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Baku: Critical FOPA statement 'went a bit wrong'

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The promoter of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix believes the Formula One Promoters' Association (FOPA) needs to learn lessons from the media storm it created with its open letter to Formula One bosses.

FOPA, which represents 16 of F1's 21 race promoters including Azerbaijan, issued a statement to the press last week that appeared to list concerns about the way the sport is being run. The statement was circulated to the press following a meeting of FOPA, and ahead of Formula One's annual presentation to promoters the following day.

Arif Rahimov, executive director of Baku City Circuit, was present at both meetings, but said the way in which the FOPA letter was reported was not in line with the message he had hoped it would convey. It also came just one week before the signing of a new contract that will keep the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on the calendar until 2023.

"We are members of FOPA and I was present at that meeting, but it was never the idea to attack Formula One and never the idea to push them into doing something that they are not," Rahimov told ESPN. "The idea of FOPA was that all the promoters gather as one and speak with one voice about things that are not in their contract and things that are changing in their industry and to be able to help Formula One improve the sport.

"The way it has been accepted as a complaint to Formula One through the press -- this was never meant to be a press release, it was more a way of us directing our concerns to Formula One about what can be improved in one voice.

"I think it just went a bit wrong. It was accepted [by the press] a bit wrong and obviously Formula One wasn't quite happy with the way it was dealt with. I think it was a lesson learned and the future cooperation between FOPA and Formula One will be more productive and less destructive."

Rahimov said the main concerns raised in the FOPA meeting were around the visibility of operational changes that affect races, such as F1's decision to ban grid girls last year, rather than the overall long-term direction of the sport.

"Again, it wasn't meant as an attack, it was a way to address Formula One with our concerns and find a way to fix it. So it wasn't really an attack on Formula One in the way it was presented in the press. It shouldn't have happened like that, it was meant to be very positive and open and in the end it just went upside down.

"It's more just small things, like grid girls in the past -- a lot of promoters weren't aware that this was going to change and then they found this change. All those small little things that promoters want to be aware of on an advisory level, just so we know before it appears in the press.

"In general, whenever we have a concern of an issue, we rarely face a situation where we hit a dead end and don't know how to fix it. We are very happy with our relationship in general and our direct relationship with F1, and that is why we have signed and extended our contract."