Morocco in Ecclestone’s sights as he signs 375m F1 deal


Bernie Ecclestone spent time at the recent Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with the King of Morocco. It doesn't take a genius to work out what was most probably on the agenda for discussion and we now seem to have evidence.

The development comes courtesy of Pitpass' business editor Christian Sylt in an article for American motoring magazine Autoweek. The article reveals that Ecclestone has signed a 375m ($600m) deal which is likely to bring a new Grand Prix to F1's already jam-packed calendar.

Ecclestone' revelation came in court testimony last week during the trial against him by German media rights firm Constantin Medien. "I've just signed a contract now for 600 million-odd with people over the weekend," said Ecclestone adding that when he quotes figures he is talking in dollars.

The deal is too large to be an F1 sponsorship but closely reflects rates for new markets entering the sport. They are typically charged around 25m ($40m) annually and run for around a decade with an annual escalator of 10%. It brings the total over 10 years to just over 375m ($600m).

It is not known which country will be next to get an F1 race but the most likely possibility seems to be that the deal is for a Grand Prix in Morocco. Not only was Ecclestone seen with the King of Morocco at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix but in December last year he confirmed to Pitpass that talks have taken place about holding a race in the North African country.

"I met the King of Morocco a couple of years ago and talked about F1," said Ecclestone. However, he added "what reason would it be good for us? The manufacturers are not selling anything there. How many people would come?"

The last Moroccan Grand Prix was held in 1958 near Casablanca and was the site of the accident which killed British driver Stuart Lewis-Evans. The engine of his Vanwall is understood to have seized up which sent him speeding into barriers and set his car alight. Lewis-Evans was managed by Ecclestone and the two were close friends so it would be understandable if the F1 boss didn't want to return to Morocco. However, the country has changed a great deal since then.

In 2009 Morocco hosted its first international motor race since 1958 when the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) raced on a street circuit in Marrakech. The city is one of the most advanced in Morocco and in 2011 one of the world's largest shopping malls opened there complete with a one million litre aquarium.

Larbi Bouattaf, economic counsellor for the Embassy of Morocco in London, says "I am not aware of an F1 race taking place in Morocco. As far as I know, what takes place in Morocco is the FIA WTCC Race of Morocco."

F1 races are understood to be under consideration in Thailand and South Africa but there is no indication that Ecclestone had meetings with representatives from these countries over the weekend in Abu Dhabi. The 2014 F1 calendar is due to be announced next month and is expected to feature the addition of races in Russia and Austria whilst India drops off bringing the total to 20 from 19 this year.

Races in Mexico and New Jersey are planned but the latter seems unlikely to get off the grid due to lack of funding. Signing a deal with a new location would compensate for this and allow F1's growth plans to remain on track.

Article from Pitpass (

Published: 12/11/2013
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