|As the socialists run Europe into the ground, Ecclestone is moving F1 races where the money is in the world – east to the Middle East and Asia.|
Bernie Ecclestone has revealed that a Grand Prix in the tiny Gulf state of Qatar is "looking up."
The plans to host the race were first revealed in Britain’s Independent newspaper last year but it soon came to light that the organizers of the rival Grands Prix in Abu Dhabi and Bahrain have a veto over it.
In December Mr. Ecclestone said "I have got a bit of problem which nobody knows about really but I’m sure they soon will. When I went to Bahrain I made a deal and they said ‘since we are going to be something new in this area, which we are, give us a guarantee that you will not put another race on in the Gulf.' I said 'yes'. Typical Ecclestone handshake deal with the Crown Prince.
“Then we wanted a race in Abu Dhabi and I explained to them the position I was in and said ‘you had better ask the people in Bahrain. If they are happy, I’m happy.’ So they got together and that’s what happened. Then this other race has been proposed and I put the people together and said ‘can you sort this out between you?’ They haven’t managed to do it."
However, progress seems to have been made since then as Mr. Ecclestone says "It is looking up. Qatar want to do something if they can."
Qatar today hosted the season-opener of motorcycling’s MotoGP championship at its 3.4-mile Losail circuit. A Grand Prix would build up the sporting legacy in the country which controversially won the right to stage the 2022 World Cup. It would also bring F1’s tally of races in the Middle East to three and there is a premium price for becoming a member of this exclusive club.
Sources suggest that Qatar would have to pay around $70 million annually for a race and could even tip the current record of $80 million paid by rival Abu Dhabi. It would bring Qatar’s total fee to around $700 million as F1 contracts typically run for ten years.
"We are looking at all possibilities there. Qatar is not signed but they are ready to go," he says adding that he doesn’t think three races is too many in the Middle East. Losail is fully floodlit, as the MotoGP race takes place at night, so an F1 race there could follow Abu Dhabi’s format of starting in twilight.
It is thought that if the race gets the green light it would take place by 2017 at the latest. In 2013 Qatar was reportedly under consideration as a venue for pre-season testing but its ambitions have grown since then.
There are currently 20 races on the F1 calendar and next year it will exceed this record with the addition of a Grand Prix in Azerbaijan. For years 20 races was the limit because team staff refused to spend more time at the track away from their families. However that changed in 2013 when the teams signed new contracts which require majority consent from Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull Racing if the calendar exceeds 20 races.
Over the past decade F1's turbocharged television viewing figures have brought the sport to the attention of emerging markets looking to increase their global profile. Hosting an F1 race puts them on the sporting map alongside developed nations such as Australia, Britain and Monaco. The tremendous visibility promotes tourism so governments of nations in the Middle East and Asia are prepared to directly fund the hosting fees for their races.
Interest from them has fuelled an arms race in hosting fees as emerging markets battle each other for slots on F1’s calendar. Mr. Ecclestone has added to the effect by giving exclusivity to certain races. Singapore is currently the only night race on the calendar and for five years Bahrain had the status of being the only Grand Prix in the Middle East until Abu Dhabi joined in 2009. It may not be long before they have some local competition. Forbes.com