FIA ‘sorry’ for Le Mans-Baku clash in 2016

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FIA President Jean Todt says he is “sorry” for next year’s conflicting schedule that has the inaugural Azerbaijan Grand Prix taking place on the same weekend as the 2016 Le Mans 24 Hours.

The maiden Baku event had initially been set for July 15-17 but the FIA recently issued a revised calendar that brought the street race forward to the June 17-19 weekend, namely when the French endurance classic is organised.

This will for instance prevent Nico Hulkenberg from defending his crown at La Sarthe after the Force India racer claimed a stunning victory on debut with Porsche last June. In the wake of his triumph, several other F1 drivers have said they would be keen to have a go at the prestigious contest.

The only compensation the FIA could offer was to schedule the start of the F1 race earlier so that the closing stages of both events do not overlap.

“Organising the calendar is a very tricky job because you have 21 races in Formula One, 10 races in Formula E, 10 races in World Endurance and 14 rallies,” said Todt.

“To make one calendar without any conflict is not possible. But for Le Mans, I'm quite confident. The start [of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix] will be at midday and Le Mans will finish at 3pm [there is a three-hour time difference with Baku]

“Maybe for one or two drivers it does not allow them to do it.

“I'm sorry to say we cannot do better.”

The last time Le Mans clashed with a grand prix was in 2011 when McLaren-Mercedes’ Jenson Button won a thrilling race in Canada. Since then, there had been some kind of gentleman’s agreement between F1 and the resurgent World Endurance Championship to avoid such situation.

Porsche has already indicated that it will wait until early December and the final World Motor Sport Council meeting of the year – which can still bring modifications to the 2016 F1 calendar – before seeking a replacement for Hulkenberg.

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