Qatar’s longstanding ambition to host a Formula 1 race is creeping closer to being realized, according to the head of its motor sports federation.
This follows recent media reports that Qatar is partnering with RSE Ventures, the owners of the American football team the Miami Dolphins, to buy a controlling 35.5 stake in the holding company that owns F1.
Qatar has been attempting for some time to secure a slot in the Grand Prix calendar, however its attempts in late 2014 and earlier this year appeared to have stalled when the head of the F1 group indicated he wasn’t looking to add another race to the region.
‘Need more time’
Nevertheless, in a new media interview, Nasser bin Khalifa Al Attiyah – the president of the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation – was upbeat about Qatar’s chances about landing a place, suggesting that the deal is close to being finalized:
“Recently, we were very close to signing an agreement to host an F1 race. The entire 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 (F1 CEO) Bernie Ecclestone. We need a little more time, but we’ve the solution,” Al Attiyah told Doha Stadium Plus.
For more than three years, Al Attiyah has publicly said he wants to attract event to Qatar. The plan would be to host the race at Losail International Circuit or on a street circuit around nearby Lusail city.
The 3.375-mile track there was constructed in 2004 at a cost of between $60 million and $75 million, and would need little in the way of alternation for it to meet the requirements to hold F1 races.
“Either we can use the existing circuit or else we’ll go for a new facility in Losail City. We’ve a lot of projects coming up and we’re ready for anything. We want to build a strong motor sport culture in the region,” DSP quotes Al Attiyah as saying.
Qatar will host motorcycle races MotoGP until at least 2026, after Al Attiyah confirmed last month that the contract with promoters Dorna Sports had been extended for another 10 years. It had been due to expire at the end of 2016, Reuters reported.
Losail has hosted MotoGP since 2007, and also has GP2 and other rallies and endurance races at its track.
If Qatar did win the rights to host F1, it would be the third Gulf city on the calendar after Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.
Late last year, then again in April this year, Ecclestone downplayed Qatar’s chances. He revealed that Bahrain, the first Gulf state to host an F1 race, had veto rights over the addition of other competitions in the region.
Talking about Qatar’s attempts to join, Ecclestone said in December last year: “I put the people together and said ‘Can you sort this out between you?’ and they haven’t managed to do it.”
Building soft power
In recent years, Qatar has been working to advance its international profile and reputation as a global sporting hub by bidding for – and in some cases winning the rights – the rights to host major events.
In addition to the World Cup in 2022, it will also hold the World Athletics Championships in 2019, which is the globe’s biggest athletics event.
But why should a small, desert Gulf state with a national population of only around 300,000 be so keen to attract such international tournaments to its soil?
Paul Brannagan, a lecturer in Sports Politics at the University of Birmingham in the UK told Doha News that it was a strategic move to win power, influence and recognition regionally and globally.
“All of Qatar’s sporting objective are based on soft power – if I can attract you, you will follow me and look to me for leadership. It’s another way of being able to punch above its weight politically and diplomatically.
“If you can hold successful international sporting events that ‘wow’ the public, it significantly raises your power and control in a non-violent way. It also improves your ‘brand awareness.’ More people know who you are and what you do,” he said.
Brannagan said Qatar’s bid to host F1 was a “shrewd move.” It’s a sporting event that would particularly appeal to its younger national population, many of whom are car enthusiasts and might be encouraged to turn up to watch the races in person.
Qatar has previously been criticized for paying workers to attend football matches and other sporting events, to fill seats in near-empty stadiums.
“Local youths who go to the circuit to watch F1 might get a taste for live events and be encouraged to go to other sports tournaments,” he added.
There is also a lot of money potentially to be made off the back of F1.
“F1 is great for sponsorship and advertising – more than any other sport. There could be leverage there for other organizations like Qatar Foundation to get involved and brand themselves,” Brannagan added.
Imagine the death toll before and after the race on the roads to the circuit.
Imagine the death toll of yet more ‘labourers’ brought in to slave away on more projects.
We already have the F1 in Qatar. I see it every day on the roads!
Speaking of Salwa, does DN know anything about a huge accident on the road earlier today? My neighbour saw it between Furousiya and Al Suna Roads
This is wildly inaccurate. Mostly because no one has a mobile phone in their hand.
