Saudi Motorsport make further changes to Jeddah Corniche F1 Circuit
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FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem fired a warning over the dangers of ‘alleged inflated price tags’ in F1 as he urged for caution amid reports of a £16bn buyout bid from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund.
The ruler of the sport’s governing body was responding to a recent Bloomberg report claiming that the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF) had seen their mega bid rejected for the series in 2022 by current owners Liberty Media.
Liberty has seen huge growth in F1 since splashing out £3.3bn for the sport back in 2017, which has massively bumped up its commercial value. And while the American conglomerate has no interest in cashing in just yet, PIF are said to remain interested in buying them out, should things change.
The PIF already counts Premier League giants Newcastle United and the LIV Golf enterprise in its sporting portfolio, and Saudi Arabia held its first F1 race in 2021. And it is hardly surprising that the global F1 product is also of interest to the wealth fund chaired by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The FIA, which signed off on Liberty’s takeover in 2017 under their pre-existing lease agreement with F1, had remained silent on the subject of the PIF’s interest. But president Ben Sulayem has now warned of the impact that a touted bid of £16bn being accepted could have on the sport.
He wrote on Twitter: “As the custodians of motorsport, the FIA, as a non-profit organisation, is cautious about alleged inflated price tags of $20bn being put on F1.”
Ben Sulayam also insisted that he wants the sport in the right hands with ‘common sense’ taking precedence over the biggest offer that comes in. “Any potential buyer is advised to apply common sense, consider the greater good of the sport and come with a clear, sustainable plan – not just a lot of money,” he said.
“It is our duty to consider what the future impact will be for promoters in terms of increased hosting fees and other commercial costs, and any adverse impact that it could have on fans.”
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Ben Sulayem clarified his views on the takeover bid reports in an interview with Autosport. “I think, honestly, it is inflated. It’s exaggerated. Talking with common sense, is it worth that much?” the FIA chief added.
“[If it is] then what do we do? We would have to charge to recover that money. How much would we charge the local promoter? I’m just looking at the rationale behind it, the logic. Because you have to have a plan.
“Up to now though, it’s rumours. But I believe also the FIA should be part of talks, or offer advice, because the FIA owns the championship. We lease it, it is true. But I just want to ensure we have clarity so we can go forward.”
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