Helmut Marko says he’s against Saudis owning Formula 1

Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund reportedly tried to purchase the commercial rights to Formula 1 for $20 billion last year.

Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko has questioned how suitable it would be for prospective Formula 1 owners to be based in a nation “culturally different” to the vast majority of the calendar, following a reported bid by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.

It was reported by Bloomberg last week that current F1 owners Liberty Media rejected a $20 billion offer from Saudi Arabia for the commercial rights of the sport last year, despite having only bought the sport themselves for $4.6 billion in 2017.

As it stands just four of the races on the calendar take place in the Middle East, with Marko believing that it’s more suitable to sell the pinnacle of motorsport to somebody who “meets normal corporate standards”.

“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.

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“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.”

Tensions have actually built between F1’s owners and the FIA following Bloomberg’s report, with FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem having questioned the “inflated” offer by Saudi Arabia.

“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,” Ben Sulayem warned on Twitter.

Liberty Media have suggested that they could sue the governing body for damages, with the FIA president having effectively questioned the value of what Liberty Media own the “exclusive rights” to.

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Following Ben Sulayem’s “unacceptable” comments, the sport’s lawyers actually wrote a letter to the FIA president, highlighting their anger.

F1’s lawyers’ letter to Ben Sulayem read: The FIA has given unequivocal undertakings that it will not do anything to prejudice the ownership, management and/or exploitation of [the sport’s commercial rights, owned by Liberty]. We consider that those comments, made from the FIA President’s official social media account, interfere with those rights in an unacceptable manner.

“Commenting on the value of a listed entity, especially claiming or implying possession of inside knowledge while doing so, risks causing substantial damage to the shareholders and investors of that entity, not to mention potential exposure to serious regulatory consequences. To the degree that these comments damage the value of Liberty Media Corporation, the FIA may be liable as a result.”