|There is no smarter man in all of motorsports than Bernie Ecclestone (R) who always seems to be thinking and planning 5 years ahead of everyone else.|
Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone is renowned as a shrewd operator and steering the glamorous sport towards Asia and the Middle East has been in his plans for some time. As the Grand Prix circus fine-tunes for the first race of the season in Melbourne next week, there has never been more interest in this part of the planet, which will host six races this year.
The highlight will be Singapore staging the first-ever Formula One night race on September 28 on a circuit of public roads, with the spectacle set to be one of the world's most watched sporting events of 2008. Other races take place in Australia, Bahrain, China, Japan, and Malaysia.
The fact that the city-state was added to the calendar reinforces Ecclestone's belief that Asia and the Middle East are key cogs in the sport's future development.
"I am very bullish about the East," he recently told the Singapore media.
"It has been so for more than 15 years and hopefully I am proven right because they have come on in that part of the world and now they are very strong."
With 18 races on the calendar, there is a real possibility that Asia and the Middle East could host half of them by 2010. Negotiations with Abu Dhabi, South Korea, and India are either complete or near completion.
Their inclusion comes at the expense of Formula One's traditional base in Europe as the sport aims for a more globalised calendar. AFP