Qatar bids for a stake in F1 and its own grand prix
A third Middle Eastern race is in the offing as Qatar plan a street race in Losail in addition to looking to buy out CVC
The Gulf state of Qatar could be about to take a controlling interest in F1’s commercial rights. Sources close to CVC Capital Partners claim Qatar Sports Investment has joined forces with RSE Ventures, a rm headed by Stephen Ross, who owns the Miami Dolphins, in a bid to buy the 35.5 per cent shareholding in Formula 1 Management held by CVC.
Sources say that the consortium would also buy the ve per cent of shares in the Formula 1 Group that are owned by Bernie Ecclestone. Negotiations are still at a very early stage and there is no guarantee that a deal, which could be worth as much as $7-8bn, will go through.
Three years ago, CVC had to abandon plans to oat F1 on the Singapore stock exchange because of questions about Ecclestone’s affairs. Ecclestone could be retained to run the sport, but his position remains vulnerable as a result of the latest in a series of nancial scandals.
After surviving two separate court cases in Britain and Germany last year, relating to allegations that he bribed a banker, Ecclestone now faces a £1bn tax bill from the UK’s Inland Revenue, which has torn up a deal it had made with him a few years ago.
Qatar is also expected to join Bahrain and Abu Dhabi as the third Middle Eastern race on the calendar. Sources say a deal has already been done. The plan is for the event to be held on a street circuit in the country’s second city, Losail, although Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation president Nasser bin Khalifa Al Attiyah suggested the race could run on Losail’s nearby permanent track – currently used for MotoGP – until the street circuit has been built.
“Recently, we were close to signing an agreement to host an F1 race,” said Al Attiyah. “The project is ready. But some things didn’t work out and we need to show a little more patience. All we need is a few more meetings with Bernie Ecclestone.”
There had been objections to a Qatar GP from nearby Bahrain, which felt the race could detract from its own event. But insiders say Qatar has calmed the situation by agreeing to pay Bahrain’s $40m race fee as well as its own.
Qatar has become more interested in F1 following controversy over its successful bid to host the 2022 FIFA football World Cup. FIFA, football’s governing body, is currently embroiled in a huge nancial scandal, with senior gures facing criminal charges in the US.
Nasser bin Khalifa Al Attiyah (right) is negotiating for a race in Qatar, which could take place at the Losail MotoGP circuit (below)