Azerbaijan Grand Prix organisers were given little choice but to postpone the race when they did, according to Baku City Circuit executive director Arif Rahimov.
A race that many on the grid were hoping would act as the opener of the 2020 season, instead Baku went the way of the seven grands prix before it in being called-off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As Rahimov explains, it was a tough decision but one they felt was necessary in light of what had happened with the last-minute cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix.
“When you have a precedent it’s easier to work with everyone, because everyone understands the pain that you’re going through,” began in a conversation with RACER. “I really want to say that I think no promoter should be in a situation that the Australian promoters have been in, and I really feel sorry for Andy Westacott [Australian Grand Prix Corporation CEO] and his team.
“I think it’s absolutely terrible what he had to go through, and cancelling the event last-minute is a disaster for the promoter. There’s so much effort being put into a race like this. Australia is also a temporary circuit, so I believe they spend a lot of time, money and energy building up the circuit, and then making the decision last-minute that you have to cancel the race is an absolute disaster. This is really something that I think every promoter wants to avoid right now.
With the example of Melbourne fresh in his mind, Rahimov revealed that leaving the decision any later would have meant financial commitments they could not get back.
“We made the call before we built any of the track. It was one of the primary points of our internal deadline that we’ve set. We really wanted to make sure that we don’t incur any unnecessary expenses. It would be a complete disaster if we had to spend all the money to build up the circuit but then not actually race on it.
“So our deadline to start building up the circuit was the middle of March, we postponed it by a week to make the decision on the race and obviously we made the decision on the last day when we had to start building the circuit. Otherwise we would waste some money, which wouldn’t be ideal, obviously.”
Nevertheless, race officials have not ruled out rescheduling the race for later in the season, although they have indicated they would need two months notice to make the necessary preparations.
As things currently stand, Azerbaijan, like many countries, has just started to suffer the spread of the coronavirus within its borders. The Eurasian state has reported 87 cases as of Monday, the day the grand prix was cancelled.