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Sunday, March 7, 2021

Formula One chief cools Qatar’s hopes of hosting grand prix races

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Finnish driver Kimi Räikkönen tests ahead of start of 2015 series
Finnish driver Kimi Räikkönen tests ahead of start of 2015 F1 series

Qatar’s long-held ambition to host a Formula One grand prix looks like it may have stalled again after the head of the F1 group indicated he was not looking to add another race in the region.

Just a few months ago, Qatar appeared to be on the verge of signing a deal to bring the grand prix to the state for the first time, which would make it the third Gulf nation after Bahrain and Abu Dhabi to host the event.

However, F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone has now downplayed Qatar’s chances, telling reporters at the Bahrain Grand Prix this week, “I think we’ve got enough here, don’t you?”

Waiting game

For three years, motorsports fans have been waiting for Qatar to be given the green light to host the event, after Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) President Nasser Bin Khalifa Al Attiyah said in 2012 that he was keen to have F1 come here.

In February, the dream looked like it was close to happening, as Al Attiyah reportedly told AFP:

“We are about to sign contracts to organize a Formula One race. We have completed all the steps and there are only a few details before the official signature.”

At the time, the deal looked like it would happen by 2016 or 2017, and that the race would either be at the Losail International Circuit or a new street circuit in Doha, Sky Sports said.

2013 Bahrain Grand Prix
2013 Bahrain Grand Prix

This comment followed months of speculation as to whether Qatar was likely to be added to the F1 calendar.

In November last year, a number of motorsports publications said Qatar was a contender, and Ecclestone confirmed that talks were ongoing.

“We are looking at all possibilities there. Qatar is not signed but they are ready to go,” he said, according to a report in The Independent.

Bahrain’s role

However, just weeks later the plans were put on hold after the F1 chief said that Bahrain, as the first Gulf state to host the event in 2004, had veto rights on any other cities in the region joining the schedule.

According to Reuters, Ecclestone said:

“I made a deal with the people in Bahrain and they said, ‘If we are going to be something new in this area, which we are, will you give us a guarantee you won’t put another race on in the area, in the Gulf?’ I said yes. Typical Ecclestone handshake deal with the Crown Prince.”

While negotiations to add Abu Dhabi to the circuit in 2009 went through, including Qatar appears to be a trickier proposition.

Bahrain Grand Prix
Bahrain Grand Prix

Still, Bahrain circuit chief executive Sheikh Salman bin Isa Al-Khalifa has reportedly down-played the state’s option to block Qatar from joining.

“It’s not for us (to say). It’s for the rights holder. We welcomed Abu Dhabi when they came on board and we’ll wait and see,” he added. “I think Mr. E appreciates the loyalty we have kept with him,” Reuters quoted him as saying.

Referring to Qatar’s bid to join the F1 circle, he added: “It’s nothing we have seen that is serious, so until it is then we can’t (answer).”

Bahrain’s existing deal to host the Grand Prix expires next year. Al-Khalifa reportedly said talks were ongoing to extend the contract, and that he hoped that the state’s slot would get pushed to earlier in the calendar from its existing fourth place, which was in mid-April this year.

With Abu Dhabi closing the season in November, Qatar faces a question about when it would host an F1 event, to avoid being too close to those already set by its Gulf neighbors and also steering clear of the hot summer months.

Qatar’s Losail International Circuit, situated near Lusail city north of Doha, opened in 2004 and hosts motorcycle grand prix including MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3 events as well as a number of rallies and endurance competitions.

Thoughts?

29 COMMENTS

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F1 to Qatar - thumbs up
F1 to Qatar - thumbs up
5 years ago

Being in Qatar i’d love to see a street circuit (the track and facilities in Losail are terrible compared to Bahrain), but as an expat, If i was to go elsewhere in the world i would argue that they are too close together and they should look to another location to further broaden the opportunities of global fans to attend.

Simon
Simon
5 years ago

Street circuit? Al Shamal every day!

A_qtr
A_qtr
5 years ago

that’s $78 million a year we will not waste on a car race no one follows locally

al-Lalal
al-Lalal
5 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

F1 is a much better investment than the World Cup’s untold billions,which so far have generated huge negative publicity and will culminate in one month of madness in 2022, with nothing left in the aftermath. An EXPO is also a much more sensible investment.

Coco
Coco
5 years ago

An automotive sport that would be a better investment would be that hillbilly circle thing from US…nascar. I mean, just go full throttle in a circle and pray for a crash=FUN! It’s almost a family activity.

Doc
Doc
5 years ago
Reply to  Coco

I really shouldn’t laugh…….

A_qtr
A_qtr
5 years ago
Reply to  Coco

You clearly don’t appricate the skill required to go over 300 km/h with two dozen cars in a tight group to understand the multi-billion industry that is nascar

Coco
Coco
5 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

In before anyone suggests the obvious-roundabouts in doha with LC’s zig-zagging in them 🙂 How could villagio or maids be linked to this? I’m sure someone will find a way.

