Qatar’s bid for a Formula One Grand Prix has received a lukewarm response from one of the leading figures behind the Bahrain International Circuit.
Qatar is ploughing billions of pounds into hosting the football World Cup in 2022, as well as the 2019 World Athletics Championships.
In terms of motor sport, the capital Doha already possesses a superb facility at Losail that hosts MotoGP and World Superbikes races, and would require only marginal redevelopment to host Formula One.
Whilst the Middle East could comfortably support three Grands Prix, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone revealed in December that Bahrain and near-neighbour Abu Dhabi have a right of veto over Qatar staging a race.
Asked as to the possibility of Qatar joining the party, BIC chief executive Shaikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa said: “I heard Bernie asked about that, and he said ‘isn’t two races enough for the region?’
“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.”
— Racing Engineering (@REOfficial) April 12, 2015
As to the right of veto, Al Khalifa added: “Well, they’re his words. The way I see it is the relationship (between Bahrain and Ecclestone) is a very strong one.
“When we started in ‘99 we took a chance, and I think ‘Mr E’ appreciates the loyalty we have kept with him. As a businessman, the way he is, he asks from his friends if this is right or wrong, and that’s where that concept is.”
If Qatar was accepted, a position on the calendar would be tricky as Bahrain is staged early in the season, with Abu Dhabi at the end.
Running back-to-back would not work as one race would likely take away business from the other, leaving only the summer when the temperatures would be unbearable.
“Like the World Cup, do it in the summer! No?” Al Khalifa said.
“I really don’t have an answer for that, but it (Qatar’s bid) is nothing we have seen as something serious, so until it is then we can’t (answer).”
With the last race of the current contract to be staged next year, negotiations are under way with regard to an extension.
“The process is still ongoing, although obviously we want to extend,” added Al Khalifa. “We will wait and see. It’s not about picking a hoo-hah moment and announcing and all that. We’ll take our time, and we’ll announce when the time is right.”
Financially, Al Khalifa insists the Grand Prix makes economic sense.
“The idea is you have to capitalise on it,” said Al Khalifa.
“It is an investment the government makes, and they need to see a return on that investment.
“If the hotels are full, the people show up, and there is a return economic impact on the kingdom, then that is what they are looking for.”