It has been discussed for some time, but according to reports in the UK, Formula 1 is finally set to agree a deal for Saudi Arabia to be added to the calendar from 2021.
The Daily Mail suggests that a £50m per year deal is on the verge of being agreed with the controversial kingdom, who have been accused of utilising sporting events in order to ‘sportswash’ their oppressive regime.
Just last week Spanish football held their Supercopa de Espana event there, while broadcaster DAZN structured a deal to run the huge Anthony Joshua v Andy Ruiz Jnr rematch. WWE has also signed a multi-year deal to host exclusive pay-per-views there.
The news is likely to encourage heavy scrutiny for Liberty Media, who have been consistently criticised for their continued involvement with Bahrain, despite the arrest and imprisonment of an activist who had been protesting against the relationship.
Ultimately Liberty have been keen to expand the calendar as much as possible, with the Netherlands and Vietnam being added for 2020, and plans would suggest that the target will be a 25-race season in the coming years in order to maximise revenue.
And, like other sports, it would appear that the gigantic offer on the table from the Saudis – one that would dwarf F1’s other track deals at a key time for Liberty as we head into the 2021 regulations era – was simply too good to turn down.