(Reuters) – The Bahrain Grand Prix will remain on the Formula One calendar until at least 2036, F1’s chief executive said on Friday, in a deal that secures the event’s long-term future.
The Gulf island kingdom, which held its first race in 2004, is set to host this year’s season opener on March 20, having also hosted the first round last year.
In addition it held two races on two different layouts of its Sakhir track during the COVID-19 pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
“I am delighted we will be racing at the Bahrain International Circuit until 2036,” Formula One chief executive Stefano Domenicali said in a statement.
“Since 2004 we have had some fantastic races in Sakhir and we cannot wait to be back there for the start of the 2022 championship,” he said.
Friday’s news means Formula One will continue to have at least four races in the region for the foreseeable future.
Abu Dhabi, which joined the island kingdom as the second Middle Eastern race in 2009 and typically hosts the season finale, agreed a new deal in December last year keeping it on the calendar until at least 2030.
Saudi Arabia joined the schedule for the first time last year with a deal spanning at least 10 years.
Qatar, which also held its first race in 2021 as a COVID-19 stand-in, is set to return to the calendar in 2023 on a 10-year deal, after hosting the soccer World Cup later this year.
The news reflects the Middle East’s growing profile and influence within the sport.
Last week Saudi energy giant Aramco, already a major Formula One sponsor, announced a partnership with Aston Martin.
Emirati ex-rally driver Mohammed ben Sulayem was elected the first non-European president of the sport’s governing FIA in December, while British supercar makers McLaren are majority-owned by Bahrain’s sovereign investment fund Mumtalakat, with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) also providing significant funding.
“The growth and interest in motorsport in Bahrain and the Middle East has significant momentum, with a new generation of fans embracing our great sport,” said Bahrain International Circuit chief executive Sheikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa.
(Reporting by Abhishek Takle; Editing by Hugh Lawson)