Formula One figurehead Bernie Ecclestone has confirmed that Azerbaijan will be joining the sport's calendar after a deal was struck with the assistance of long-time friend Flavio Briatore.
Ecclestone is quoted by the Daily Mail's Jonathan McEvoy as saying:
We're going to Azerbaijan. The people out there are talking about holding a race in 2015. That may be a bit soon – unless it's at the end of the season; that's a possibility. But 2016 is more likely.
The nation's capital of Baku will be the location of the race, with Azerbaijan becoming the first former Soviet Union country to host an event in the sport.
That's unless plans materialise for Russian resort Sochi to host a race of its own in October, as is detailed in McEvoy's report. However, political strains between Russia and Ukraine have placed some doubt on that coming to fruition.
Briatore helped facilitate the deal brokered between Azerbaijani officials and F1 chief Ecclestone, reviving the business relationship that the pair held during their co-ownership of Queens Park Rangers.
As a result, Briatore will pocket a seven-figure sum for his role, according to McEvoy.
The 2014 Formula One season is set to start on March 16, with 19 races currently on its billing. From Ecclestone's comments, one can expect to see that number rise to 20, possibly within the next year.
Former Guardian chief sports editor Richard Williams has voiced his thoughts on the "coincidental" route that the F1 calendar now seems to take around oil-rich states:
After Sochi, Bernie Ecclestone takes #f1 to Baku. Where next on the tour of oligarchies -- Donetsk, maybe?— Richard Williams (@rwilliams1947) March 5, 2014
Ecclestone's Azerbaijan announcement comes just a fortnight after he won a damages claim against German media group Constantin Medien, per BBC News.
That being said, High Court judge Justice Newey did comment that Ecclestone had made a "corrupt" deal and was not "reliable or truthful" during the case.
For now, the streets of Baku can look forward to reaping the benefits of Ecclestone's latest move in globalising his brand, with the impending 2014 season providing a preview of the entertainment ready to move in their direction.