FIA vice president Nasser Khalifa al Attiyah says more F1 races in the Middle East would be “good for the region” despite Bahrain's ability to veto a grand prix in Qatar.
Bernie Ecclestone made clear back in December
that he has an understanding with Bahrain that there would not be other races in the region unless they agree to it. The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix received such approval from the Bahrainis but the two races have to be kept far apart on the calendar. However, with two races in the Middle East already and Qatar interested, when discussing the possibility of a third, Bahrain International Circuit chairman Sheikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa said at the Autosport International Show: “I don't think we are ready for that”.
However, speaking before Al Khalifa's comments, al Attiyah – who is also the head of motorsport in Qatar – said he feels the whole region would benefit from another race.
“It is good for the region if there is a competition between countries in the region,” al Attiyah said. “Everyone wants to prove that they have better races, this has helped all of the countries. I treat the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) market as an open market. There are no rules for this market, you can have ten flights between Qatar and Bahrain or the UAE each day, so this has helped a lot of people to move very easily.
“For sure we went with a different direction in the beginning, with motorcycle racing, to be special in this region but for sure we have no doubts that we are thinking about Formula 1 and other car races.”
And al Attiyah explained that it's not just Qatar's Formula One hopes that are in the hands of Bahrain, with another series also been targeted.
“We are looking at the World Endurance Championship as well but they have an exclusive agreement with Bahrain so we'll see if Bahrain will accept Qatar to join the series. We have Porsche GT races here and in Bahrain and Dubai so we are managing to [work together].”
By Chris Medland and Steve English