F1

Saudi Arabia wealth fund ‘bids £16bn’ to buy F1 after LIV Golf and Newcastle Utd

Formula 1 could become by far the biggest addition to Saudi Arabia's growing catalogue of sports enterprises amid reports the Kingdom had an 11-figure takeover bid turned down.

The Public Investment Fund—which is chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman—has significantly stepped up its presence in sport in recent years. That's after the sovereign wealth fund acquired Premier League outfit Newcastle United for £300million in October 2021, around the same time LIV Golf had its official launch.

Its investments are certain to not stop there, however, and Bloomberg has reported a gargantuan (£16.2bn) bid of over $20billion was submitted in an attempt to take over F1. However, incumbent owners Liberty Media were said to be 'unwilling to sell' despite that figure being around 30 per cent above the supposed market value (£12.2bn).

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Jeddah already hosts one of the 23 races on the F1 calendar, while there have been rumours regarding a Saudi-owned team joining the circuit in the coming years. However, it appears the Kingdom is in search of a bigger piece of the pie—or rather, the pie itself—if word of its takeover bid rings true.

Saudi Arabia more recently flexed its financial might after football club Al-Nassr signed one of the biggest names in football, Cristiano Ronaldo, on a deal worth £173m per year. The country has also taken a foothold in combat sports and entertainment, hosting numerous major boxing fights and WWE events in recent years.

The reported Saudi bid is testament to the work Liberty Media has undertaken during its time at the F1 helm, having purchased the sport in 2017 for a total of around £6bn. It's since increased the number of races per year and grown the sport's worldwide appeal thanks to promotions like the Netflix series, 'Drive to Survive'.

What do you make of the attempted takeover bid? Let us know in the comments section.

However, there are concerns Saudi Arabia's interest in sport is seen as an attempt at 'sportswashing' as the nation seeks to improve its profile on the global scale. Human rights groups have consistently criticised the Kingdom for its treatment of peaceful protesters, as well as its policy on gender equality, LGBTQ+ rights and more.

Those concerns were also heightened at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in Jeddah last March when a missile hit an oil facility not far from the circuit while drivers were in practice. Race organisers have since assured teams and drivers Saudi is "totally safe" ahead of this year's race, which is set to take place on March 19.

The FIA was widely scrutinised towards the end of 2022 after it introduced laws for the upcoming campaign restricting drivers' ability to make 'political statements' on the grid. Mercedes chief Toto Wolff has since suggested the stricter guidelines could be eased after meetings with drivers.

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