Michael L
Michael L
5 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

I think I have some idea after surviving Dohas treacherous roads for five years

Simon
Simon
5 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

Having driven in Doha for eight years, I believe that in fact I DO appeciate the skill required ………….

Michael L
Michael L
5 years ago
Reply to  Coco

I thought that’s what D ring road was for ?

sswww
sswww
5 years ago
Reply to  Michael L

you made me lol

Shan
Shan
5 years ago
Reply to  Michael L

Good one! lol

Observant One
Observant One
5 years ago
Reply to  Michael L

Gold!

Michael Fryer
Michael Fryer
5 years ago
Reply to  Coco

I was thinking the same thing. Forget Eccelstone and stop trying to imitate other Gulf States who have jumped on the F1 bandwagon and think outside the box.

Nascar has shed its past as being the legacy of illegal alcohol bootlegging and in my ignorant opinion is every bit as entertaining as any other motor sport.

desertCard
desertCard
5 years ago
Reply to  Coco

I’m not a big NASCAR fan but you do show your ignorance of the sport.

Coco
Coco
5 years ago
Reply to  desertCard

I’ve never claimed to be a connoisseur I merely spoke my mind regarding it. Please share more with us regarding the intricacies of this sport and shed some light on the matter. Despite my lack of knowledge or view on it I consider myself somewhat of a redneck and would gladly attend an activity that caters to my needs.

desertCard
desertCard
5 years ago
Reply to  Coco

ignorance
noun
1 a statement that shows a complete ignorance of the regulations: incomprehension of, unawareness of, unconsciousness of, unfamiliarity with, inexperience with, lack of knowledge about, lack of information about; informal cluelessness about.

Don’t take “ignorance” as an insult. Was not meant to be. I am totally ignorant of the Chinese language.

It’s just more than driving around in a circle looking for a crash.

Coco
Coco
5 years ago
Reply to  desertCard

None was offered or taken. I was sincere in trying to find out more. You can’t highlight someone’s ignorance of something, well you can but that’s unfair, if you don’t back up your statement by arguments. I would watch this sport despite my opinion of it 🙂 and yes F1 is overrated.

Lisa Clayton
Lisa Clayton
5 years ago
Reply to  Coco

That’s the best description of Nascar I’ve heard — and I’m from the Nascar heartland! 🙂

Diego
Diego
5 years ago
Reply to  Coco

Try driving around in that circle(short track or super-speedway oval) and perhaps you might appreciate some of the intricacies involved. It may not have the technological advances of F1,nor the huge costs or the snobbery,nor Sepp Bladders clone dictator type,(Eccelestone) but it can challenge in terms on on site entertainment value.

AEC
AEC
5 years ago

Stick the train in to Bahrain and we can go watch that one/.

Ben
Ben
5 years ago

The only chance Qatar have is if they do not renew the Bahrain contract. They won’t have three races in the region.
The circuit and surrounding area here is as dull as dishwater so why would they want a race here? The street circuit would only be a good idea once (or if) the Lusail development gets done.
I’ve always said that if Qatar want to host a race they need to go all out to construct a Yas Island type development.

The Reporter
The Reporter
5 years ago

Like WC 2022 has nothing to do with football, F1 in Qatar would have nothing to do with motorsport – they are both tools to raise Qatar’s profile and acceptance in the world (or at least the world that doesn’t understand Qatar).

Marianne Moess
Marianne Moess
5 years ago

Having attended the Moto GP in March at Lusail, this circuit would be fantastic for F1. It is a excellent facility but needs to have infrastructure in place to support the circuit i.e.: Marketing and public transport services to the circuit, bigger screens…..lots could be done to make it a more “desirable” destination for motor sport fans

al-Lalal
al-Lalal
5 years ago
Reply to  Marianne Moess

I would not describe Losail as an excellent facility. It is new and expensive, but it lacks a number of features and facilities to be truly great. It is poorly managed, grossly underutilized and has never become the focal point for motor sports advancement in Qatar. The worst part is, it has no soul.

Marianne Moess
Marianne Moess
5 years ago
Reply to  al-Lalal

Having been to Phillip Island Australia, Sepang Malaysia and Nurburgring Germany, I believe it is an excellent facility, but as you said it is obviously poorly managed and under-utilised. The president of motor sport in qatar needs to promote this facility to attract the events, and people to qatar for this facility to reach its full potential.

greylag
greylag
5 years ago
Reply to  Marianne Moess

Excellent facility- NOT! Losail would need to be completely rebuilt to accommodate Formula 1. Even in its present form, it is so boring. One grandstand, along a long straight, does not make for interesting viewing. I was amazed when I first saw it, that there were no stands where all the action is, i.e., the corners! Also, no real facilities for the fans, such as eats, shops for memorobilia, etc. Go to Yas, and you will see a real racing Facility.

Observant One
Observant One
5 years ago

Fear not we shall offer Bernie a stack of cash and the F1 will be here in 2022.

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