It is believed that F1 is looking to expand its presence in the Middle East. After the boss of the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) stated that the country is in the running for a place on the sports’ calendar.
While rumours of a race in Qatar have circulated for some time, but it emerged recently that the country had joined forces with New York-based RSE Ventures in a bid to buy out CVC’s majority sharehold of the sport.
With the Losail circuit currently licensed for F1 testing by the FIA, it is believed that this would be upgraded to full race status should the ownership bid be successful. Although a new street circuit is also under consideration according to QMMF President Nasser bin Khalifa Al Attiyah: “All we need is a few more meetings with Bernie Ecclestone. We need a little more time, but we’ve the solution.”
“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 motorsport culture in the region.”
Protecting F1’s reputation
Should a race go ahead in Qatar, F1 would certainly be subject to considerable media attention over its deals with a number of nations that have questionable human rights records.
A recent Washington Post article suggested that 1,200 workers have already died during the construction of facilities for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, citing the common slave labour conditions that are commonplace in the country.
The matters of the legality of flogging and stoning in the nation are the subject of much international debate, as is the sentence of five years imprisonment for members of the LGBT community in the country.
This is a growing concern for the fans of the sport, with F1 having struck deals with Azerbaijan and Russia, both of which have been subject to heavy criticism from human rights watchdogs such as the Human Rights Council and Human Rights Watch.
By signing deals with these nations, F1 is directly aligning itself with these values, which raises serious questions for its fans, sponsors and suppliers about its political stance. Is that a risk that the brand can afford to take at a time when its value is held so lowly by its own supporters?