The sponsorship, reportedly worth $180 million, includes 15 races this season starting in Malaysia. The 2013 campaign kicks off on March 17 in Australia, one of four Grands Prix not included in the agreement along with Monaco, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.
And while Ecclestone admitted it’s unlikely Dubai would have a race of its own in the near future, the F1 supremo does believe it could have the next best thing.
“I think [owning a team is] quite a natural thing to do,” said Ecclestone, who was in the emirate for the announcement. “If they feel they that’s what they want to expand into that area of a team. Emirates a long time ago used to sponsor McLaren.”
Emirates had a brief association with the British manufacturer when it sponsored them for the 2006 season. Speaking of the experience, HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman and chief executive of Emirates, described it as positive and did not rule out such a move in the future.
“We always like to be associated with the top sports and Formula One is one of the top sports around the world,” Sheikh Ahmed said. Tuesday’s announcement continues Emirates’ aggressive sponsorship drive on major sports. It’s already an official partner with FIFA and recently singed deals with French football club Paris Saint-Germain as well as the ATP.
As part of its deal with F1, Emirates branding will be displayed on circuit bridges and ground signs and will also make full use of the Paddock Club. “For many years, Emirates has been at the forefront of sports partnerships across the world,” Sheik Ahmed said. “With the addition of this global partnership with the Formula One group we are continuing to expand our sponsorship portfolio, which I’m sure will be appreciated by sports fans.”
Ecclestone added: “The teams will benefit from this, it certainly lifts everyone in Formula One, not just our company.”