Saudi Arabia plays down F1 buyout ‘speculation’

Tue, 18 April 2023, 09:00

Apr.18 (GMM) Saudi Arabia has dismissed as “mere speculation” earlier reports that it wanted to buy Formula 1’s commercial rights.

In January, it emerged that as well as eyeing a Saudi driver and team, as well as a second annual grand prix on top of its existing F1 investments, the Kingdom’s public investment fund offered Liberty Media $20 billion for the sport itself.

Liberty reportedly turned down the offer, while FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem – who has subsequently adopted a much lower public profile – expressed concern.

“As the custodians of motorsport, the FIA, as a non-profit organisation, is cautious about alleged inflated price tags of $20bn being put on F1,” he said.

But Saudi Arabia’s sports minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki bin Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, is not confirming that the offer was ever made.

“I only know what I’ve read on the news,” he is quoted by the German newspaper TZ. “And I consider that to be mere speculation.”

He denied that “serious talks” between the public investment fund and Formula 1 officials ever took place.

“But the matter still made waves,” the Saudi sports minister added.

Also set to make waves in the near future is a Hollywood feature film made by Top Gun producers Jerry Bruckheimer and Joseph Kosinski.

The movie’s star will be Brad Pitt, with Lewis Hamilton on board as a consultant. Filming is set to begin at Silverstone in the coming months.

“Production will be quite invasive so we’ll have to control it in some way,” F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali is quoted by the Finnish newspaper Ilta Sanomat.

“But it’s one way to show that F1 never stops.”

Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei, meanwhile, says the sport’s current commercial owners will keep their foot on the throttle off the back of Drive to Survive’s Netflix success.

“We must keep changing the game,” he said.

“For example, we have increased marketing on Instagram and Tiktok because we want to keep doing things differently all the time.”

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