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Toro Rosso boss says F1 right to go to Azerbaijan

Toro Rosso boss says F1 right to go to Azerbaijan

Toro Rosso boss Franz Tost has defended Formula One`s decision to race in Azerbaijan next year while brushing off concerns about media freedom and the country`s human rights record.

Asked at a Hungarian Grand Prix news conference how he would react if some reporters were denied entry for Baku`s race debut next year, as happened during the inaugural European Games recently, Tost was unmoved.

"There must be a reason why the visa was denied. I don’t know the background. To be honest, I don’t care about this. So we go there, we race there and that’s it. It’s your problem how you get the visa," he replied.

The Austrian said Formula One was a sport and above politics.

"We go there to entertain. We do not go there for any political reasons. It’s the same issue we had a couple of years ago with Bahrain," he said.

"If we will be put into the corner to say, OK, we should not go into a country where maybe the press freedom is not at a certain level or any other issues, then I don’t know where we go racing.

"Then we have problems with China, then we have problems with Russia, then maybe we have problems with Brazil, then any country...we just go there, make our show, present our sport and that’s it and therefore we should go."

Red Bull boss Christian Horner also made light of the prospect of reporters being barred entry.

"It would make our press conferences a lot shorter anyway, so maybe not a bad thing," he joked.

Azerbaijan, with a race in Baku, has been listed on the provisional 2016 calendar.

That calendar includes races in Russia, China and Bahrain -- all countries with chequered rights records.

Russia, which made its F1 debut last year, is also subject to Western sanctions over its annexation of Ukraine`s Crimea region.

Energy-rich Azerbaijan, governed by President Ilham Aliyev since he succeeded his father in 2003, has been courted by Western countries because of its role as an alternative to Russia in supplying oil and gas to Europe.

However, various European bodies and human rights groups have accused Aliyev of muzzling dissent and jailing opponents, charges Baku denies.

In June, Amnesty International said Baku had blocked a visit in which they had planned to highlight human rights abuses in the south Caucasian republic ahead of the European Games.