The Kingdom of Bahrain, the ‘Home of Motorsport in the Middle East’, has extended its contract to host the FIA Formula One World Championship and stage the Bahrain Grand Prix into the long term future following the renewal of its contract with the sport’s promoter. The new agreement underlines Formula One’s commitment to the Kingdom and ensures that the country can incorporate the pinnacle of motorsport into its long-term plans for development and growth of its year-round calendar of events and leadership in the growing Middle East motor sport industry.
Commenting on the new agreement Formula One supreme Bernie Ecclestone said: “It was a real pleasure to bring Formula One to the Kingdom of Bahrain, and I'm pleased to confirm that this relationship will continue into the future. Just three years ago Formula One – and motor sport in general – did not have any presence in the region.
Bahrain has not only built a venue that is among the very best in the world and deservedly won acclaim for its Grand Prix, but has also built foundations of the current growth of interest and investment in Formula One across the Middle East,” Mr. Ecclestone added. “I look forward to continuing our relationship with His Highness the Crown Prince, the Bahraini government, the team at the Bahrain International Circuit and to enjoy the warm and friendly welcome for which the Kingdom is renowned in the seasons ahead.”
The Bahrain International Circuit was built in 16 months at a cost of $150 million, opening in time to host the inaugural Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix on 04/04/04. It was awarded the FIA promoters’ trophy in recognition of the organization that went into its first event and has gone from strength to strength, adding to the Kingdom’s burgeoning global awareness and profile, as the sport has become firmly established in the Middle East.
In 2006 the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix was honoured with hosting the first round of the FIA Formula One World Championship when Melbourne, the traditional curtain-raiser, had a conflicting date with the Commonwealth Games. The result was a resounding success for the sport, with key European markets registering up to three times the TV viewing figures due to the favourable time difference and the Kingdom of Bahrain converting its Formula One testing and Grand Prix into a month-long cultural and community celebration.
In total the 2006 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix generated a total of $394 million in direct income to the businesses and traders of the Kingdom, worth almost 3% of the GDP and creating 400 full-time jobs. This means that, in three years, the Grand Prix alone has returned the investment in building the Bahrain International Circuit four times over, and with another 500 events through the rest of the year, business is booming. Recognition of Bahrain’s value to the sport continues apace and the 2007 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix is prefixed by two official Formula One tests in February and March.
Just as the Grand Prix has delivered measurable benefits to the Kingdom’s economy, so too has it increased Formula One’s profile in the region, with the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix now moving confidently into the future as the number one sporting, social and commercial event in the Middle East. As a showcase for the sport and the Kingdom of Bahrain the 2006 Grand Prix delivered over 1000% more media coverage than the previous year, which has seen sustained interest in motor sport as a whole build to the point where the first visit of the Australian V8 Supercars Series generated as much coverage as the 2004 Grand Prix.
“Formula One came to the Middle East through the vision of His Highness the Crown Prince Shaikh Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, and the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix has become the most important annual event in the Gulf,” said Talal Al Zain, Chairman of the Bahrain International Circuit.
“His Highness saw Formula One as the most important catalyst to generate international trade, tourism and awareness, to harness the minds of the world’s opinion formers and bring businesses to Bahrain. The success of the Grand Prix has however reached even further than we dared hope when we embarked on this great adventure, and we are delighted to see both interest and involvement in the sport from fans, sponsors and other ventures around the region has blossomed as a result of our achievements. Our new agreement with Mr. Ecclestone ensures that Formula One will retain its home in the Middle East throughout the rest of this decade and deep into the next, and that the Kingdom will continue to host the world’s biggest sporting series.”
The 2007 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix takes place at the Bahrain International Circuit on April 13-14-15.