Helmut Marko has made it clear he would be against the idea of Formula 1 being bought by “a country that is culturally different”.
Earlier this month, reports emerged that the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF) had shown interest in the sport. It was claimed that they were prepared to pay a fee around £16bn to buy F1, but that current owners Liberty Media had no interest in selling.
Marko believes the size of that offer which was “supposedly on the table” is a good sign for F1, which has experienced significant global growth in recent years. However, he told RTL he was opposed to the idea of the sport being bought and owned by the PIF.
“I think it wouldn’t be so good if it went to a country that is culturally different from where most of the races take place,” said the Austrian. “And generally it’s a commercial thing, and that’s more likely to happen with someone who meets normal corporate standards, if you want to put it that way.”
That report of such a large bid to buy the sport caused quite the stir within the F1 world. That was particularly the case when FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem gave his surprise verdict on the news a few days after it broke.
“As the custodians of motorsport, the FIA, as a non-profit organisation, is cautious about alleged inflated price tags of $20bn being put on F1,” he warned in a Twitter thread. Ben Sulayem went on to call for prospective bidders to “apply common sense” and warn them that they would need to present a “clear, sustainable plan”.
But his intervention on the matter did not go down well with F1 bosses. The sport’s lawyers put together a strongly-worded letter which was then sent to the FIA president, admonishing him for his “unacceptable” interference.
They wrote: “The FIA has given unequivocal undertakings that it will not do anything to prejudice the ownership, management and/or exploitation of [the sport’s commercial rights, owned by Liberty]. We consider that those comments, made from the FIA President’s official social media account, interfere with those rights in an unacceptable manner.
“Commenting on the value of a listed entity, especially claiming or implying possession of inside knowledge while doing so, risks causing substantial damage to the shareholders and investors of that entity, not to mention potential exposure to serious regulatory consequences. To the degree that these comments damage the value of Liberty Media Corporation, the FIA may be liable as a result.”