The Lusail circuit needs little alteration based on the principle that you don’t need fans at the circuit for an event that is only geared for TV. Just like Bahrain you can run it at night, pack everyone into one grandstand, and carefully crop the camera angles to disguise the fact that relatively few people have bothered to turn up (total spectators for the 2014 F1 week were less than 100k). Lusail is a great circuit for bikes but a horrible twisty circuit for cars that would limit overtaking at F1 speeds to the main straight. You may call me negative but please find me anyone who doesn’t think that F1 with it’s unfathomable anti-racing rules would be reduced to a procession at Lusail just as it is at the similarly twisty Hungaroring.. Even Bernie thinks his great creation is going down the pan – although if you wave money in front of him it’s amazing how he changes his mind..
Actually the long main straight with a tight bend at the end of is exactly what most of the new circuits look like. With DRS activated there should be plenty of overtaking down it.
It’s still a horrible circuit for spectators though, and unless something changes dramatically on the ‘cultural’ side, people won’t travel long distances to attend, preferring to spend their money to Abu Dhabi, Singapore, etc.
It’s a bit tight but I think it could work. Singapore and Macau are very tight as well. Remember that F 1 also has many groupies that follow it around,many more than Moto Gp,so the spectators will increase and night races are enjoyable.
yawn -yet another global sporting event Qatar tries to buy its way into ……. why dont you (Qatar) spend the money on addressing the issues of your residents first ?
Like getting rid of those who don’t actually like being here.
then who would do all the menial jobs ?
Shameless showboating bravado fuelled by wide-eyed gas revenue drooling, exacerbated by huge national insecurity and rank passive nationalism……..this toxic combination makes Qatar the perfect candidate for a new F1 race. Bernie will be rubbing his hands with glee.
He must be close, he hit a nerve.
So true f**king understatement?
Does that apply for all the other locations on the F1 calendar or are they just nice places that just deserve to host F1 because they are perfect and so well rounded societies?
A disingenuous reply. Qatar’s obssession with acquiring anything that it deems will get it kudos and status in unnaturally rapid time is what I was addressing.
And I just thought you were making fun of Qatar. Did you ever think that they are passionate about vehicles in general and are able to indulge in their passion,whether it be cars,art,motorcycles because they can financially? It’s actually a good use of money in many ways. But then who am I to look at things in a positive manner rather than poking fun and being a comedian.
Do you really think most Qataris share the apparent passion of Sheikha Myassa for art, be it post-modern, cubist or whatever? Is she really doing it in the national interest of cultural awareness or is it just an ego-boosting expensive hobby for her and her wider clan? Tell me why (presumably) paying for an F1 race is a good use of money? Because you like to see the rich corporations get more exposure or because a tiny minority will get to enjoy the race? The track is there, so it’s not like it will create many more labourer-killing jobs…..
And if they do not,so what? Can you emphatically state that people in any other City that has a F1 race flock to museums or art galleries? I see these investments as being in their national interests. It appears you see them as opportunities to squak on your soapbox about what you think about is wrong with a place. As they say, if you don’t like it go elsewhere. Successful events attract visitors who fill hotel rooms and spend,television rights and focus. The migrant worker situation really needs to be addressed and quickly. But if you look around you,how can you not think about others places that use monies to finance worse human rights and freedom records? The world can change many things for the better.
If Qatar and RSE Ventures buys F1, which I expect will happen, probably around the $10 Billion mark, Bahrain will be left out in the cold, as Qatar WILL NOT allow Bahrain to have veto power in the Middle East any longer. And I suspect, Bahrain probably won’t host any more F1 events once Qatar takes ownership. Shrewd move my Qatar to buy F1. One, control one of motorsports elite racing attractions, and two, grow an international brand such as F1 to an even higher level which Bernie has not been able to do. He’s done nothing in way of Television rights, which North American sporting events have taken much advantage of and he’s missed the boat leveraging F1’s brand between racing fans and F1’s website or online activity.
There is no room for 3 regional events so if F1 does come to Qatar someone will have to lose out. Possibly they could move to the European system where circuits take alternate turns, but I can see Qatar not going for them being the one to be left out.
I don’t think Lusail circuit would be acceptable, so we’re probably looking at yet another new and souless Herman Tilke circuit. Or, since the main roads here are generally wide and smoothly surfaced, perhaps a street circuit? The old V10’s echoing down Majalis al Tawoon St would have been something.
F1’s reputation is one of a money grabbing git though – perfect fit for Qatar. If Qatar/RSE can live with not running F1 as a money machine, and stops leaching as much money out of spectators/circuits/tv viewers/mobile viewers/on-line viewers and be more equitable in distributing money to the teams, maybe it would be a good thing.