Dubai in the frame for future Formula One race
The prospect of Dubai one day hosting a Formula One Grand Prix heightened yesterday after Emirates Airline became the sport’s global partner from the 2013 season.
F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone confirmed the lucrative five-year deal, reported to be worth around $200 million (Dh734m) yesterday.
And, in a further boost to the emirate, he refused to rule out the possibility of a second race in the UAE after denying claims that there was an exclusive agreement in place with Abu Dhabi, who hold rights to stage a grand prix in the capital.
“We’ll have to wait to see,” said Ecclestone when asked if Dubai could be added to the calendar in the future. “We have a couple of events in this region and so we will wait and see.”
He did admit, though, with a full calendar of 20 races it would be “difficult to pop another one in there”. “I’ve always thought that 20 is always what we should aim for,” said Ecclestone. “Any more than that would be tough on the teams logistically.”
Bahrain and Abu Dhabi are F1’s current Gulf region destinations, but with doubts persisting over the former’s long-term future as race hosts, Dubai would be seen as a viable alternative.
“We cannot exclude this possibility in the future,” added Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman and chief executive of Emirates Airline and Group. “We hope to do this.”
Dubai could face stiff competition from Qatar were Bahrain to be axed or the advent of a ‘Desert Swing’, akin to what there is in golf with back-to-back events in Abu Dhabi, Doha and Dubai.
Qatar has held talks with Ecclestone over the staging of a Grand Prix in the past, although the 82-year-old denied they had taken place recently. Sochi will host the inaugural Russian Grand Prix next year.
Meanwhile, Ecclestone insists he is “100 per cent” confident that the Bahrain Grand Prix will go ahead this season despite ongoing unrest in the country, adding that he “hoped things were a little more peaceful” this year.
Postponed in 2011 due to the civil unrest in the country, last year’s race passed without incident although violence still raged on the streets of the capital, Manama. “I haven’t seen the kind of troubles we experienced at this time last year,” Ecclestone added.
As for the upcoming season, Ecclestone has ruled out the possibility of a 20th race being added to the 2013 calendar. Portugal and Turkey, axed last year after a disagreement over finances, were mooted as two possible candidates to fill the vacant spot, but he said: “Not going to happen. It’s too late. The calendar has been formed.
“Disappointed it didn’t happen before, but it can’t possibly be slotted in now. There will definitely be 20 next year.”