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GP Week : Issue 150
If you listened to the mainstream news media, Formula One was in Bahrain for one reason, and one reason alone – money. But nothing is ever that simple, least of all in the complex world the F1 circus inhabits. Much newsprint has been spilled on Bernie Ecclestone’s desire for what some have called Bahraini blood money, the reported US$40 million race-hosting fee FOM charged the Gulf nation for the privilege of holding a race. And while that may well have been a contributing factor, $40 million is pocket change when compared with what many in the paddock feel to be the real impetus behind holding the 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix. It is common knowledge that the McLaren race team is partially owned by Mumtalakat, the Bahraini sovereign wealth fund linked to the royal family. It is also well-known that Concorde Agreement negotiations have been under way all year. What few have publicly acknowledged, however, is the likely link between the two factors. One rumour doing the rounds of the paddock this weekend was that Bernie Ecclestone had used the Bahrain Grand Prix to hold McLaren hostage in the Concorde Agreement negotiations. Many were surprised by the announcement in Malaysia that McLaren had come to terms with FOM over the next Concorde. FOTA president and McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh had long spoken of the teams’ need to stand united in order to get the best possible deal for the sport as a whole, and it came as a shock when Ecclestone announced that the British racers had elected to toe the party line. According to the paddock rumour mill, the explanation is simple. If McLaren’s investors could convince the team to sign up to the next Concorde Agreement on terms agreeable to FOM, then FOM would ensure that the Bahrain Grand Prix went ahead as scheduled. If that is indeed the case, over the course of the next Concorde the long- term earnings for Formula One’s money men are expected to run in the billions of dollars, not the insignificant millions earned from a single race. Of course that is pure conjecture, and it is entirely possible that the truth is far more prosaic. (IN)VESTED INTERESTS UK 'Times/ journalist Kevin Eason talks with Bernie Ecclestone ) and Zayed Rashed Al Zayani, Director of Bharain International Circuit. 7 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> NEWS