Qatar unlikely but Azerbaijan is on

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Qatar's bid for joining the F1 calendar are waning after Bernie Ecclestone expressed doubts about adding a third Middle Eastern race to the sport's current schedule.

The small Arab country has been ramping up its efforts to secure a date on the Grand Prix calendar with the intent of staging a race at its superb Doha facility in Losail which already hosts MotoGP. But the initiative received a lukewarm response from the organizers of the Bahrain Grand Prix as well as from those of Abu Dhabi, with both promoters allegedly holding a right of veto over a race in Qatar.

"I think two races in the region are enough, don't you ?", Ecclestone told reporters at Bahrain last weekend. The Briton 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, F1's supremo said that the Azerbaijan Grand Prix will make its debut next season. The event, known as the Baku European Grand Prix, will be held as a street race in the country's capital, Baku. ''It's going to be another good race,'' he said.

With more races heading to the Middle East and Asia, where government funding can support the high fees demanded by F1's commercial rights holder, the status of Europe's iconic races has evidently declined, with Gemany having vanished from the calendar and with the Italian Grand Prix at Monza now surrounded by uncertainty.

"We have to wait and see," Ecclestone concluded, dismissing the idea that historic races like Monza or Hockenheim are too important to be replaced. "Yeah, I'll tell you something, I was told that when we didn't have a race in France. But we've got some good replacements, haven't we ?"

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