MANAMA (Reuters) - Qatar’s hopes of joining the Formula One calendar in the near future appear to have receded after commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone indicated he was unlikely to add a third Middle Eastern race to the schedule just yet.
“I think we’ve got enough here, don’t you?” the Briton told reporters at the Bahrain Grand Prix when asked about the possibility of a race in Doha.
Media reports have suggested that Qatar was close to signing a deal for a street race, possibly as early as next year.
Ecclestone confirmed last year that talks had taken place with the Qataris for a race that some reports have suggested would pay out 50 million pounds ($74.77 million) a year in hosting fees.
However, the Briton told reporters last December that Bahrain, who hosted the first race in the region in 2004, effectively had a veto on any new races that could overshadow theirs.
“I made a deal with the people in Bahrain and they said, ‘If we are going to be something new in this area, which we are, will you give us a guarantee you won’t put another race on in the area, in the Gulf?',” he said then.
Bahrain circuit chief executive Sheikh Salman bin Isa Al-Khalifa shrugged off talk of a veto but indicated the matter was not pressing.
“I heard Bernie asked about that in the media center, and he said isn’t two races enough for the region?,” he replied when asked about Qatar.
”It’s not for us (to say). It’s for the rights holder. We welcomed Abu Dhabi when they came on board and we’ll wait and see,“ he added. ”I think Mr E appreciates the loyalty we have kept with him.
”As a businessman, as the way he is, he asks from his friends whether this is right or wrong, and that’s where that concept is.
“I really don’t have an answer for that but it’s nothing we have seen that is serious, so until it is then we can’t (answer),” added Shaikh Salman.
The chief executive said he wanted to extend Bahrain’s deal beyond 2016 and talks were ongoing.
He also ruled out pushing for Bahrain, the fourth round of the calendar this year, to take the season-opening slot held by Australia. However, he indicated that the circuit would like an earlier date in future.
Editing by John O'Brien