Saudis eyeing bid for F1?

15/09/2021
NEWS STORY

Writing for Switzerland's Blick, veteran journalist, Roger Benoit claims that Saudi Arabia is mulling purchasing Formula One from Liberty Media.

"The Americans seem to have lost interest in their multibillion-dollar toy," he writes, according to F1i.com. "Ironically, the Saudis are now at the door with their suitcases for a takeover from the Americans."

In fact, Liberty hasn't "lost interest", it is both disillusioned by F1, realising that it isn't the sport it thought it was, and struggling to make it financially viable.

Pitpass has heard talk of the Saudis making an approach for some time, and follows talk of a Grand Prix in Saudi Arabia, a move which as recently as 2018, Ross Brawn had denied would ever happen due to the country's human rights record.

Liberty's struggle to get on top of F1, of course, hasn't been helped by COVID, with the sport taking a major financial hit last year and continuing to do so.

Indeed, as we await official confirmation of a race in Qatar this season, it is the events in Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia that are keeping the sport going financially.

Such is the situation, as COVID continues to compromise the schedule, unconfirmed reports suggest that F1 has had to take on a number of loans including loans against future sponsor income.

However, we understand that even before COVID, Liberty was aware that it had bitten off more than it could chew and was looking for potential buyers.

Benoit is a long-time friend of former supremo, Bernie Ecclestone, but it is doubtful that the 90-year-old is eyeing a return to his former job.

Fact is, should the Saudi move go ahead, the sport has moved on since Ecclestone's departure in 2017, and while there is still much that needs fixing, other aspects of the sport have improved since Liberty arrived on the scene.

Indeed, Ecclestone's return would cause tremors at F1 Towers in London, for since Liberty bought the sport its headcount has increased dramatically as bosses focussed on areas the former supremo had never considered important, streaming, social media etc.

Whether the Saudi bid goes ahead or not remains to be seen. We understand that there is somewhat of a deadlock between the parties but if that is cleared a deal could happen in a matter of weeks.

It is believed to have been in the planning stages for around six months and is backed by a number of Saudi investors, not just the F1 sponsor Aramco as Blick reported. Although Ecclestone is at the helm, the deal is supported by several of his former executives who have parted ways with Liberty since it bought F1.

This is definitely one to watch, and potentially as explosive and entertaining as the Hamilton/Verstappen show.

Certainly, the possibility of Ecclestone arriving back on the scene will be causing a few high-profile inhabitants of Planet Paddock some sleepless nights.

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Published: 15/09/2021
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