Bahrain eyes more F1 opportunities

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Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium after winning the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit on April 22, 2012

Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium after winning the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit on April 22, 2012

Bahrain is looking to expand on the success of its Formula One event, including potentially using the Sakhir circuit for additional races.

Head of the kingdom's sovereign wealth fund, Mumtalakat, Mahmood Hashim Al Kooheji said there were numerous opportunities to leverage off the Formula One race, including linked events and greater use of the circuit, which is presently used only for the Grand Prix in April.

“There is a lot of potential and ... that's why we are dedicated to really looking at how we can explore that opportunity,” Al Kooheji said on Wednesday.

“I don't see [the Formula One circuit] as an asset, I see it as an opportunity. Frankly, it's under utilised. And we can get a lot of value from this.

“We can see there's a lot of potential and when I say that, it's not just money. We have spent a lot of time, a lot of our investment in the team, in the company to really study what [we can do] and which one will do and how we will do it.”

Mumtalakat already has allocated US$42 million for new tourism and event initiatives in 2013, but none were related to the Formula One, Al Kooheji said.

The company would look to compliment the existing event, he said.

“What we want to do is develop such an event [that would result in] a big international event to be established in Bahrain,” he said.

Bahrain was the first Middle East country to host a grand prix, in 2004. Its race was cancelled in 2011 amid political unrest but Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone said last year the country had a strong future with the grand prix.

Asked during last year's race whether Bahrain would continue to be included on the calendar, he said: “Absolutely. Forever. No problem”.

Al Kooheji said the Formula One had become the primary image of Bahrain overseas and attracted a huge number of international visitors each year, making it a profitable business for the island nation.

“I remember many years ago when I was on the street in New York when I mentioned Bahrain people remembered [the national airline] Gulf Air. Now when I go and mention Bahrain they know the F1,” AL Kooheji said.

“So [the F1] we have is an opportunity. There is a lot of value in Formula One.”

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