.
“It’s not going to change what we are doing, and by a large majority the promoters have been supportive and are excited about what we are doing.”
Carey rejected the idea that Formula One, which has a debut race confirmed for Vietnam next year and is still in discussions with Miami, was pursuing new venues at the expense of existing ones.
“I think we certainly value our existing partners, and most of those relationships are long term and I expect most of them to continue,” he said.
“But I think it is important that where there is an opportunity to add something special, we can add a new race.” (Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru/Alan Baldwin; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)