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Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund reportedly wanted to buy Formula 1 motorsport for more than $20 billion and would still be interested if given the opportunity in the future.
After Giles Turner, Dinesh Nair and Matthew Martin by Bloomberg, discussions of a potential deal never got past the initial stages because Liberty Media Corp., which owns F1, was not interested.
However, interest remains with the Public Investment Fund, which is looking to move into another sport after buying English Premier League football club Newcastle United FC, hosting a variety of events and funding LIV Golf.
As the Bloomberg report noted, such efforts have been criticized as attempts to “sports wash” and divert attention from Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.
While Liberty Media Corp., which bought F1 for $4.4 billion in 2017, refused to sell to the Public Investment Fund, the sport has ties to Saudi Arabia and will host a third race in the country in March.
Lewis Hamilton, arguably the sport’s most notable driver and seven-time world champion, told reporters Last year he was “uncomfortable” with F1’s relationship with Saudi Arabia and felt “a duty” to raise awareness of its human rights abuses.
“It’s not necessarily our responsibility that we’re brought here, but we try and do what we can and I think it’s important that we just try to educate ourselves,” he said.
“Ultimately it is the responsibility of those in power to really make changes and we are not seeing any real ones. So we need to see more.”
The Public Investment Fund’s interest in a sale comes as F1 racing grows in popularity, including in the United States, thanks in part to Netflix documentaries. Formula 1: Drive to survive.
The 2023 F1 Time schedule begins on March 5 with the Bahrain Grand Prix.