Formula One

Marko: Selling F1 to culturally different country ‘not so good’


Red Bull motorsport boss Helmut Marko has weighed in on a recent report claiming that Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund has shown an interest in acquiring Formula 1.

The report, published by Bloomberg ten days ago, alleged that Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) had held tentative talks with commercial rights holder Liberty Media but that the latter had rejected an offer estimated at over $20 billion!

Despite the rebuff, Saudi’s wealth fund remains interested in F1, an asset that it hopes to add one day to its growing portfolio of sporting franchises and events.

While Formula 1 itself did not comment on the report, FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem had plenty to say about a prospective deal that may or may not have been in the works.

Ben Sulayem expressed his skepticism over the alleged $20 billion valuation of F1, which he called an “inflated price tag”, but also his worry over a potential suitor’s money being put before a “sustainable” plan that would consider the greater good of F1.

Formula 1 hit back at the Emirati’s remarks calling them “unacceptable” and a case of the FIA meddling with the sport’s commercial rights.

Queried on the report, Marko admitted that a $20 billion offer, if such a proposal was tabled, would be good for F1. However, the Austrian suggested that selling the sport to Saudi Arabia would not be so good.

“I think it wouldn’t be so good if it went to a country that is culturally different from where most of the races take place,” Marko told RTL.

“And generally it’s a commercial thing, and that’s more likely to happen with someone who meets normal corporate standards, if you want to put it that way.”

Formula 1 – which holds a ten-year contract with Saudi Arabia – has been accused by human rights associations of “sportwashing” the country’s controversial regime.

Upon F1’s return to Jeddah last year, just a few months after Saudi Arabia hosted its inaugural F1 event, seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton admitted that he did not feel comfortable racing in the Kingdom.

The Briton was expressing himself just days after being sent a letter by the family of a young prisoner set to be executed and several weeks after a mass execution in the country.

This year, drivers will be restricted on race weekends to speak their mind on political issues as part of the FIA’s clampdown on political activism in F1 by the sport’s stars.

Marko took aim at the FIA’s new sporting rules, saying that silencing drivers is “wrong”.

“That is clearly wrong,” he said. “They are responsible citizens who are in the global public eye and who know how and what they have to say.

“In general we are in a democratic society and everyone can express their opinion.”

Keep up to date with all the F1 news via Facebook and Twitter

Marko: Selling F1 to culturally different country ‘not so good’

You must be logged in to post a comment Login