F1’s Arabian Plights

Motor Racing - Formula One Testing - Bahrain Test - Day 2 - Sakhir, Bahrain

Troublesome, dry, irritating Catarrh? Troublesome, dry, irritating Qatar? That question works both ways for me, especially after the news that the tiny oil rich sandpit is on the brink of buying itself a Formula 1 Grand Prix. That will make three races in the Middle East, a part of the world where the people have as much interest in motor sport as I have in camel racing.

On top of that, unless half the locals turn up, there won’t be much of a crowd because, out of a population of around 1.8 million, only about 280,000 are Qatari, while the rest is made up of the poor and oppressed nations we’ve grown used to seeing doing all the actual work in this part of the world. Fat chance of any of them buying tickets.

As a nation, Qatar suffers from Oniomania, shopaholism, Compulsive Buying Disorder, call it what you will. If you’re a museum with artwork to unload, or a dodgy world governing body with a sport to flog, the Qataris will buy it, although maybe “flog” is the wrong word, as this is still an acceptable form of punishment for a whole variety of so called crimes in the little kingdom.

Qatar has secured itself the 2022 Football World Cup in seriously controversial circumstances; it has a UCI cycling tour race, a terminally dull event with not a single climb, where the only “excitement” comes from the possibility of disruptive sidewinds; MotoGPs only night race, where a good game to play is spot-the-spectator, as well as a whole host of other less well-known events, such as the recent World Handball Championships.

Can I just point out that when I talked of dodgy world governing bodies, I wasn’t in any way referring to our dear own FIA, that plays no part in the decision making progress when it comes to choosing flaky race venues. In fact, the photos of Jean Todt having to share the Despot Dais in Sochi with Bernie Ecclestone and Vladimir Putin last year reminded me of the old biblical adage “and the lion will lie down with the lamb, but the lamb won’t get much sleep.”

I have no moral objection to Formula 1 fleecing yet another gullible government into parting with billions of dollars to stage a Grand Prix

So what will the Qataris come up with, given we already have a night race and a dusk race? My suggestion would be a sunrise race, partly so that the temperatures won’t be dangerously high and also because it would mean we could all fly home early Sunday afternoon.

Maybe Hermann Tilke – and it’s bound to be another Tilke track if we don’t use Losail - can map out a track to look like the male reproductive organs. It would go nicely with the country’s Al Wakrah stadium, the planned star venue for the 2022 World Cup, which has been dubbed the "Vagina Stadium" because of its unique design. It was actually meant to resemble the sails of a dhow, or Arab sailing boat.

I have no moral objection to Formula 1 fleecing yet another gullible government into parting with billions of dollars to stage a Grand Prix, but the sport’s grandees have missed a trick here and one that would also save having to pointlessly expand the season. They should tell the Qataris that if they really want to generate some good PR and make their mark on the world of Grand Prix racing, there’s one brilliant idea that will make them hugely popular. They will be seen as benefactors and saviours rather than the bankrollers of yet another anodyne and meaningless motor race.

Instead of hosting a race at Losail or a street circuit in Doha, they could buy the rights to the German Grand Prix at the Nurburging and throw in a return to Imola. And while they’re at it, why not restore France to the F1 calendar? We could all head down to Paul Ricard and even let them stage a camel race on the sandy beaches of the Cote d’Azur.

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Japanese Grand Prix - Qualifying Day - Suzuka, Japan