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Bernie Ecclestone: F1 has clear conscience racing in Azerbaijan

Dan Istitene/Getty Images

BAKU, Azerbaijan -- Bernie Ecclestone says Formula One arrives in Azerbaijan for this weekend's Grand Prix of Europe with a clear conscience, despite calls from human rights groups for the sport to make a stand against its hosts.

A contract is in place to hold the race on the streets of Azerbaijan's capital Baku for the next seven years, but the inaugural event this weekend has caused concern among human rights groups, including Amnesty International. The groups have called on the sport to highlight the country's human rights record at the event, but Ecclestone said he had not been convinced by their arguments.

"The minute people tell me what human rights are, you can look at how, why and when it applies," he said.

"I don't know, freedom of speech and things like that -- I think you get into trouble in most countries if you are anti some government or political people. Or in fact anybody. So it is not quite as easy as that."

Asked if F1 has a clear conscience racing in the country, Ecclestone said: "Absolutely. 100 per cent."

Ecclestone said he is willing to listen to those opposing the race, but said he had also been talking to the government about the situation.

"We are. Of course. We've had assurance from here that they are looking into these things and while we are here none of you guys will be in trouble and you can write what you want."

The 85 year old expects Baku to see out its contract, despite concerns that Azerbaijan's economy has been adversely affected by a recent drop in the global price of oil.

"It has only got seven years...but they have an option. I think they've got more chance of doing seven years than I have of doing seven years."