Qatar bids for a stake in F1 and its own grand prix

F1 Racing - - INSIDER -

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)

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